Alamogordo NM

 I could have titled this post for the park in which we stayed or for the places we hiked, but because in Spanish alamo = cottonwood and gordo = fat — Fat Cottonwood! — there was really no other choice.

 Oliver Lee Memorial S.P.

We had to take our chances on finding a spot at this park since all the reservation-only spaces were taken. Our luck held out, and we snagged the last water/electric site that was large enough for us. There would have been room for us to dry camp, but with the springtime heat in full swing, being without the ability to run the air conditioner if needed was something we wanted to avoid.

Once again, a great view out the front.

In reading reviews for this park, I’d seen someone mention that if you wanted to see cacti blooming, this was a good place to do it in May. How right they were!

So many kinds, our heads were on a swivel. We could barely walk two feet at a time without wanting to stop and take a picture of every single blossom.

There were only three trail options within the park, and we started with the most difficult one first, the Dog Canyon Trail.

The trail began at the Visitor Center and immediately climbed steeply for the first .6 miles.

It leveled off into what is called the First Bench, a section of much-needed flatness for .4 miles that offered views of the campground below, Holloman AFB, and even White Sands.
The climb began again for another 2 miles but at a less severe gain until it reached the Second Bench, an even longer and greener flat section.

At 2.9 miles were the rocky remnants of the Fairchild line cabin, and the area was the perfect place to stop for lunch under the shade of some massive alligator junipers and fat cottonwoods (!) beside the stream. This was where we, and most hikers, turned around although it is possible to continue on. We’d been told the trail would become even steeper and rockier and the views wouldn’t improve all that much, so we weren’t tempted to go any further.

Heading back across Second Bench, White Sands glowing in the distance.

Re-crossing First Bench

Inkedhitop_LI

and back down with a view

The second trail was the short nature trail that also began at the VC.

It dipped down to the water then resurfaced into the open and traveled around to the stone ruins of Frenchy’s cabin.

It was not a particularly interesting trail, but there were pretty yellow columbine down by the water (as well as poison ivy.)

The third park trail was the road to Oliver Lee’s old ranch house. There are ranger-led tours a few times per week, but for our first visit, we walked down on our own, which was around 2.5 miles roundtrip.

Restored ranch house

“fake” adobe gate ruins, built by Disney Studios for their 1970s movie “Scandalous John”

I kind of liked the ruined look better, even though it wasn’t authentic adobe.

On another day, we again walked down the road, this time to meet up with the guided tour and have a look inside the ranch house. Only I had brought my camera, and I didn’t take pictures inside, but we again met a friend on the walk down. We’re so lucky to run into so many friends!

Non-bitey gopher snake.

The weather turned cooler with a few passing rain showers for our last few days, but that wasn’t a bad thing at all.

White Sands National Monument

Less than 16 miles outside of Fat Cottonwood stretches a wide sea of pearly gypsum sand. The beautifully stark contrast between the bright, alabaster sand and the cerulean blue sky has made it the backdrop for many a motion picture. A BBC documentary called them “dunes that should not exist” because gypsum sand is rare since it dissolves rapidly in water. The arid climate in New Mexico, however, means this place is unique to the world.

Spring in New Mexico is a gusty business, and we watched the wind forecast carefully to select a day on which blowing sand would not be a danger or annoyance. Park warnings advise that if the temperature is predicted to exceed 85F, hiking here is pretty bad idea. To that end, we arrived promptly at 0700. The gate opened ‘promptly’ at 0712 or so.

There are a handful of hikes in the park, and we hightailed it to the far end for the 5-mile Alkali Flat Trail. (“Flat” not being a trail descriptor.)

TBG doubles as one of our red trail markers.

The dune trails are designated with color-coded markers that are hiked point-to-point. Walking on the crests of the dunes or across the flat sections in between is relatively easy. Walking up the dunes? Hilariously painful. The pale hills mock even experienced hikers, pushing them backwards one step for every two they take forward.

Being humbled.

Much of the place looks like an uninhabited wasteland, but there is life out there. The sand was crisscrossed everywhere we looked by the symmetrical tracks of lizards, one of which we even saw briefly.

Purple Sand Verbena

Many people walk and hike barefoot because this sand doesn’t get hot, but

Burrowing Wolf Spider

we didn’t.

Walking (skiing) down the dunes is much easier than going up, and the park even sells saucers so folks can go sledding. We didn’t.

When we arrived back at the car two and a half hours later, it was only 70F, but we could see why they discourage hiking here in hotter temps. 70 felt hot.

We stopped at the Visitors Center on the way out so I could get a cool drink — a phrase I said repeatedly because I like to say “cool drink.”

Evidence of our passing is probably already gone with the wind.

 

Cloudcroft

Alamogordo sits on the valley floor and because of that it experiences the stereotypically higher southwest temps. A 45-minute drive away takes you up to between 7-9000′ and a whole different climate zone in the area of Cloudcroft.

SIGNificant Other

Our first trip up into the mountains was to hike the Upper Karr Canyon Trail. We took a too-early turn and ended up driving a long portion of rough forest service road that, although it ended up at the same place the paved roads would’ve taken us, it left us (mostly me) a bit irritated.

The area was beautifully blanketed with grass and pines. While our route was relatively flat, the altitude upped the difficulty more than we (mostly me) expected, as we hadn’t been at appreciable altitude for awhile.

It was a nostalgic change of pace, reminding us of our old stomping grounds. We had hoped for a 5+ mile hike, but our route ended at a private property fence sooner than the maps and trail descriptions had indicated. Although this trip was a bit of a bust, we made plans to re-visit.

And re-visit we did to hike the Willie White Trail.

The trail started at a pretty campground

by a pretty waterfall

and that’s about as pretty as it got for 10 miles.

Oh sure, it started nicely. Easy grade, nice footing, open field views, perfect weather.

Then right after someone nearly got trapped in the fence, the trail entered the trees, where there were no more views, and it became foot-achingly rocky. We were also at 9000′ and for the first half of the hike, it felt like I could’ve closed my eyes and fallen asleep walking. Much of the second half was better physically (still hurt-foot) but there was nothing of note to see. We didn’t even take any pictures in the woods. At one point, TBG gestured to the surrounding trees, exclaiming, “This? This is boring!”

We kept at it, though, spurred on by visions of wild game burgers and cherry cider. Once we emerged from the trees, things prettied up again for the last couple of miles.

Hooray, no more rocks!

Our third and final foray up to Cloudcroft was to the Little Apache Trail.

Although a shortie at only 3 miles total, this trail was fun, seeing as it was not a rocky foot-buster, and it was mostly level because it doubles as a cross-country ski route.

Much prettier woods than the first time!

Verdurous field crossings.

We didn’t espy any critters, but we had a chance to scope out some good USFS camping options for the future and a nice drive through the cute downtown of Cloudcroft.

One More Thing…

We meet the most interesting people living the way we do, and Rusty was no exception.

A frank, funny, fellow full-time RVer, Rusty hosts his own YouTube vlog on which he highlights the folks he encounters in his travels and showcases their various RVs. Completely unedited and narrated in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, his videos are as oddly captivating as the man himself.

He made a video of us! See it and more of his stuff here –> Rusty78609

You’re not going to believe this, but about five years ago, he volunteered at the same place we’re headed to, and he had our sides splitting with tales of his summer there. Thanks for the laughs, advice, and the video shout-out, Rusty! Keep it between the lines!

 

 

 

 

16 thoughts on “Alamogordo NM

  1. Pingback: Sun, Sand, Space, and Nuts in Alamogordo, NM – Zamia Ventures

  2. I don’t say this often enough to you but thank you for sharing your “walks” with us.
    I don’t know how many readers are like myself who have trouble walking
    but speaking for myself your postings (words and images) are like a good book that drags you into the world of the writer
    and enables me to share the experience of your many adventures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pete, I cannot tell you how much your comment means to me. I couldn’t ask for a better way for my stories to be read or our pictures to be viewed. It is an honor to walk with you, and I am touched beyond words to have you along on this journey. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I sled my butt in one those fine grains of sand, and woohoo it was fun! You got good eyes seeing the burrowing Wolf spider.
    Cloudcroft was the same area I mentioned about the sun telescopes 🙂 We did not know about the trails there maybe that is why we indeed up at the Sunspot Solar System Model to the National Solar Observatory.
    Like you we are enjoying the many colors of the cacti blooms here in Arizona!
    Rusty was determined to video Essie from the outside in the rain. Who knew you will soon be famous on youtube!

    Liked by 2 people

    • We really considered trying out the sleds, but by the time we got back to the VC (closed when we arrived) we were too tired and hot to get one and go back out.
      I couldn’t believe we spotted that spider in all that sand (not that I was thrilled about it!) Cloudcroft is a neat area. We would consider living there someday if it didn’t get so cold and snowy in the winter. But it is a nice alternative to escape the summer heat!
      Aren’t the cacti glorious? And now the tree cholla have added themselves to the mix. I had no idea those were so pretty.
      Rusty was a hoot, to say the least. I don’t know about this fame thing. It’s a double-edged sword of wanting to share our adventures and wanting to get away from the crowds. I guess we all suffer for our art — ha! Seriously, though, we do enjoy the eclectic mix of people we meet out here. Never a dull moment!

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  4. Oh, I so want to go to White Sands, and even more so now after seeing your beautiful photos. The two times we’ve tried to go it was windy, which would most definitely not have been fun. But we will prevail one of these days!

    We really enjoyed Oliver Lee SP and the Dog Canyon hike (and noooo we did not go beyond the cabin, either). Cloudcroft has been on our list, but I will happily forgo the 10-mile painfully rocky and “this is boring” trail and do the pretty and painless 3-miler. Thank you for vetting our future hikes. :-))

    Hey, now that you’re famous will you still be friends with us? And is your motorhome always that immaculate? I think I know the answer is “yes.” It’s beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You will love White Sands, and I hope next time you come through the area the winds cooperate. It is always such a treat to do an atypical type of hike — no roots, no rocks, so completely unlike anything else.
      OLM SP is a gem. We really enjoyed our time there and its proximity to so many things to do. It is no wonder it gets booked well in advance!
      Cloudcroft is completely charming.Cross-country trails are the way to go, though, no question about it!
      Hmmm, I dunno about remaining friends with the little people now that we’re superstars. I’ll have to think about that. 😉
      No, our house isn’t always quite THAT neat, but close! We had a funny conversation about air-drying the dishes with Steve and ML (who can attest that our place is not always that picked up since they saw it early in the morning.) I do make the bed like that every day, and I’m constantly straightening the counters because I start to get twitchy if things begin piling up. TBG is always asking where stuff is, and I’m always saying, “It’s where it’s SUPPOSED to be!” I like to “hide” his hat in the closet. 😀

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  5. White Sands remains one of our favorite stops. It’s so beautiful and unique,and the hiking was some of the toughest, but most rewarding we’ve done. We just loved wandering around and taking in the views. Your first photo from there is absolutely stunning, by the way. Just gorgeous! Unfortunately, however, my entire opinion has now changed because, oh my god, there are wolf spiders hanging around in the sand??? HOLY CRAP, Joodie! How did I not know those were there? That’s horrifying!!!! Ugh, spiders. Why do they gotta have so many legs? Can’t they just be normal and have like 2 or 4 legs??? Weirdos.

    Anyway, we were told again and again to go check out Cloudcroft, but we just didn’t have time, so it’s cool to see some pretty pictures from there. That is definitely the kind of place we love to hike. Too bad about the dull section, but at least there was good stuff on either side.

    Fun video with Rusty. He’s clearly a character! You all do meet some very fun people on the road!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is just nothing comparable to White Sands, is there? I know there are plenty of deserts and dunes in the world, but knowing that no others are like WS makes it all the more special. TBG, of course, took the “good” photos 🙂
      It is a good thing you were there before us because you know we have a way of finding the critters, even the disturbing ones. We didn’t know those wolfies were there until we saw that one and I looked it up later. I’m pretty sure they aren’t in the “fun” sand, but only in those flat places that look like vehicles have driven all over the sand (but for anyone reading this, those are not tire tracks in the flats, the wind and rain just make it look like that!) I still haven’t told you the OTHER thing I learned about wolf spiders while we were at Hueco, and I probably never should. Is knowledge really power or is it what drives us insane? Because there are some things I could do without knowing. Anyhow, don’t let those creepies keep you from going back. It was a rare sighting, I promise.
      You will love Cloudcroft when you get a chance to visit. It’s always good to leave things on the table for the future. I look forward to checking out the little downtown on foot someday.
      There is no shortage of interesting folks out here, no doubt. It makes for some great conversations in all ways 😉

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      • Ok, so now you’re just gonna leave me hanging about the awful terribleness of wolf spiders? You’re gonna make ME want to know this information? Really? Really???? This is like psychological terrorism, you know…. not cool, man. Not cool.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I wasn’t meaning to terrorize you, so here ya go.
      One night we were walking the paved campground loop at Hueco Tanks, and it was growing dark more rapidly than we’d anticipated. I had a flashlight with us to guide us safely home. Up ahead, we saw a mouse scampering across the road, its eyes shining in my flashlight beam. As we approached, we were horrified to realized it was no mouse. It was a giant wolf spider. FOUR OF THEIR EIGHT EYES REFLECT LIGHT IN THE DARK. I thought only mammals’ eyes did that. I wish I still thought that. Now I’ve not only ruined White Sands for you, but also night. I’m sorry.

      Like

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