After our backpacking adventure in Colorado, we needed some time to recuperate. Meera's parents happen to own a condo in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and we'd cut our hike short by a day, so we decided to spend some time there resting, relaxing, and most importantly not attempting another fifteen-hour drive after hiking several miles down a mountain.
The drive from San Antonio to Pagosa Springs is about thirteen hours if you never stop. It took us about fifteen hours. So even though Ruidoso was a bit out of our way, it would chop that fifteen-hour drive we were staring down into one day of less than six hours and another of less than nine. Trading two additional hours of driving for two nights in Ruidoso sounded like a great tradeoff to us.
Even though our stop in Santa Fe on the way up was nothing to write home about, I was certain we could find a great place to eat there. We fortunately arrived about dinner time at the Second Street Brewery at the Railyard. It took a couple of extra turns around some one-way roads, but we got there and enjoyed a dinner and some beers outside.
The nearby space, just outside the restaurant's patio, was nice and open and looked like a great small concert venue; unfortunately, the evening was slightly rainy, and there was no show.
By the time we got to Ruidoso, it was dark, so we once again got to experience New Mexico's aversion to exotic road visibility features like painted lines.
But we did make it.
A Day In Ruidoso
Ruidoso is, as far as I can tell, a ski resort town (Ski Apache is nearby) and/or retirement community. So four twenty- and thirty-somethings arriving in August had some work ahead of them to find something to do.
Like all good resort and retirement communities, Ruidoso has as its primary attraction a shopping district where you can buy lots of things you probably don't need. However, that's also where the breweries and the wine tastings are, so we set out to explore.
The first stop, naturally, was coffee. We had used the last of our hiking coffee on the trail, and we weren't sure we could last all day without a good cup. We picked Sacred Grounds largely because of its amazing name, and they make a pretty good cup of coffee. But the most important part, and the reason you should go, is the massive three-story deck in the back overlooking the waters of the tongue-twisting Rio Ruidoso, where you can sit and listen to flowing water and drink coffee until you realize you've spent most of the morning there and should probably do something else with your one day in this town. (They also have a pretty decent selection of draught beer and even some local liquor, if you're there in the evening, but more on Ruidoso's craft alcohol scene later.)
With some caffeine in our systems, we finally felt empowered to go exploring. After walking the length of "midtown Ruidoso" (no really, that's what they call it) and investigating most of the stores, we did a brief olive oil tasting and stopped for lunch at the world-famous Village Buttery.
During this trek up and down Sudderth Drive, the midtown main drag, we found the first thing on my gear wish list: a hat. It's a nice, simple hat from Free Fly. I'm not usually one for logos on my clothing, but this one is extremely subtle and just looks like squiggles, so I let it slide.
There's supposed to be a lot of good hiking around Ruidoso, and the Ski Apache resort offers some off-season adventure sports like mountain biking and ziplining, but we had just spent
four three days climbing Colorado mountains and weren't really looking for more exercise.
So of course we went hiking.
It was just a short trek around Grindstone Lake, which is really less of a lake and more of a small artificial pond created by a dam on a stream so small neither Apple nor Google give it a name or even show it on their maps. The entire trail system has only 18 miles of trails, which is slightly shorter than our abbreviated trip up the mountain.
However, we wanted a nice, leisurely walk, so we went out and walked halfway around the lake before deciding we didn't really want a walk after all and heading back to the car.
A quick trip to the grocery store provided libations for later in the evening (and gifts of coffee and beer to thank Meera's parents for loaning us the condo), and we headed back out to hunt down some of the beer we'd missed the first time.
An Evening in Ruidoso
During our previous walk, we'd made a stop at the Hidden Tap, believing it to be a good place to sample a broad spectrum of New Mexico beers. Sure enough, we did find a few, but not as many as I had hoped.
Cafe Rio had, during COVID, turned itself into almost a street vendor, converting its door to a desk and taking only to-go orders. It worked so well, especially with a brewery across the street and a number of parks not too far away, I wouldn't be surprised if they just keep it that way.
Cafe Rio makes some massive pizzas, so two large pies was way too much for the four of us, even with the pair of flights we picked up on our way out the patio behind the Lost Hiker. We learned their beers range in creativity from "Ruidoso Blonde" to "Midnight Squirrel" and "Spinning Compass"—not what you want if you're a hiker, but just what you're looking for if you're Pocahontas in 1995.
Perhaps most interestingly, we met a man from New Braunfels, Texas, just north of San Antonio. Apparently half or more of the residents of Ruidoso are actually Texans looking for somewhere less searingly hot during the summer months. It's only a nine-hour drive, which is one hard day or two easy ones, so it makes sense. After all, we ourselves were Texans who had fled the August heat for Colorado mountain air.
Our day in Ruidoso ended with some store-bought beers from Bosque Brewing—which has locations in four New Mexico cities, none of which is Ruidoso—and the board game Root, which which four people play entirely different games on the same board at the same time, more or less.
The beer was good, the game was fun, the company was, of course, excellent, and we returned to San Antonio the next day.
One final note: on our way back, we stopped at Tiny's Burger Barn in Tatum, New Mexico, which is right on the Texas border. The wait was interminable, but the sandwiches were excellent. If you're ever hungry a hundred miles from nowhere on US 380, it's a good place to sit down for a while and eat.