Four Nights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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If you follow our adventures, you know that Chris and I have set out to visit all 50 states. I haven’t counted lately, but we’re probably at about 27 or 28 states. The rules are: you have to spend the night in the state. That’s the only rule. We don’t even have to necessarily visit the state together per se, but we do spend our vacations together rotating who picks the next trip/destination and always pick someplace new. Once we’ve visited a new state, we put pins in our Wayfaren map that hangs in our house when we get home.

This time, it was Chris’ pick . . . and he picked New Mexico. He loves the outdoors and the thought of hiking the mountains of New Mexico was what sparked his initial interest, but we started researching what was popular or must-do types of things in the state before we booked it. It turns out, Albuquerque is best known for their International Balloon Fiesta which brings thousands of hot air balloons to their city for a nine-day festival. So of course, we decided to book the trip around the fiesta.

We spent the majority of our time in New Mexico going to the balloon fiesta, which I would highly recommend. Even if you aren’t into hot air balloons, you should definitely go! I don’t typically say too cheesy of things, but I will say, it was actually magical! Unfortunately, because it was somewhat of a quick trip, we didn’t plan/end up taking an actual hot air balloon ride, but if the opportunity presents itself in the future, I think we’d both be willing to climb into one of those baskets and set out into the sky.

Here’s just a small peek into the hundreds of photos I took on this trip, and a little commentary on some of the things we did . . .

The first morning we were there, we set our alarm for 3:30 a.m. at the recommendation of our hotel (we don’t really do “restful” style of vacations anymore it seems, so if they said get up at 3:30 a.m., we were getting up at 3:30 a.m.). We set out to the balloon fiesta for what they call “Dawn Patrol” where thousands of other people apparently set their alarms for that early too in order to buy a ticket, ride a shuttle, and sit on a blanket out in the freezing cold to watch balloons light up before the sun comes up. For this session (they break up the fiesta into sessions and each session is $10) it was our first visit to the fiesta and we were impressed with just seeing a handful of balloons glowing in the dark. Due to the wind, none of the balloons flew into the sky, they just lit up while tied down to the ground.
I don’t know why it was so cool standing in the dark and seeing the hot air balloon teams do their thing . . . but, it just was!
As it started to warm up, slowly but surely, balloon after balloon started to inflate. It was the craziest thing ever! We saw four or five balloons and we were like “oh, that’s cool,” and then every time we turned around, another one went up. Literally, hundreds of balloons started surrounding us. This cowboy was my favorite!
Smokey the Bear was Chris’ favorite!
After day 1 at the balloon fiesta, we didn’t get to see any balloons take flight with the wind, so the next day we drove to Santa Fe to hike (again, Chris’ pick of destinations, that means you better bring your outdoor gear).
Chris uses the AllTrails app when we go on trips — it will show you all of the hiking trails in that area along with ratings of difficulty, elevation, etc. This has really helped a lot since (even though I’m getting better!) I’m not as good of a hiker as he is, so we’ve gotten better at discussing how many miles we’re (mainly I) am willing to go, what level of difficulty, etc. and then he can find a trail that works for both of us.
On this particular hike, it took us about 5 hours from the point that we left the car, made it to the top where we ate some food we packed, and hiked back down (and then immediately headed to a Mexican restaurant which had been promised to me at the start of this adventure).
If you’re not much of a hiker and wonder what it’s really all about, our hikes typically look like this. Chris is normally about 100 feet in front of me and we basically walk . . . sometimes climb when needed . . . and we just keep on moving. Sometimes we chat a bit, but most of the time it’s rigorous enough that I’m breathing pretty hard and don’t have a lot of breath for chatting (believe it or not/this may be a secret tactic Chris is using for some peace and quiet?!), and other times if we have cell service we’ll play music on Pandora.
A question a lot of people ask me when they see our travel photos is, “Woah, was it cold there? Why are you wearing a coat and hat?” The cold weather definitely doesn’t scare us (see the time we hiked Yellowstone National Park in 5-6 inches of snow). We both prefer cool temperatures and look at our visits to all of these states as a way to experience what they have to offer. So, apparently, New Mexico had to offer cold weather in the mornings. I can’t say we knew it was going to be quite that cold, so the hat and scarf I’m wearing in some of these photos came from a last minute Walmart run on our way to the mountain.
This hike was a little unique because we didn’t see a single other person all the way up to the top. We saw a few people at the top and a few people on the other side on the way down.
It’s not always my cutest look . . . but, it’s about the experience. If you ever wonder how I take photos of the two of us while on a mountain top, I use the GorillaPod tripod with flexible legs that will bend around branches, rocks, etc and attaches to my Canon Rebel T6i.
In addition to this long hike, we also did one small hike on another day. Way less rigorous than this one.
After all of the hiking, we went back to the balloon fiesta with another 3:30 a.m. morning the following day. Only this time, the session was not just “Dawn Patrol” where they glow up, but they were doing a “Mass Ascension” which is what we were most excited to see. The “Mass Ascension” is where thousands of balloons actually take off and fly into the sky.
And again, we saw thousands of balloons blow up, including the craziest of shapes and sizes, only this time they actually flew away. It was SO cool! We could not get over how huge this particular balloon was — look how small the basket is compared to the balloon itself.
This was our view all morning. The sky continued to fill with more and more balloons. At one point I even said, “maybe we should buy a hot air balloon?!” One of the other awesome things about the fiesta was that it was sponsored by Canon (which is the brand of camera I shoot with) and they allowed visitors to “rent” cameras for free at the festival and they gave you the memory card of photos to keep. I took the opportunity to use a $4,000 camera one day (and of course now I’m convinced I need that camera . . . well played, Canon).
And just when you think you’ve seen it all, an armadillo in a cowboy hat floats by.

We really enjoyed New Mexico, though I’m not sure if it would’ve been as entertaining without the balloon fiesta. So, if you’re heading that way, I would recommend visiting during the fiesta.

Aside from hiking and the balloon fiesta, we visited a handful of cool restaurants, I ate some mini donuts at the fiesta like they were going out of style, and we visited a little town called Madrid with little shops that sell items from local artists. It was a fun trip!

Next up: Charleston, South Carolina