Content Produced in Partnership with Discover Ruidoso
When the wanderlust gets heavy and the mountains begin to call, there's one person iExplore always gives a call: Kayla of This Little Wandering. The self-proclaimed wanderer and mother of two is known on Instagram for her whimsical shots of the mountains of Colorado and wildflower bouquets, so it seemed a natural fit to send her to our favorite mountain oasis in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Hi Kayla! Thanks so much for joining us today! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into travel blogging and photography?
Hi! Yes, I honestly have to say all of it was a complete accident. We (my husband Ben and I) moved shortly after having our first daughter to a new town where we didn’t really know anyone. Ben was working an hour away and I was alone with our oldest (Jessamyn), who was 8 months old at the time. I started posting photos to Instagram and found a sort of community there. As our lives changed and family grew (we have another daughter named Ophelia now too), our interests and the community around us online grew too. We started a blog and got a lot more serious about our photography during that time. We also traveled in a school bus converted into a tiny home for a while and now live in an aframe in the mountains of Colorado. Through it all we have kept a focus on traveling and just living our life together as a family whatever that looks like. So, basically, it was all a happy accident, but I love being able to document and share our experiences and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
How did your blog name “This Little Wandering” come to be?
Well, originally my blog was just Instagram and it was just my name, but when the focus changed from just being me sharing random photos with family and a few friends and to more of a larger community focus and documenting our life, I felt like we needed a better name and an actual blog. This Little Wandering felt like the right name because it encompasses all adventures — it covers the random day-to-day moments that are beautiful as well as actual huge adventures and road trips and whatever else we end up doing. It felt like a name that we could grow with and that would cover all aspects of life that I share on our social channels. When I changed our name, I actually started the hashtag #lovelywanderings to go with the name change so that others could share their random and lovely wandering moments too. My whole goal was to create a space where I could share the little beautiful moments of our life, whatever that looks like.
You recently got back from a long weekend in the mountains of Ruidoso, New Mexico. For first-timers who don’t know about it, what’s Ruidoso like?
Oh my gosh, yes! We had never heard of Ruidoso before going and had no idea what to expect. Even now I have a hard time putting Ruidoso in a box because it was such a magical experience and there really is nowhere else on earth like it. The town has a very mountain town relaxed feel to it — think Boulder Colorado or even maybe more like Durango, Colorado — but there are also some very cowboy undertones with a lot of outdoor crunchy goodness thrown in. What makes it really amazing though is every single one of the shop owners is maybe the most passionate and driven person I have ever met. The day we arrived we went on a tour of the town and met quite a few shop owners and seriously every single one of them is going somewhere and has a passion and drive, and that was so inspiring. There is nowhere I have been that had such a beautiful small town community feel with that level of just heart and love for the area. That alone will make you want to come back. BUT there is also canoeing, horse back riding, hiking, historical tours, wine tasting. There really is something for everyone, and we will be back for sure.
What are a few of your most memorable moments from your time in Ruidoso?
Oh, gosh, I don’t even know where to begin that trip was so good. First, probably when we were driving back to our cabin that first night and we came across a mama deer and her baby. That's when Jessamyn informed me, “Tomorrow I will probably get one of those.” Or maybe when we were wine tasting at Noisy Water Winery and Jessamyn learned the fine art of swirling and tasting her orange juice. Actually though, it was probably our dinner that first night at Hunt and Harvest. Everyone was so friendly. There was live music, which by that I don’t just mean someone poorly playing covers I mean some of the best music I have ever heard and mash ups of original songs that were so good we kind of wished he had a record we could have bought. Then, the food came and, seriously, I felt like I was on some Travel Channel cooking show or something — it was SO good and unique. The passion behind each dish and the atmosphere itself that was so family friendly yet still somehow upscale was awesome. Someone actually even came up to me that night while I was breastfeeding Ophelia at our table and thanked me for breastfeeding. They said their little girl saw me and said, “I want to be like that when I grow up." Basically, what I'm trying to say is, the community and atmosphere and just amazing dinner at Hunt and Harvest is definitely one — if not the — top moment on this trip.
What are your top family-friendly activities in Ruidoso? Any favorite restaurants?
I feel like everything we did was super family friendly. If I had to pick, I would have to say going to the fairy garden at Hondo Iris Farm was definitely super cute and very kid friendly. Jessamyn loved all the little fairy houses and had such a good time. Also, wine tasting at Noisy Water Winery. I know that doesn’t sound like a family activity, but they do juice tasting for the kids and Jessamyn had so much fun. She felt so special tasting “wine” right along side of us. Also obviously canoeing was awesome. There was a good trail around Grindstone Lake that we walked afterward. If your kids are a bit older, we saw a group on a trail ride that looked like it would be so much fun with kids.
As far as restaurants I already mentioned Hunt and Harvest, which was super kid friendly and awesome, but we really loved Burger Trolley, too. It was right next to a stream and a playground and had pony rides. Basically, it was perfect with kids and the burgers were so good!
Where did you stay during your long weekend?
We stayed at the cutest cabin rental through Hummingbird Cabin Rentals. The cabin was adorable. It had a giant fire place and multiple bedrooms so, unlike a hotel where everyone is all together, we actually had a bit of space to spread out and really relax. The cabin had such amazing views and there were so many deer everywhere! Someone joked that deer are the rats of Ruidoso, and I think they might be right because we saw so many around our cabin and in town (but in a good way!).
How do you instill the love of the great outdoors in your girls?
I honestly don’t, and I have always hated that question because it implies I am doing something special. The truth is if you take your kids outdoors, you don’t have to do anything special. You just have to show up. Last week, we went hiking, and it wasn’t anything special except we stumbled onto a family of baby chipmunks and I am still hearing about them today. When we were in Ruidoso and ran into the elk in the national forest, it was so magical and Jessamyn definitely fell in love with them, but it was nothing I did. The truth is the outdoors are just awesome and all you have to do is show up and the magic will just happen.
Your Instagram feed is full of stunning wildflower bouquets and mountain views. It seems like Ruidoso was a perfect then! Did you find any wildflowers in Ruidoso?
Yes! Though I can’t take credit for that. I actually fully intended on stopping in Albuquerque to buy flowers to use in our photos on our way into Ruidoso, but I forgot. When we got there and went on a walking tour of the shops Justin (our tour guide and just amazing contact for the whole trip) said he actually noticed our use of flowers and told us where to go to get some. What he doesn’t know is that after that walking tour and before we were scheduled to go to dinner, we drove to the spot he told us about (The Monjeau Lookout) and found the most beautiful fields of wild flowers. I was in wild flower heaven! It was raining and there was fog rolling across the mountains and we ran into a herd of elk — it could not have been a more magical experience. We were totally 15 minutes late to dinner because of that little excursion into the national forest, but it was so worth it and I think that spot might be in my top 10 of most beautiful places I have ever been — and definitely my new favorite wild flower experience.
Your girls joined you in the canoe — and it looked like they had such a blast! Any tips for canoeing with a toddler and a baby?
So I had never been canoeing before and one thing we didn’t consider was someone needed to hold our youngest which meant one of us couldn’t help paddle. Luckily, the rental company was prepared for this and gave Ben a kayaking paddle instead of a canoe paddle so he was able to singlehandedly paddle us around the lake. It was so much fun, and I give him so much credit for the arm strength it took to do that. Both of the girls loved it, and I think we would definitely do it again.
Anything else you’d like to add about your trip?
I think mostly I just want to get across how amazing the community in Ruidoso is. Don’t come expecting a cheesy tourist town — come expecting to step into a community that really cares and is genuinely working toward something awesome. We left Ruidoso feeling passionate about life and our goals, and I think a lot of that had to do with the general attitude of every shop owner and individual we ran into. This is a town that cares about its history and about its future and that alone creates an environment that is so beautiful and made every activity and stop so good.