Today we were up early for the first day of our road trip to see several natural wonders in New Mexico. As we started off there was a bit of a chill in the air but the sky was beautiful with puffy, low-lying clouds.
I thought about this for quite a while and decided that I would share with you my and Randy’s observations and experiences on this wonderful trip.
We traveled down I-25 seeing pockets of small homes and trailers dotting the roadsides. The vegetation was a mix of scrub bushes, a variety of trees and cottonwood trees that were turning a beautiful bright yellow during now that fall was in the air.
Our thoughts about the Bosque del apache National Wildlife Refuge: A note about the refuge: During the winter, over 100,000 Sandhill cranes, snow geese, and ducks fill the refuge’s wetlands and agricultural fields.
Mary—What a beautiful place to visit. We drove to a couple of flight decks and saw a beautiful landscape of grasses, cottonwood trees, marshland and mountains.
We were hoping to see migrating Sand Cranes, snow geese and several varieties of ducks but we realized it was mid-day and that the weather was still warm and the birds would be coming later in the season. Jim and Vilma had been here last November and were witness to an amazing fly-in as dusk fell on the refuge.
Randy–The first place we stopped was a wintering spot for many varieties of water fowl. It was very pretty and something I did not expect to see in New Mexico. It was a bit early for the large water fowl to be there, but the Mallards and some smaller ducks were already there. As we drove around, we saw a few road runners (beep, beep) as they crossed the road and scampered away as Mary tried to take their picture.
Back on the road we headed south towards our next objective, White Sands National Monument. A note about White Sands: The rocks in the surrounding mountains contain gypsum. As the mountains erode, the gypsum is exposed. Rain and snow dissolve the gypsum. When the gypsum-rich water gathers in the Tularosa Basin below, it is trapped and eventually evaporates, leaving selenite crystals behind. The crystals eventually break down into bright white gypsum sand.
On our way towards White Sands we came across a huge pistachio statue outside the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch and Arena Blanca Winery.
Mary–We just had to stop and take some pictures, and so, we did. We took a few minutes to walk through the store and were amazed at the variety of seasoned pistachios available for purchase. Very funny.
Randy—I worked at the White Sands Missile Range for a couple of months when I was working for the Department of the Army and had always wanted to see this beautiful place. On our way there we passed a lot of pistachio trees in the middle of nowhere. On our way we passed a lot of desert, the Trinity site where the first nuclear bomb was set off, and a very funny place that grows pistachio trees in the middle of nowhere. They had a store with all kinds of interesting items including a wide variety of seasoned pistachios, including chilli flavored. Note: you can get just about anything in New Mexico chilli flavored, ice-cream included!!!
At this point we all grabbed a snack, got back on the road and headed to White Sands.
Mary–As soon as we pulled into the White Sands visitor’s center I knew we were in for a treat. As we drove through the area you could imagine yourself driving through an area that had just experienced a giant snow storm or arriving at a beautiful white sand beach. It was incredible!
We drove along and a road that looked like it had just been plowed. We drove a little further and suddenly the dunes were bursting with vegetation. As we drove a little further the vegetation lessened leaving pure white as far as the eye could see.
We stopped at one point and walked along a long wooden walkway over the dunes. It was amazing. We stopped periodically just to take it all in. At one point we noticed a very furry tarantula walking along the ‘sand’. On our way back to the car I noticed a group of tourists exiting their cars with snow saucers in their hands. Vilma explained that the saucers could be purchased at the visitor’s center and tourists were encouraged to enjoy the dunes. We witnessed many people, young and old, taking advantage of this wonderful activity.
We came to a stop and had a good time climbing a very large dune. When I reached the top,I was blown away at the beautiful sights that filled my eyes. There were rolling white dunes, mountain ranges in the distance, bright blue skies filled with, sometimes menacing dark clouds and sometimes angelic white clouds. I know that in my heart that I will return to this magical place again.
Randy—What a sight!!! Huge dunes in front of us as we approached. We learned that the dunes in some areas move up to 30+ feet every year. But to enjoy White Sands, you must drive on the tour road and climb the dunes. It is truly amazing to see and to be up there looking on for what seems forever white. We saw tarantulas walking around the dunes. We learned that they are not poisonous, but they will bite. We had a good time watching children using snow saucers to slide down the giant dunes.
It was hard to leave this beautiful place but we needed to make our way to Las Cruces and the La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant. Jim and Vilma had eaten at the La Posta the week before while they were attending a car show and were impressed with their food.
The La Posta was an interesting place to not only enjoy a good Mexican dinner but an interesting curiosity.
Mary—The interior of the restaurant was interesting. The exposed wooden beams were painted with flowers, there were murals on the walls, an aviary and two piranha fish in tanks in the front of the restaurant. I took a look at one of the fish and noticed that his teeth were broken. Oh, my. Randy thought having the piranha’s in the restaurant was very, “Weird!”
It was getting late and we still had a two-hour ride to our cabin. We booked a cabin at the Bear Creek Motel & Cabin at Pinos Altos.
By the time we reached our home for the night it was 9:30pm and very, very dark. Vilma had made arrangements with the manager to leave our key on the office door. This adorable cabin will forever be known to us all as ‘our funny little cabin in the woods’.
Tomorrow we will get a good luck at our cabin and then head to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.