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|
|Bunny in Wildflowers|
We got to see a couple of new birds here, the Scaled Quail and the Bullock’s Oriole.
After NEVER seeing any Montezuma Quail rumored to be in
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.
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.
|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
|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
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. Visitor Center
Another day, we drove up to the small town of
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
, 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. Roswell
|Aliens in Roswell|
, we headed further west to Brantley Lake . Oliver Lee Memorial State
|Oliver Lee Memorial State Park|
This park is just outside of
nestled next to the Alamogordo 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
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 White
Sands National Monument New
Mexico – at least so far in our time spent here.
Here at Oliver Lee, the Gamble Quail was the most prevalent.
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
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
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.
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
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. Dog Canyon
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|