March 9 – 13
I’ve heard of White Sands all my life and wanted to see the place firsthand. It turned out to be a logical next step for us after Carlsbad, and we’re so glad we spent time there. We like Alamogordo and especially Oliver Lee Memorial State Park at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park & More New Friends
You know how we were wanting to see some trees after our last stop. Well, we were fortunate to drive through the Lincoln National Forest on the way to our next stop, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. We were both delighted to see towering fir trees and so much green! Unfortunately, this was short-lived and as soon as we came off the mountain, we were right back in the Chihuahuan Desert again. In fact, once we turned off the main road outside of Alamogordo headed to the park, we were really disappointed. This was not looking promising for an interesting next stop. Mountains, yes, but still desert-y and kinda run-down looking.
Let’s just say we got over it pretty fast. Here’s the view of where we camped from up a nearby hiking trail. There’s Lucy, Bitsy and a teeny tiny Pat & Jackson sitting out front. Stunning 360 degree views with White Sands way in the distance.
Here’s the view the other direction looking at the Sacramento Mountains. Not many trees, but we’ll live.
Actually the park itself turned out to be a great place to walk Jackson and get a little hiking in. Signs of Spring were everywhere with the hum of bees in the budding trees and little green leaf buds on things we thought were dead.
The cholla cactus here had bright yellow segments at the ends and I managed to get this little birdy in the shot. Not sure what he is.
More green stuff popping up near the flowing stream. Such a nice surprise to hear running water again.
Any birders out there can correct me if I’m wrong. I think this might be a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. The bright red spot on the head caught my eye.
Lots of birds and views from Oliver Lee. We’d definitely come back here.
This was another good stop for meeting new friends. Barbara & Bud were our camp hosts and also RVillagers. We connected online right away and got together twice to sit and visit. They were so easy to talk to and we had some good laughs. We received some good restaurant and campground advice from them and will be keeping in touch.
White Sands National Monument
The main goal for this trip was to see White Sands National Monument. We were able to make use of our yearly National Park Pass and visit twice. The first time was in the afternoon and it was a little cloudy. It turned out to be a spectacular time to visit, with nice cool breezes.
A favorite showcasing the pristine sand and a single set of footprints.
Pat says someone got footy prints all over his desert. Actually we were surprised at how quickly our footprints were being erased by the wind. By the time we retraced our steps, they were already smoothing out, soon to be gone completely.
Snow-covered Sierra Blanca Peak in the distance at almost 12,000 feet. Such a contrast. White Sands was like a huge beach with no ocean, surrounded by mountains.
Like frosting in the distance. We were in shade and the little sliver of bright white was the sand in the sunlight.
A nice young man that reminded us of Ethan came along and offered to take our picture. He was visiting from Kentucky and clearly taken by the views, too. We returned the favor and did a little photo shoot for him. Some visitors were also trying to sled down the dunes. They didn’t do too many trip down since the hike back up is pretty tough. A shot of the boardwalk and a few other favorites from the day.
A few days later we went on the sunset stroll with one of the rangers. Light and shadows made for different lovely views. According to the ranger, this is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. It’s unlike the beach sand we’re used to. Gypsum is a soft mineral and doesn’t get hot under the desert sun. If you get some of this sand in your eyes, blinking will dissolve it. Velvety soft sand, and there’s moisture just under the surface.
The sun is slipping away quickly as the ranger tells us about the plants and animals living here. The yucca plants adapt with 30 foot stalks, the depth of some of the sand dunes. Other plants build pedestals for themselves with their roots and the sand. Of course the dunes move and cover spots while uncovering others, constantly moving and changing.
Lower and lower it goes….
The Scramento Mountains glowed a ruby red in the background. Our campground is way over that direction.
The purples and pinks remain my favorite.
Day is done. Gone the sun. Loved, loved White Sands and all its moods.
Cloudcroft & the Lincoln National Forest
We just had to get another look at those fabulous trees just 30 minutes away up the mountain. At an elevation of 8,668 feet, the town of Cloudcroft had snow while we were down in White Sands in our shorts.
Truthfully, we only found these piles at the ranger station when we got up there, but it was chilly and windy. Almost 20 degrees colder that just a few miles down the road.
We had big plans to hike on this rails to trails section, but we just weren’t dressed for the wind up here.
I walked out onto the trestle overlook just as another tourist says “there’s nothing holding that up!” “Now you tell me”, I say. We all had a good laugh and got back into our warm cars. The road from Cloudcroft drops about 4000 ft in elevation during the 12 miles into Alamogordo. Very steep grades with runaway truck ramps, if you can make it that far. Pat & Jackson posed with the forest service elk. Yep, we were pretty high! Remind me to tell you that joke sometime.
Imagine our surprise when we drove from Carlsbad to here and encountered fields and fields of trees. We’re can’t figure this out given the fact that trees don’t seem to make it here naturally. Apparently pecan and pistachio trees don’t require much water and love it in this area. You know we love a good factory or farm tour, so we signed on for one at the Heart of the Desert Eagle Ranch.
This place is home to more than 13,000 pistachio trees and 24,000 grapevines. Pistachio trees are interesting with one male tree for every 12-16 female trees. The winds around here do the pollinating with the male trees planted upwind. The male trees are a little beefier looking that the female trees, so you can tell them apart pretty easily. We bought some Riesling wine and salted pistachios for the road.
The world’s largest pistachio is just down the road at another orchard, so we had to go there, too.
Big Booms, The Blog & Other Tales
You may or may not know the other thing for which this area is famous. The White Sands Missile Range. On our first evening we heard a few booms that you could feel in your chest. Our brave little toaster, Jackson, is horribly afraid of loud noises, so we were worried that this would be a rough stop for him. Turns out we only had a few other booms, so all was well.
The main road leading to Las Cruces is even closed when they conduct some of the tests. Fortunately we weren’t set to travel on one of those days.
Now those are some tumbleweeds in the making. And this is also why we thought the area leading to the state park seemed rundown. Abandoned more like.
Pat celebrated a birthday at this stop. I didn’t bake him a cake, but did make him some pretty good homemade mac and cheese in the instant pot. Have I told you that’s the best gadget ever? And Pat got to read all day which makes him pretty happy.
Spotted this cactus on our Sunday morning stroll. Easter is almost here!
Also, I’ve added a new feature to the blog. Since there’s always a little lag between posts and our next destination, you’ll now find a spot titled “Where in the world are the Iversons”. (Thanks Catherine for that idea) I’ll do my best to keep that current so you’ll know where we are even if the blog hasn’t quite caught up. Let me know how you like it.
Finally our super genius dog learned the hard way about cattle guards. We walked up to this one in the park, merely to take a look down the road. Jackson pauses for just a few seconds and then leaps onto this thing. Picture a 100 pound lab with all four legs dangling through the bars. Luckily he didn’t get hurt, so we could laugh about it.
They are so mean telling tales on me…..
Next up – Truth or Consequences and the tour that was a big bust. See you on the way!