We spent a few days in Rodeo, New Mexico, but it is only a few inches from Arizona, and we drove back and forth across the border daily, so it was only when we left that area that it felt like a new state.
We pulled into a rest stop along the way, had lunch, and walked around the grounds looking for interesting birds. By the time we got back to our motorhome, several others had pulled in next to us. Can you figure out which of the matching coaches is ours?
Las Cruces, New Mexico
We spent a while at Las Cruces, where we found a nice restaurant with “The Flavor of New Mexico.” We were celebrating passing 200 birds on our life list. That’s not a lot for big time birders, but it’s a fun milestone for “us newbies.” (The dinner was great.)
The campground had told us they were full, but we could stay in an overflow site…. turns out it was just on the side of the road through the campground. They put orange cones out so other campers wouldn’t run into us! Right in front of us was a site that went empty all night, so when we found out that individual wasn’t coming, we took his site the next day.
The little area of Mesilla had a cute town center. On this site in 1854, the U.S. flag was raised, confirming the Gadsden Purchase. After prolonged conflicts with Mexico about who owned what land, the U.S. paid Mexico $10 million, and some other concessions, for pretty much what became New Mexico and Arizona. Even though conflicts continued somewhat (aren’t they still going on?) the Gadsden Purchase did set the southern U.S. border.
Just out of town is the Mesilla valley Bosque State Park. Not a lot of birds, but a lot of desert! We did get to see a Northern Harrier, and Nightshade Berries and Screwbean Mesquite. The Screwbeans are legumes, but I wasn’t tempted to eat them.
I’ve been looking forward to visiting the White Sands Missile Base. I remember touring that as a kid, but was disappointed this time to find it closed (even when the website said it was open.) Bummer. But we did get to see the White Sands National Monument. 275 acres of glistening sand, that’s not really sand. It’s gypsum, more powdery than gritty sand. This is the world’s largest gypsum dune field.
The gypsum sand is so white, it doesn’t get hot like some sand. The sun was beastly hot, but the sand wasn’t too hot to go barefooted. This looks like it could be a beach somewhere, but it’s still very hot desert!
There were lots of interesting tracks across the sand… some of which I could positively identify.
The dunes shift continually, and the roads have to be cleared like it was snow. It LOOKED like snow, even when plowed to the sides of the road.
I loved the many interesting textures.
The nice blue sky and gorgeous white sand in these pictures makes it look pleasantly comfortable, but it was close to unbearably hot.
I think it’s been about three decades since we went through Carlsbad Caverns. They are still amazing! (I didn’t figure they’d change much.) Instead of guided tours, they now have nice walkways for you to do self-guided tours. From the entrance to the “Big Room” is a mile and a quarter – and a long ways down! It’s the equivalent of a 75 story building. Once down there, another walk takes you 1.25 miles around the Big Room. You could take the elevator down and miss the first walk, but that would be a shame! We had our new friend, Matt, with us on one tour. He was pretty confident he would hike back out… but he agreed the elevator looked pretty good when it was time to go out!
I’m not going to try and describe all the weird and amazing things in that huge cave. Pictures certainly don’t capture the enormity of it all, the bizarre shapes, and the feeling of being surrounded by all this otherworldliness.
So just look at the pictures and try to guess what they are! Some of the names are mine… the names they chose show a lack of imagination…
I’ve heard this called “Cave Bacon,” but here they called it “Drapery.”
We had so much fun doing the walking tours, we did it a second time a couple of days later. The tour takes you around the Big Room, which is impossibly huge. But there is another level below that room, which is only accessed by Ranger-led tours, which were not operating now. The second time we did the walk, we could see into the lower level, because now there were people working down there. It’s like another 100 feet down, and seeing the tiny people moving around with just their headlamps shining out in front of them was very strange. It looked like spacemen exploring Mars or something.
I dedicate this last picture to Dr. Seuss… I think he got much of his inspiration from the sculptures in this cavern!