Friday, June 19, 2015

WOW! (We’re Out West!)

Post by Henry

Before we started this journey, folks would ask "So, where are you going?"  My usual response would be "West."
We recently entered New Mexico, which meant crossing into the Mountain Time Zone, so I officially proclaim that we are WEST!  WHOO HOO!!
We spent our first five (5) nights just outside Carlsbad at Brantley Lake State Park.

Brantley Lake State Park

Here we purchased a New Mexico State Park annual pass for $225, which entitles us to drastically reduced camping fees.  Our five (5) nights at Brantley Lake in a site with full hookups cost just $8 per night.  Water and electric only sites are $4 per night.

Brantley Lake is the southern most lake in New Mexico and was quite a departure from Davis Mountains as it’s quite flat.  And windy.  Ridiculously windy.  I mean rocking the motorhome windy!  It’s also full of rabbits.  Big Jack Rabbits and smaller desert rabbits.  Lots of them.

Bunny in Wildflowers

We got to see a couple of new birds here, the Scaled Quail and the Bullock’s Oriole.

Bullock's Oriole

After NEVER seeing any Montezuma Quail rumored to be in Davis mountains, we saw quite a few of the Scaled Quail scurrying across the roads and countryside here in New Mexico.  Speaking of scurrying across the roads we saw a lot more Roadrunners here than we’d seen in Texas, too.  Another new bird (to us) we saw here in the evenings was the Lesser Nighthawk.

While here, we checked out Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where we were able to use our America the Beautiful Pass to cover the entrance fee.  

Carlsbad Caverns

We had the option of taking the elevator down into the cavern or walk, so we walked.  The pathway goes down, down, down.  750 feet down!

Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

Going Down, Down, Down!

It doesn’t take long before you are below the point where sunlight reaches and you start looking for the red man with horns!  The path is lit with strategically placed lighting to accent various formations plus just enough to see where you are going.  Once at the bottom, you arrive at the ‘Big Room’.  There is a path around the perimeter of this gigantic room past stalactites, stalagmites, and all sorts of formations in various shapes and sizes.

Gigantic Formations
The Bottomless Pit
Out of the Dark

All together, we spent about three (3) hours underground.  We had the option of taking the elevator or walking back up to the surface.  This time, we chose the elevator.

Just thirty (30) miles further up the road was Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

It was kind of late in the day, but we probably weren’t going to be any closer to this park, so we headed that way.  Once there, we did little more than stop by the Visitor Center to get my National Park Passport book stamped.  It’s not a very big park, but it’s described as a ‘hiker’s park’.  Since hiking is about my favorite thing to do, I’ll need to return here someday – probably when it’s a little cooler.

Another day, we drove up to the small town of Artesia, mainly to grab a bite at their number one rated restaurant - according to Trip Advisor - only to find out it was closed because it was Mother’s Day.  Really?!  Isn’t Mother’s Day the busiest day of the year for restaurants?

We ended up going to Roswell, which is much bigger than Artesia and where almost everything revolves around UFO’s.  So many businesses here had green alien statues out front or signs that read ‘Aliens Welcome Here’.  It was mostly kind of amusing. 

Aliens in Roswell

After Brantley Lake, we headed further west to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

This park is just outside of Alamogordo nestled next to the Sacramento Mountains rising up from the surrounding flat high desert, providing us our most spectacular campsite view ever!

Our Campsite at Oliver Lee
The View Across the Desert

We spent quite a bit of time here just staring at these mountains muttering about how beautiful they were.

View From Our Campsite

In the other direction, we could see the White Sands National Monument in the distance. It was an obvious strip of white amid the otherwise brown surrounding landscape.  It was even more obvious on the very windy days when we could see clouds of sand blowing.  Oh, and apparently it’s always windy here in New Mexico – at least so far in our time spent here.

Here at Oliver Lee, the Gamble Quail was the most prevalent.
Gamble Quail

We observed them running through the desert brush and heard them calling daily.  One day we spotted two males fighting fiercely.  We watched for several minutes as they continued to attack each other, seemingly with no intention to cease the battle.

We visited the White Sands National Monument one day.

White Sands National Monument

Somehow, they keep a road cleared that you can drive out to experience being surrounded by the ever changing sand dunes. It is one BIG sandbox!  We even climbed to the top of one of the dunes. 

Henry Walking to the Top of a Sand Dune

We managed to visit the park on a ‘less windy’ day and also a day after it had rained the evening before, so the sand was somewhat packed down.  I imagine it might be a painful experience on a day with the sand being kicked up by the wind.

White Sand and Blue Sky

One day we visited the town of Cloudcroft, which is barely fifteen (15) miles outside of Alamogordo, but sits on top of the Sacramento Mountains at 8,600 feet elevation.  It’s at least 20 degrees cooler there, so I imagine it’s a great place to be when the heat of summer kicks in.

Cloudcroft, NM
Steller Jay

On our last day at Oliver Lee, we hiked the Dog Canyon Trail here at the park.  

Henry on the Dog Canyon Trail

We’d been eyeing this trail from our campsite as it rises steeply from behind the park office.  And yes, it DOES rise steeply – especially the first half mile!  

Dog Canyon Trail - whew!

Again, somehow we picked a less windy day with hardly a cloud in the sky and the views when we stopped to catch our breath were outstanding.  

View from Dog Canyon Trail

We hiked three (3) miles gaining 1,500 feet in elevation to the remains of a stone cabin sitting next to a creek at the top of Dog Canyon.

Remnants of a Stone Cabin

At the creek, we came upon some bright yellow Columbines, which were the first we’d seen on our trip.

Yellow Columbines

Also, there were hummingbirds buzzing around so quickly we never could get a good look at one, but their buzzing sound was unlike other hummingbirds we have heard.  We later found out they were Broadtail Hummingbirds.  The hike back down Dog Canyon may have been even more beautiful, as the views were ever present in front of us as we made our way along the rocky trail.

We were pretty wore out and a bit sunburned when we got back to the Rambler, but this was the perfect way to end our trip to Oliver Lee State Park, as we spent one last evening admiring the mountains from our campsite.

Not a Bad View!

Our first New Mexico Sunset


  1. These pics are awesome! Did you take all of them? I also wanted to ask what is the difference between full hook ups and just electric and water, is it sewer? You are getting some great deals, thanks for the tips!!! Climb a mountain for David and I, love you guys!

  2. Bonnie, I take all the photos unless noted otherwise. Thanks for the complement!
    And yes, full hookups include water, electric, and sewer. Some campgrounds only have water and electric, so you have to 'dump' your black water (toilet) tank and grey water (sink and shower) tank at a dump station.
    And, we climbed a high elevation mountain just for you guys!