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Category: Side Trips

White Sands National Park / Alamogordo NM

White Sands National Park / Alamogordo NM

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!

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

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.

Exploring Old Mines

Exploring Old Mines

While staying in the Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort we met several of our neighbors and they were all into exploring the trails around New Mexico with their Side-By-Side ATVs. We were lucky enough that Doug and Susan, our next door neighbors, had a 4-seat unit and they invited us out for a couple of trips into the desert and mountain areas around Truth or Consequences and Caballo in the Rio Grande river valley.

New Mexico has an abundance of trails that are open to the public and most are only accessible by 4-wheel ATVs like theirs. There are many rocky, steep and narrow areas that most normal vehicles even with 4-wheel drive could not navigate. We were amazed that they could follow all the trails without getting lost!

Our trip took us into the mountains and up to several old abandoned mines. The views of the desert valley on the way up were spectacular and we were even surprised to find sand dunes and red dirt way up there.

At each mine, there were opportunities to search in the discard piles for amethyst, quartz and other rock specimens. Anna took home quite a few smaller rocks hoping to make jewelry out of them at some point in the future. One of the mines we visited had partially collapsed inside and was clearly not safe but we were able to go several hundred feet inside another. It was interesting to imagine how difficult it must have been to mine here with mostly hammers and chisels. At least they had spectacular views of the valley below when they emerged from the mine!

Puye Cliff Dwellings

Puye Cliff Dwellings

The Puye Cliff Dwellings were home to 1,500 Pueblo Indians who lived, farmed and hunted game there from the 900s to 1580 AD. Puye Cliffs’ inhabitants then moved into the Rio Grande River valley due to drought. They became the ancestors of today’s Santa Clara people, who now live at Santa Clara Pueblo, 10 miles east of Puye.

Puye Cliffs comprises two levels of cliff and cave dwellings cut into the cliff face, as well as dwellings on the mesa top. Over one mile long, the first level runs the length of the base of the mesa. The second level is about 2,100 feet long. Paths and stairways were cut in the face of the rock to connect the two levels and allow people to climb to the top of the mesa.

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Ruidoso New Mexico Area

Ruidoso New Mexico Area

Ruidoso

Ruidoso lies in the Sierra Blanca mountain range of south-central New Mexico, where it merges with the Sacramento Mountains to the south. Ruidoso is a mountain resort community close to the slopes of Ski Apache, the Mescalero Apache Tribe-owned ski resort on Sierra Blanca, a 12,000-foot mountain. The tribe also operates the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort in the area, which includes a casino, hotel, and golf course. Ruidoso is the largest community in Lincoln County, and serves as the regional economic hub. The village received its name from the Rio Ruidoso (Spanish for “Noisy River”), a small stream that weaves through the city.

At nearly 7000′ elevation, Ruidoso is a great summer destination due to milder temperatures, particularly at night. A lot of frontier history can be explored in and around the area and there are numerous other things to do including exploration of nearby mountain villiages, White Sands, and the White Sands Missle Range to name a few. The Trinity Site, location of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon is also nearby. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. This site is open to the public two time a year but we have been told it can be difficult to be one of the limited few who manage to get it.

We had the extra treat of having our daughter, Amanda, join us for a few days here then travel on to Albuquerque with us.

Ruidoso Downs

Ruidoso Downs has been the home of the World’s Richest Quarter Horse Race since the All American Futurity was first contested on Labor Day in 1959 with a $129,000 purse. This past summer the Rainbow Futurity and the Rainbow Derby were on track to become $1,000,000 races. It is the only horse track in the United States and Europe that has a separate quarter horse straightaway and oval thoroughbred track giving spectators a unique venue.

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