March 19, 2014
Today’s journey took us from Brantley State Park, over near Artesia, to White Sands Missile Range south of Alamogordo. Brantley SP is located on the Pecos River just above a holding reservoir. The park is well maintained with all sites having water and electricity. We arrived after business hours and did a self check-in. We parked next to a couple who were sitting outside enjoying the early evening. It wasn’t long before we were sitting with them. Ted and Leslie were traveling back home to Georgia. Ted was gracious in giving us a couple of his prized Pumpkin brewed beer bottles. We spent the evening talking about different places to visit. The evening ended as the temperature started to drop. It was a pleasant time at Brantley SP.
In the morning of the 19th, I finished writing my blog on Carlsbad Caverns and downloaded about 150 pictures from our three cameras. It is a little time consuming to sort, pick, resize and upload pictures for the blog. I do this because I enjoy writing about our travels.
On the road north to Artesia, we experienced large open country with the most amounts of oil rigs actually pumping crude from the ground. In some areas, we could smell the crude. In Artesia, I made sure we gased up the truck for our high mountain crossing over to Alamogordo. Several signs warning truckers that they were not allowed on this road were noticed. A descriptive diagram, on the signs, even showed elevation drop from 8,654 to some 4,000 or so feet drop in sixteen miles. The elevation noted on my GPS, here Artesia, was around 3,990 feet above sea level.
The road was straight as an arrow as far as I could see. No trees, just rolling gentle fields with small herds of cattle grazing. The skies were filled with what looked like smog, but it was really fine dust. Later that day, talking to travelers from Tucson, in the west, to San Antonio in the east, all reported the same dust cloud conditions. A local person said it wasn’t normal for this phenomena. Back to the drive west, to White Sands National Monument…The road continued to climb at a slow pace for a couple of hours. The terrain now changed to big pine trees and mountains. More cabins and mountain resorts ranches came into view as we now were at 5,000 plus feet of elevation. One could sense that people would come here in the dead of summer to escape the high temperatures in the valley cities below.
Finally, at 8600 feet, we crested at Cloudcroft. They actually have a ski lift! We noted patches of snow on the shady side of the highway! Amazing, that we even get excited about seeing snow from two New Hampshire snow bunnies!
Now, comes the forewarned decent from a high elevation to the valley floor, in just a short distance. My truck has the ability of shifting to a manual mode and this made the decent easy and safe. Nothing to report about the drive down except the shear cliffs that the road cuts along side of the mountains.
White Sands National Monument was our afternoon place to visit. We stopped at the Visitor Center to get our National Parks cancellation stamp in our NP Passport book. It was an eight mile road into the dunes. From a distance, I wasn’t impressed! We were told that the first five miles were a non-stop safety zone, but than we could stop anyplace after the paved road ended. Well, the first thing we spotted were kids sliding down the dunes in a flying saucer type of sled. Next, another bunch of girls were sitting on a high ridge and posed for us, as I took a picture. The whiteness of the sand (actually gypsum) was astonishing! It wasn’t that hot here in New Mexico today, but with the sun reflecting…some girls were in bikini tops! Ah, that was our queue to change into our shorts and grab some of our own (glamour) shot pictures..Ah, ah! We tried climbing untracked dunes, laying on the dunes, writing our geocaching handle in the sand and so fort. It turned out to be a better experience than I originally thought or planned.
Time to head to the Missile Range, another 20 miles down the road. The whole area (hundreds of square miles) belongs to the government for live firing of missiles and other weapons. They often close US 70 when they do a test firing. This is done regularly, but nothing today. We arrived and noticed heavier than normal security for a base. I stopped to check-in at the Main Gate Office, only to find it closed for the day. A note said, “go to the guard for check-in”. Now, here I am next to the main entrance and just a few feet away, I could see the guard watching me. I started to drive over to the barricades, but didn’t notice a curb. I jumped the curb! What a grand entrance to one of the most secure bases in America. After showing my military ID, I was allowed to proceed to the campground. Here is where we stayed for the night.
That is what we saw and did!