When I first pulled up to the western-facing Lodge at Cloudcroft hidden within the Sacramento Mountains, the fading twilight provided just enough illumination to confirm that an early summer storm neared its moment of impact. Perched in the elevations rising high above Alamogordo, the historic inn built as a resort terminus by the nineteenth century railroad company allowed just enough cover to bring some of our luggage inside before the lightening, thunder, and hail descended on the small New Mexican town. I had pulled past the grassy lawn and found a spot between the pines before ducking back inside dodging the large raindrops beginning to pelt me – I would get the last of our bags after the menacing storm wandered along its way to the southeast.
The next morning we awake early, before the sun even has a chance to glisten on the rain-drenched furs and grass and blooms, and descend to the gypsum slopes to sled and roll and explore White Sands National Monument. We cross paths with another early riser: an elk crossing the road and headed back into the forest before those pesky humans invade the thoroughfares. And when we return to the mountain top for our late-morning Sunday brunch, we drive around the curved road along the main steps of the lodge. As I pull into the tree-shaded lot and leave the rented SUV to cool off from the winding, twisting excursion we complete up from the sandy slopes, we stroll inside and sit for our relaxing midday meal. Surrounded by perfectly appointed lighting fixtures, the tall windows, and the historic stained glass, all augmented by the pristine white table linens and the illumination of the late morning sunshine, we enjoy a fabulous brunch before the next leg of our epic family vacation. What are the chances that I will ever experience a moment like this again?