after spending a couple weeks full submerged into my parents home, spending my days hanging with my step mom, afternoons entertaining my niece and my nights chilling out with my dad, i had become a bit acclimated to being there and although i was sad to go, it was time to get back on the road. i had spent the past few days looking to map out my trip to new mexico and where i wanted to spend my time.
that sunday, i loaded up my last few things into the back of the jeep, filled up the tank and headed west on i-20 towards the new mexico boarder. although i had driven this road a hundred times, i’d never headed in this direction. much of the ride was me on the road by myself or with a few trucks here and there and the closer i got to the state line, the more isolated the road became. at some point, i passed a “fresh water” stop in the middle of no where and this was the first of civilization i had seen in nearly an hour.
my first stop was to check out the carlsbad caverns before i made my way towards roswell to find my campsite at bottomless lakes state park, about 20 minutes southeast outside of town. heading in from the south, i took 137 to 285 and then some smaller roads that ran through a tiny town called dexter and lead me to the top of a hill so that coming up to the park, you had a beautiful top view of lea lake as a warm welcoming.
pulling into the park, there were no rangers on duty, just a self pay station with a map and some rules posted to follow. i took a loop around the lot, observing a few groups of people swimming in the lake and campers settling in for the night. i took the road down to the visitors center to get a few more details and then headed to dexter to a gas station to grab my dinner of cheese, crackers and carrots and then back to the campgrounds to set up for the night.
i set up my tent on site 14, next to a group of girls who were also spending the night at the site. getting my tent situated, i walked to the lake to enjoy my dinner and watch the sunset before making my way to the tent to settle in for the evening, putting up the rain cover before popping in with some plump storm clouds blowing in nearby. i spent a bit reading and writing as the winds began to pick up and my tent began to at first sway with the winds but soon more aggressively pound me in the head as it picked up. i took some deep breaths and attempted to relax and settle in until i started seeing flashes of lightening which my better judgement told me to double secure the tent and wait out the storm in the jeep. exhausted, i passed out and woke up well after midnight to discover that the storm had passed and my “excellent” tent pitching skills had left my tent and sleeping bag full of water so i settled in a little more cozy to the backseat until the sun rose early the next morning.
the best part of waking up outdoors is the quietness, the fresh air and the welcoming to the day that you get to share with the sunrise. i walked around, taking in the calmness that the beginning of the day allowed and enjoyed the perfect flatness of lea lake after a night of rainfall. first thing, all the other campers began packing up and heading out which very soon left me to be the only camper on site and all of lea lake and the surrounding areas to myself for the morning.
i spent the morning emptying out my tent and hanging my sleeping bag and the cover out to dry. i set up my mat and did some yoga and meditation, had some tea and breakfast and then spent quite a bit of time writing and just staring at the lake. by this time, i was the only person on site other than the people working to maintain the property. Around 11 it had warmed up enough for me to put on my suit and head to the lake to take a dip. i grabbed my goggles and braved the 60 degree water and swam around with the natural made lake that at parts dropped down to 90 feet all to myself.
being completely alone in a place i knew nothing about surrounded by nature and all its elements was liberating. the only noise was in my mind and the only rustling was in myself, feeling uneasy with the stillness and unsure of being alone.
i stayed in the water until i shivered. although there were areas to hike and other areas to observe the lakes (no swimming), the sun was high and the day was hot so i decided to head back to the campsite to pack up for the day and head off to my next destination. through my exploration, although lea lake was the one accessible for activity, it was in my opinion the least beautiful one of the nine lakes created by sinkholes, each lake a little different, holding it’s own sense of beauty and mystery.
the biggest things that i learned on my first night completely alone was to not only listen to my inner voice, but to also guide and balance that voice. being surrounded by things completely unknown not only left room for discovery, but demanded peace within myself and respect for the elements and wildlife, leaving them as they were found and observing them from a distance, as i was a guest in their home.