One of the conversations I had with a high-school classmate during a reunion trip to New Mexico was regarding how much more accessible the outdoors have become here in the US since the days of our your youth when we came over from India. It seems like there are many more parks and many more marked trails everywhere, created by all kinds of government and private entities, exposing us to more of the wonders of nature in the country. It is a great thing!
But sometimes it is the unexpected that thrills the senses. I was on my way to Cloudcroft, out of Alamagordo, driving up into the mountains on Route 82 from the high plains, when I came to a lookout point just before a tunnel. This was a few miles away from Cloudcroft. I could see White Sands behind me.
The parking lot was empty except for this older couple who had come to the location on a motorbike. The couple looked like a rough sort, and my first thought was caution. (I was guilty of stereotyping!) But the woman was friendly. She wished me hello and asked me if I had been on the trail. I said I was not aware of the existence of a trail at this spot. The gentleman then came up and told me about a trail that led from the lookout point down into the gorge between the hills where there was a stream flowing. He said there were waterfalls. He said that most people did not know about the trail, which was the best thing about this spot, and that he brought his grandchildren to the stream regularly. Since I was being flexible in my schedule I decided that I would try the trail. The gentleman told me that it started just beyond the lookout point, nearer to the tunnel, at a place where a black water pipe ran beside the road. He then offered to walk up with me to show me the exact spot. I grabbed my camera bag and followed. When we arrived at the location of the pipe all I could see was a steep slope going down from the location of the pipe. I told myself that I was not going to give that slope a try today. The gentleman laughed, saying that he would not attempt something like that at his age himself, and then showed me a somewhat hidden trail leading off to the right, beside the road, on the other side of the guide rail. He pointed to a cliff in the distance that the trail would pass and told me that there was a cave-like structure over there. The cliff looked steep. I was not convinced that would be passable but I was going to give it a shot. I climbed over the guide rail and followed the unmarked trail. Pretty soon I arrived at the cliff. Indeed there was passable trail.
This was just the beginning of a wonderful (though tiring) day.