Feb 3rd – Relocation to Carlsbad, NM on a sunny 60 degree morning. Odom reads 13546. We stopped at Carlsbad Caverns on our way. There had been a big fire here last year as a good majority of the trees on the windy road leading into the caverns were burnt. The charred woods all around reminded us all about forest fires and how devastating they are. Where was Smokey???
The Caverns are in the Chihuanhuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas, filled with prickly pear, chollas, sotols and agaves. You would never be able to tell that more than 300 known caves were beneath us. Carlsbad Caverns is touted as the show cave of all caverns and on the National Register of historic places.
The park contains 113 caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, and created some of the largest caves in North America and should not be missed.
Lechugilla Cave, the nations deepest limestone cave, at 1567 feet, and third longest in the US.
Big Room, the third largest chamber in North America and 7th largest in the world being almost 4,000 feet long and 625 ft wide and 255 feet high at the highest point. A visual clue would be as large as 8 footballs fields.
There are two ways to enter the caverns. Walking the Natural entrance or take the elevator down some 750 feet. We opted for the Natural Entrance route. We would take the elevator back up instead of climbing back up the millions of stairs. But before we could enter, we had to give our sneakers a disinfectant bath since we had been in other caves with these same shoes. There is a fungus that is infecting bats in this country and it comes in on peoples clothing when they go from cave to cave. This cave and the ones we were in before house bat colonies.
The Natural Entrance snaked down into the cave through an enormous opening in the ground. Once inside you had to let your eyes adjust to the dim light. This cave was a self-guided tour with markers along the way telling you what you were trying to see. It was darker than Mammouth and not as brilliant as Mammouth but just as amazing. Here they hired a professional movie lighting company to set up the lighting effects. Seeing the ancient formations, underground ponds and enormous caverns, we left in awe of how this had all been created. These underground wonderlands are something to be seen.
Feb 6 – Relocate to Roswell, NM . Odom reads 13641 on a sunny cold 40 degree morning. We left at 10:30. We took Rte 285 to Roswell/Artesia. Southern NM from Carlsbad to Roswell is not striking or anything to write home about. It is drab, no views and uninspiring. After leaving the Guadalupe Mts and its majestic views we are very disappointed in our first impressions of New Mexico after Carlsbad Caverns. What is fun to see here? Aliens maybe?
Guess it is the perfect place to hide alien stuff if indeed aliens came here in the first place????? There is nothing, absolutely nothing here. Just picture mile after mile of nothing. Boring.!!!!!! If this is what New Mexico is about we can leave now. Roswell touts that it is the Dairy capital of the world and “”A good place to crash”.
AND, The place to go when you are going some place.
We will just follow that slogan, we don’t need stay here. But for those who are interested, there is an International UFO Museum and Research Center that features displays of the famous Roswell Incident of 1947 as well as worldwide UFO sighthings. There are a couple of art museums and a military museum, Gen Douglas L. McBride Military Museum that displays memorabilia and artifacts of 20th century military history.
We passed them all by. But we did see alien souvenier shops, alien art on the buildings and even alien burgers. Did not know aliens ate burgers. They even have street lights like alien heads. How cute.
So you ask, why did we stop here?
We had pass through Roswell because of the historic alien story and cover-up..
If you don’t know the story, I will give you a quick synapsis of the event. In July 1947 a rancher came upon a debris field on a ranch just northeast of Roswell. Not knowing what he had discovered, he took some of it to the local Sheriff. Since Roswell was home to the Roswell Army Air Field, the Sheriff contacted the RAAF and an intelligence officer was sent out to investigate. On July 8, a press release from the commading officer stated that they had a flying saucer. On July 9th, the release was rescinded with a statement that they had a weather balloon not a flying saucer. And the so called “cover up” of the Roswell incident began.
More than 60 years later, the pseudo-debate still goes on. Witnesses come forward, skeptics issue rebuttals, questions are left unanswered but the legend lives on. Good for Roswell. They know how to hype up their city. They even have a Roswalien Experience and UFO Festival every July to draw the curious, the silly and the serious to the city.
Besides the Alien story, Roswell is a big dairy farming and ranching area. We passed huge holding pens of cattle squished in like sardines and large tracts of cattle ranching.
And, along with cows comes dairy products and cheese, mozzarella cheese that is. Roswell is the biggest producer of mozzarella cheese in the country, used in Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa Johns restaurants and lets not forget string cheese products all our kids eat.
Lastly, Roswell is also where the Enola Gay took off in Aug 1945 on its way to HIroshima, Japan from the Roswell Army Air Field.
We used Roswell to stop at our favorite store, Salavation Army for more DVD’s, the local grocery for food and did our laundry at the laundromate that ate our quarters, $5′s worth. ALIENS%^*()_+_+
We left a note on the board to the owner and the aliens returned our money. At least they are honest.
Our RV stop was Travelers Village RV Park just outside of Roswell. This will be just an over night stay on our way. This RV owner was crazy for Indian Motorcycles and BMW’s, so he loved our bike. We watched for Aliens in the sky that night, but saw none. Only the regular stuff, moon, stars, planets and some planes and satellites.
We will go from Aliens to Fire tomorrow.
Feb 7th – Relocation to Carrizozo, and the Valley of Fire on a partly cloudy 55 degree day. Left at 10:30 with an odom reading of 13719. Filled up with gas in Roswell for $3.40/gal. The octane here is bad for the bike, only 86.
This ride today brought back memories and was fun. We were on Rte 70 towards Tinnie (which was very tiny) and Sunset and on to Rte 380 through the LIncoln National Park. This is The Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway, an 84 mile loop that begins in Hondo, where US 70 and US380 split. The first stop on the byway is the town of Lincoln, NM.
As we approach Lincoln, we see Mt. Capitan (10,083 ft) covered with snow as we enter the town where Billy the Kid, Kitt Carson, Jon Pershin and the Buffalo Soldiers roamed.. Lincoln was a cute and very small adobe building lined 19th century village. It seemed to have nothing to do there. Another “who would live here” kind of place. The road was so washboard like. we could have washed our clothes in the sink just driving.
The famous courthouse where Billy the Kid made his bloody escape still stands and gives tours. Besides that, it was just a pass through kind of place.
From there we went on to Capitan, NM. home of our little friend from childhood, “Smokey the Bear”. Yes the famous fire fighting bear. We thought back on all those Fire Prevention Weeks in October we all went through in school. We left singing the song:
Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear
prowlin and a growlin and a sniffin the air
He can find a fire before it starts to flame
thats why we call him Smokey,
that is how he got his name.
New Mexico has now changed from the stark & unattractive parts we saw around Roswell. We are now back into the mountains with rolling hills, grazing cattle and farming in the Lincoln National Forest. We are on Rte 380, houses are scarce and mostly prefabs or trailer type.
Our destination RV park is in Carrizozo, NM at the Valley of Fire Bureau of Land Management for $9.00 a night with great amenities and 360 degree valley views that are moon like and vistas of the Sacramento Mountains.
Our campground was high on the bluff overlooking the lava flows
Valley of Fire was formed about 1,000-1,500 years ago by a volcanic lava flow that came from Little Black Peak, about 10 miles north of Carrizozo, and went about 40 miles down to the bottom of the basin.
We walked the 1 mile board walk trail that meanders through the petrified lava flow which look like an asphalt dump with plants growing among it.. Scorpions, trantulas, rattlesnakes, jack rabbits, desert mice are common here. We saw none. It was freezing cold that day we walked, ironic since we are in the Valley of Fire. The mountain views all around were spectacular. It is amazing to see this. The mountain we see is the Sierra Blanca Peak at 11,977 ft.
Carrizozo is a town of limited facilites and amenities. It actually looks like the people who lived here just got up and left. It was a turn of the century RR town. RR left and so did the people and so did we.
Feb 8th – we relocate to Alamagordo, NM and Oliver Lee State Park, on a sunny cold 32 degree morning. Odom reads 13817 and it will take us 2 hours to go 75 miles.
Last night our RV rocked and rolled due to the 20mph sustained winds and gusts of 50mph that ripped through the valley. There is an uneasy feeling as you lay in bed wondering if you are going to tip over at any time. Hmmmmmmmm
The little heater we bought at Target way back has kept us warm and cozy on these cold windy, nights. The RV is functioning very well with its own heater and amenities. She is running like a trooper. When it gets cold outside, below freezing, we have to be mindful of the water hose and water holding tanks.
Okay, what does this mean you dream analysts?
I dreamt that Dogwood Lane House burnt down last night due to a gas explosion in neighbors house accross the street. HMMMMM, Am I closing the Dogwood Chapters of my life? Why in such a violent manner??
In the colder weather, when driving the bike would be uncomforable, we travel solely by RV and make plans accordingly and make sight seeing visits as we RV to the next stop instead of taking out the bike.
We left the Valley of Fires to go to Alamagorda as I said, but stopped along the way to see 3 Rivers Pietroglyphs on Rte 54 in the Tularosa Valley. We passed the beautiful snow capped Sierra Blanco Peak at 11,977 ft to get there. This turned out to be a nice hike through ancient rock drawings.
Three Rivers Petroglyphs are outstanding examples of the prehistoric Native Americans Jornada Mogollons, rock carvings or rock art. The basaltic ridge rising above the Three Rivers Valley contains over 21,000 petroglyphs, including masks, sunbursts, wildlife, hand prints and geometric designs.
Animal, bird, reptile, fish, and other fauna, corn, clouds and agriculure, faces, masks, supernatural & mythical beings show their religious world. The large concentration of art here makes this site one of the largest in the Southwest. These pictures were made with stone tools by removing the dark patina on the exterior of the rock. The patina is formed through oxidations when air comes into contact with the minerals in the rock surface. Some of the petroglphs were made quickly and some look like they were painstakingly created. Rock art gives one a glimpse into the minds of the people who lived here 1,000 years ago. There is an immediate connection between what we see and the prehistoric artist.
Alamagordo is a thriving city transformed from a railroad, ranching and farming hamlet into a progressive vibrant community, intertwined with military neighbors of Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. It is home to a natural wonder: White Sands National Monument, a Museum of Space History, the Clyde W. Tombaugh Planetarium, Lincoln National Forest & Oliver Lee State Park. It has a strong tie in with our entry into atomic and space age.
Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin, about 16 miles south of Alamogordo, is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, dunes have engulfed 275 square miles of desert creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.
White Sands National Monument, created by President Herbert Hoover on January 18, 1933, preserves this dunefield, along with the plants and animals that have adapted to this constantly changing.
Gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand because it is water-soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea. The Tularosa Basin is enclosed, meaning that it has no outlet to the sea and that rain that dissolves gypsum from the surrounding San Andres and Sacramento Mountains is trapped within the basin. Thus water either sinks into the ground or forms shallow pools which subsequently dry out and weathering and erosion eventually breaks the crystals into sand-size grains that are carried away by the prevailing winds from the southwest, forming these amazing white dunes.
The dunes constantly change shape and slowly move downwind. The various forms of dunes cover the plants in their path, however, they can grow fast enough to avoid being buried. Even the little animals that live here survive by being the lightest color they can be. White being the “in” color.
You have to follow metal posts that are placed in the sand. You make sure you have the next post in sight before you move or you will get lost in a sea of white sand and mountains. If you don’t see the marker, you don’t go.
The hike through these dunes was like no other we have ever been on. The sand patterns, the hugh dunes that move as you watch them, the blue sky reflecting on the white white sand, the lack of trees, water & animals, the mountains in the distance all made this place magical. Just look at these pics.
The Monument is completely surrounded by military installations (White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Forece Base) and has always had an uneasy relationship with the military. Errant missiles often fell on White Sands, in some cases destroying some of the visitor areas and overflights from Holloman disturbed the tranquility of the area. The metal posts that guide you through your walk in the dunes gives warnings of the missile testing
Hollomn Air Force Base is about 10 miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico.It is home to the F-22A Raptor, F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter, 49th Fighter Wing, 46th Test Group, allied fighter pilot training missions, and the German Air Force Flying Training Center. Holloman also has the world’s longest, at 50,188 feet (almost 10 miles, and fastest, approaching 10,000 feet per second (3,050 m/s, Mach 9), test track. We did not visit the base, just heard the planes repeatedly take off, break the sound barrier, and land.
White Sands Missile Range is where the United States entered both the atomic and space ages. On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was successfully tested at its Trinity Site. At the missile range, the U.S. put the earliest rockets into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. At 3,200 square miles, the range is the largest military installation in the country
This park was a gem, with great views of the San Andreas & Sacramento Mts. & valley views of the White Sands Monument. It had superb facilities and wonderful trails to hike on.
We took two hikes here, the easy Riparian Nature Trail and the more strenuous, Dog Canyon Trail.
The Riparian Trail is a 1/2 mile walk that goes through small pools of water at the mouth of Dog Canyon and on into a dry creek bed. It gave us a great view riparian vegetation, an uncommon experience in the arid desert.
In the mid-1880s, a Frenchman named Francois-Jean “Frenchy” Rochas started homesteading at the mouth of Dog Canyon. He built a rock cabin, raised cattle and grew grapes, apples, cherries, plums, peaches, figs, and even olives. He also worked with a newcomer, Texas rancher Oliver Lee, to channel water from Dog Canyon to Lee’s ranch, about a mile to the south. Frenchy mysteriously met his end just after Christmas in 1894, when he was found dead in his cabin, a bullet in his chest. Although the local authorities determined it was suicide, historians believe it was more likely that someone murdered him in a dispute. You can see the remains of his home and the many rock walls he built all over the campground.
The Dog Canyon Trail is a hike in the the Lincoln National Forest. The trail climbs the canyon’s south slope for the first 3 miles, gaining about 1,400 feet, before arriving at a grassy oasis of cottonwoods, willows and the stream.
It does not take long before you start getting views. First of the park as a whole, and soon White Sands and other areas in the Tularosa basin become visible. Views like this are awesome all the way up and back.
Organ and San Andreas Mts. are all around you. As you go higher the views get better.
This trail is essentially the same one used for over 4000 years first by prehistoric people seeking a route into the mountains, later by Apaches, and then by historic ranchers.
About 4 miles into the hike the remains of a small rock cabin built by ranchers in about 1930 comes into view. This was a good spot to turn around for us. We were tired, we still had to climb all the way back down.
But if you continue you will soon reach the Eyebrow, a steep, winding section of the trail across a 2,000-foot bluff, that in 1878 was the scene of an Apache/U.S. Cavalry skirmish.
Feb 12 – We left Alamagordo, White Sands and Oliver Lee, with the hopes of someday returning. It was a remarkable place. Maybe the weather was moving us along, as a storm front was moving in to the Tularoso Basin with snow, sleet, freezing rain and hail. And I thought that we would not get this kind of weather on our trip. Silly me.
We will go west and stop over night at the Leesburg Dam State Park, just to sleep on our way to Las Cruces.
We travel on Rte 70, the Bataan Hwy. a straight run to Las Cruses, a spralling city. This place is home to the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center. We have no desire to see this.
But we do have a desire to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings, so that will be the start of the next blog.
Don’t believe Alien stories
Climb a mountain for great views
Take a walk on gypsum sand dunes