While staying in Las Cruces, NM at the end of February, 2020 we took a day trip to White Sands National Park and Alamogordo. This is the largest gypsum dune field in the world and is so large it can actually be seen from space. White Sands has been a National Monument since 1933 and in January, 2020 became the 62nd National Park. So, of course, I had to get a t-shirt with the new White Sands National Park on it! The visitor center sign out front will be changing soon!
White Sands is truly magical sight to see with endless rolling white dunes with a backdrop of the San Andres Mountains to the west. This is our second visit in 2 years and February was a better time to visit because of smaller crowds and the weather was sunny but cool which allowed us to hike further into the rolling dunes. Also, the sand was so cold to the touch and to walk on! We read that the dunes move 15 feet per year with the winds off the mountains blowing the gypsum. A couple of the pictures below show the dunes trying to take over the road that the park rangers have to plow daily to keep it passable and in a few areas it was very narrow for two cars to pass.
After visiting White Sands we drove into Alamogordo. Located here is Holloman Air Force Base and is the site of the testing range where the first atomic bomb was exploded in 1945. Also, this is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, sits at 4336′ elevation and is one of the larger cities in NM. It really is a barren desert city with the beautiful Sacramento Mountains bordering on the east, and so different from the White Sands only 20 miles away. After eating lunch we had to go the the famous McGinn’s PistachioLand and see the World’s Largest Pistachio! After spending lots of time tasting ALL the different flavored pistachios inside the store we could not agree on a favorite so we had to buy 3 different packages; dark chocolate, red chili, and sriracha honey roasted. YUM!
Another fun and memorable day. Thanks for visiting our site and enjoy the pictures!
A clear and sunny day allowed us to have a wonderful visit to Big Bend National Park in March, 2020.
We were late making reservations to camp in the park so unfortunately Big Bend was completely booked along with all the RV parks in the small towns just outside the park. We found out that spring break is the busiest time for Big Bend likely due to the milder temperatures that time of year. We ended up staying in Marfa about an hour and a half north and taking a long day trip.
As we drove into the park we were immediately greeted by amazing balanced rock formations. After stopping by the Panther Junction visitor center, buying a t-shirt of course, we drove through the beautiful Chisos Basin then followed the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive through the west part of the park. You’ll see all the beautiful pictures we took but they cannot capture the stark beauty, depth, and colors of the mountains. We liked stretching our legs and hiking into Burro Mesa Pouroff, Tuff Canyon and Santa Elena Canyon. The Santa Elena Canyon Trail was our favorite! Sheer cliffs of 1500′ cut thru by the Rio Grande River was amazing, peaceful and a wonderful oasis in the desert. Hopefully next time we visit the park I would like to return to Santa Elena Canyon with a canoe or kayak to enjoy this peaceful canyon even more.
We had made a memorable summer trip here 25 years ago while on summer vacation when our kids were young. At that time, we stayed in a cabin at the Chisos Mountains Lodge. We had a black bear pay a curious visit then later a herd of javelinas walked by. Another great memory was when we paid a young man to a ferry us across the Rio Grande River into Boquillas, Mexico. While there we enjoyed walking around and meeting the friendly people and we sat outside at a small house/restaurant to enjoy a bottle of coke before we crossed the river back to the United States. It was so great remembering that trip and looking through some of our old pictures.
We ended up staying in Fort Stockton for a week on our way back through Texas from New Mexico. Basically there isn’t a lot to do there but we did find several things to look at including the area around the Visitor Center, historic downtown including the courthouse, a frontier era jail, and the remains of Fort Stockton, an old frontier fort. We also visited the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum where we learned a lot about the history of the area. As with most frontier towns, there is a lot of interesting facts about the early pioneers that settled here and much of the early law typically had criminal histories as well. It’s fun to think about what life must have been like in those tough times.
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Site Quality: Dirt and gravel pads and roads. Our site was just long enough for our rig with the truck parked beside it. Throughout he park were many pipeline and oil field workers staying long term. Type: Commercial Access: Just west of Fort Stockton on I-10. Staff: We arrived when the office was closed (we arrived about 1:30 and the office opens at 3:00) but before we could investigate the self check-in procedures the manager came along and helped us get checked in. He even took us to the site to be sure it was acceptable before we drove back to it. Amenities: There were Restrooms with showers and laundry facilities but we didn’t use them. There was also a pool that looked nice but it was still closed for the season (we were there in early March). There was a dog run area in the park. Cellular/WiFi: Verizon (6 Mbps) and AT&T (15 Mbps) were pretty good. The park had WiFi but we did not use it. The signal at our site was pretty weak. Restaurants: The Garage Coffee Shop served great coffee and we stopped by there for latte’s and cinnamon rolls on our way out to explore. We also had lunch at B’s Family Dining in downtown Fort Stockton. They are a family run business serving up friendly conversation, great hamburgers, steaks and other fare but they are only open until 3:00PM M-F. What we liked: The park is on a hill and had great views of the evening sunsets. Even though the park is right on I-10, there is very little road noise as the park is above the road on a hill. What we didn’t like: While the sites are wide allowing for the truck to be parked beside the RV, they are also short, just barely long enough for our RV. Compounding that the rows of sites are somewhat close and some people parked badly (ones behind us were at the very front of their sites) even though their trailers were short. The rules were one tow vehicle and one RV but many of the more permanent residents had two vehicles. All this made spacing lengthwise a bit short and maneuvering a larger trailer difficult.
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Site Quality: Gravel pads and roads. Our site was plenty long enough for our rig and truck. Type: Commercial Access: Just east of Marfa on US-90. Note that there is a low bridge (13’7″) just west of Alpine that we have not gone under with the trailer. We should be fine but with only 2 or 3″ of clearance. Staff: This is typically a self-serve type park and you normally need reservations. We showed up without either after failing to get our reserved site in Fort Davis and luckily ran into the park manager as the sign said they were full but he did have one site available from someone who left early. We added three more nights online. Amenities: There were Restrooms with showers and laundry facilities but we didn’t use them. Cellular/WiFi: Verizon and AT&T were very good. The park had WiFi but we did not use it. Restaurants:Pizza Foundation just down the street from Tumble In had pretty good pizza. Better than we expected, although it takes some time to get the food. Best to order a salad too, which you get right away. Last year while in the area we ate Mexican Food at Mando’s Restaurant & Bar. As best we can recall it was OK but nothing spectacular. On the way to Big Bend, we stopped at Judy’s Bread & Breakfast Bakery Cafe in Alpine for breakfast. It wasn’t bad but we both found the food a bit bland. What we liked: This is a small park with only 14 sites. In spite of two days of rain there was enough gravel so that mud was minimal. Only about 8 miles from the Marfa lights viewing area. What we didn’t like: There is a train track behind the park but for the most part the noise wasn’t an issue as they didn’t typically blow their horn near the park. Verdict: This was a decent park for the area, nothing special but not too bad either. Seemed secure, we left our front bay open overnight and everything was as we left it the next morning. Many of the people here seem to be permanent residents but there were several sites with turnover every few days. The area is quite busy from January through at least March when the weather is cooler. We would stay here again if needed but we’d probably prefer a site in Alpine or Fort Davis instead.
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Site Quality: Gravel pads and roads. Our site was long enough for our rig and truck. Type: Commercial Access: Easy access from Interstate 10 about 2 hours east of El Paso. Staff: The manager we checked in with was very friendly and helpful. Amenities: There were Restrooms with showers and laundry facilities but we didn’t use them. Ice and filtered water machine on site. Cellular/WiFi: Verizon and AT&T were very good. The park had WiFi but we did not use it. Restaurants: At the recommendation of the park hosts we went to RJ’s Grill in town. Having been hailed as the best place in town to eat we were a bit disappointed. The food was acceptable but nothing special. There is a restaurant at the El Capitan Hotel that looked pretty good but it was pricey for a 1-star hotel. The hotel is historic within the town and looked better than 1-star to us but we decided not to spend the extra money to eat there. What we liked: Ease of access along I-10. Full hookups during the winter. Nice views of the nearby mountains. Large park with some permanent residents and quite a few empty sites so it was easy to get in. We were given a range of sites and told we could pick whichever one we liked best. What we didn’t like: The park is gravel and it rained most of the time we were there. Water puddled during the rain but it did not become muddy. The owner said they hadn’t had rain until then in months and it does tend to become dusty without rain. There is a train track nearby but noise was minimal and they didn’t seem to blow their horn going through town. There isn’t much to do in town – maybe a museum or two. This was a good place distance wise for us to stop overnight and we were able to get the trailer’s yearly inspection done at Virdell Tire and Tow in town. Typical for small towns, the guy dropped the job he was doing and quickly checked the trailer and had us on the way. Verdict: We weren’t sure what to expect before we arrived. The park looked decent on their web site but we’ve seen many of those that just aren’t what the pictures portrayed. Mountain View was an exception. The park was clean and well laid out. Although gravel, it did not turn to mud in the rain. We were pleasantly surprised and would stay here again when passing through.