Above: A rider takes a break on the Gomez Peak Summit Mountain Biking Trail. Photograph by Jay Hemphill.
THE ALLURE OF NEW MEXICO’S MOUNTAINS, rivers, and vast open spaces is a big reason why I’m here. After years behind a desk, raising kids, and “being responsible,” the outdoorsman in me got lost in overgrown daily life and a thicket of stress.
Growing up, we owned a pop-up camper and spent late-August vacations fishing for perch, exploring the woods, canoeing, swimming, and riding bikes at Pymatuning State Park, on the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line. Those trips often included a stop to buy sweet corn from a roadside farm stand or picking ears right from the field. Friday nights meant piling into the car for a double feature at Pymatuning Lake Drive-In.
As a kid, August always seemed tinged with a desire to cram a summer’s worth of activities into those days before school started. For adults, this month often signals that we are one step closer to our regular routines. Yet very little has felt normal since COVID-19 arrived—a state of being that likely will remain for the foreseeable future.
Maybe that’s one reason why I’m pleased to share this month’s issue. Scads of research tells us that venturing out into nature provides benefits for our mental and physical well-being—improving our mood, boosting our energy, and lowering our blood pressure. While a recent study in Scientific Reports suggests that two hours of outdoor activities per week might offer optimal benefits, I can attest to the almost immediate boost in mojo gained by grabbing my laptop and working al fresco for a few hours.
Just imagine how good you might feel after a trek to see lady beetles at Capulin Volcano National Monument or a hike-and-yoga combo in Santa Fe. And there’s something magical about sunflowers in bloom—especially when Santa Rosa is one of only seven places in the world where you can find the rare Pecos variety. If adrenaline is what you’re after, you can join the DIY daredevils mountain-biking the Gila National Forest or the climbers turning Roy into a national bouldering destination.
Whether you’re Gila Proven or just stretching out like a sunflower toward the sun, New Mexico’s rich and abundant landscapes have all the motivation any of us might need. I hope that in getting to know the state, I might rediscover myself and some of that adventuresome spirit I’ve lost along the way.