United States of America · 8 Days · 31 Moments · May 2017

Exploring Southern New Mexico

8 May 2017

We enjoyed our last drive through the desert coming into El Paso from Carlsbad Caverns. We drove around the "end" of the Guadalupe Mountains. This is what I was watching for when we flew in. It is quite distinctive. Don't think this is Guadalupe Peak, highest point in Texas at 8751 ft. We drove through a salt flat. There are more in Guadalupe Mountains National Park that were important to earlier settlers and Native Americans. Natives used the salt in some of their religious rites, seasoning, and tanning hides. It's always surprising to us to see cattle grazing in the desert, and we saw more in this area. Many of the pasture fences had posts that were closer together than we're used to, and spindly and uneven. We saw what looked kind of like yucca blooming in one section, but the blooms weren't quite right. I found they were probably agave. The flowers weren't white and were larger. http://bclandtrust.org/agave-americana-american-century-plant/
I'm just too tired to write tonight. We visited Carlsbad Caverns this morning, our third time here. We will probably take the elevator down the 800 ft. next time and do just the big room. We did the natural entrance, which is 1.25 mi of almost steady downward sloping trail--hard on the knees! Then the big room is another 1.25 mi. We had met a couple apparently heading out the natural entrance, 1.25 mi. of uphill trail. I wonder how far they went before they turned around and came back to the elevators. Thank goodness we didn't have to exit that way, but could take the elevator up and out.

7 May 2017

The Adobe Rose Inn was a delightful place to stay in Artesia. Described as a boutique hotel, it was deceptively simple on the outside, but nicely appointed on the inside. It has only five rooms. I didn't get a photo of our room, but it was spacious, with upscale furniture and bathroom amenities. Photos are of the breakfast area, which she opened for our convenience the evening before; we were the only guests. Two sky lights provided all the light that was needed. The outside photo is of the attached Adobe Rose Restaurant, where we had a quick supper when we arrived.
We packed up and left about 8:30 this morning. The peacock came to bid us goodbye. We climbed east through the San Augustin Pass (5719 ft.) on US 70 to Alamogordo. Passed the White Sands Missile Base and HELSTF (High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility) on the WhiteSands Missile Range east of Las Cruces. Yet another Border Patrol inspection station before we reached the entrance to White Sands atonal Monument. One agent, one question, "Both of you citizens?" We stopped for breakfast at the Waffle and Pancake Shoppe in Alamogordo. Normal American breakfasts this time. Stopped for pistachios grown here. Then up and over the Sacramento Mountains. In Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft are the Mexican Canyon Trestle and several hiking trails. We stopped at the trestle overlook and then walked the short Devil's Elbow Overlook trail. At 8700 ft., decreased oxygen supply made climbing back up a little slow! In the Devil's elbow photo, you can see down to the desert & White Sands.

6 May 2017

We drove on up to Silver City and decided to head back. There was enough wind to send a couple of tumble weeds skittering across the highway in front of us. It's a good thing we decided to go back when we did. A short time later there was a Significant Weather Advisory for thunderstorms and winds of up to 50 mph, with blowing sand limiting visibility to .5 mi. We could see storms south of Deming as well; we couldn't see any of he mountains. It did begin to clear as we went east to Mesilla. The advisory kept being extended. There was a fiesta in Mesilla this weekend so we went in to eat and to see what was going on there. Supper at La Posta was chile rellanos with chile con queso for me, and chicken fried steak with potatoes and green beans for Bob. Enjoyed walking the plaza and watching some people dancing to live music from the bandstand.
We passed by a smaller Chino cooper mine in our way to Silver City and, after learning what it was and that here was a larger one with an overlook, we made a little side trip. Pictures can not begin to show its size. Also known as the Santa Rita Mine, the pit is currently ~1.75 miles across and 1,350 feet deep. Unfortunately, the overlook itself was closed, so we were unable to get a really good view and to see the information boards that were there. A little further on down we found a spot where we could get a decent view. Impressive. See if you can spot a couple of vehicles. https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/tour/landmarks/chino_mine/home.html
This lush bush was at City of Rocks State Park. We saw another, rather scraggly one, at the White Sands visitor center. It was there I learned this plant's name. I thought the pink plumes were the flowers and that the one white bloom in my picture was from another plant. Instead, white flower, pink seed "pod" (?). "Apache plume, a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae), grows up to 6 feet high. The silvery puffs of fruit heads have many styles emanating from a feathery plume up to 2 inches long. These white-to-pink plumes grow from a seed-like base at the tips of tangled, slender branches. This plant's common name is derived from the fact that it resembles Apache war bonnets. Tewa and other native peoples used the stems of Apache Plumes to make brooms and arrow shafts. "http://www.desertusa.com/flowers/apache-plume.html
We saw several ocotillo in City of Rocks State Park. Apparently we're lucky to see them like this. They were very striking in that landscape. Ocotillo. "Dozens of long, spindly stems grow to the height of a small tree. For most of the year ocotillos look dead — hard, grayish-brown, brittle. But after a passing thunderstorm something wondrous happens. Within two or three days the stems become completely covered with deep green leaves. And atop each stem is a halo of brilliant red flowers. The display lasts for a week or two — just long enough to attract bees and hummingbirds. Ocotillos then close up shop, shedding their colorful display until the next rainfall." When we went to Carlsbad Caverns a few days later, we saw what these look like in between blooming. They looked totally dead. Amazing!
We drove an hour east and 1,000 ft. (3200-4200 ft) up to Deming for breakfast this morning. We went through another Border Patrol checkpoint; 4 agents and supposedly a canine agent), which we did not see. No food photos; it was a little local diner and more huevos rancheros. We made our first gas stop, $2.24. Our Nisson Altima shows over 650 mi. available from the full tank. Then north <> 30 miles and another 1000 ft. (now 5200 ft.) up to City of Rocks State Park. On the satellite map, it does look like a city. I could definitely tell the lesser amount of oxygen. Thumbs up! On our way out, we saw a jack rabbit.

5 May 2017

These are flowering plants we saw on our walk. The first is a desert bird of paradise growing along the upland trail. It's a member of the legume (bean) family. After flowering, it will have bean or pea pods that are several inches long and covered with little hairs. The seed pods "explode" to scatter the seeds. The large shrubs with lovely pink blooms are salt cedars, which is an invasive species that poses an ecological threat to their environment.
The fairly new Mesilla Bosque State Park presently occupies about 300 acres along the Rio Grande. The man at the welcome center gave me a can of Off to use--and keep--when I asked about mosquitoes. I didn't want more bites to add to the ones already on my arms, legs, neck, and face from yesterday. There are currently two trails, the Upland Trail and the Resaca Trail. We walked both, for a total of about 1.5 miles. The first climbs up and down. The second is flatter and follows the Rio Grande for awhile. Pictures here are of the trails and scenery in order. I'll include separately ones with information I want to remember. I think the one looking up a "stream" is of the Picacho Drain, the irrigation drainage ditch that runs through park. About a century old, it is listed in the National Registry of Historic Structures. We sat for awhile here in the semi-shade. The second one of water is of the Rio Grande.
Since most of the businesses around the plaza don't open until 10 or 11, we headed out to fairly new Mesilla Bosque State Park. On the way, saw some interesting fields. First, a fairly young pecan grove. Josefina had told us that many fields which used to produce seasonal crops (cotton, and onions and other vegetables) are now being planted with pecans. Second, a huge field of either onions or garlic. You can see here how they irrigate the field.
Breakfast this morning was at Josefina's Old Gate Cafe just off the plaza in Mesilla. Chiliaquiles for me--crisp tortilla strips topped with beans, egg, and red chile pork. In case you're wondering, we eat a big breakfast and then one other meal. That's a large cholla (pronounced choi-ya) in the foreground of the second d picture of the gate. On the left is narrowleaf (soapweed) yucca. Both are common Southwest desert plants We had the patio to ourselves until a group of six ladies started arriving, chatty and happy, catching up on each other's lives. I'm finding out what it's like for others when I get together for friends for coffee or a meal! Mesilla is one of the older towns in NM. THE Gadsden Purchase was signed on the plaza, and Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. More on the history later, I hope. We may come back in town for the fiesta tomorrow, or we may escape to Deming...or both! We'll see.
I wouldn't say the desert us in bloom, but we have seen some things blooming that I've not seen before. I was able to take some pictures while at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. The tree with pink flowers is the desert willow. The yellow and red flowers are on the Mexican palo verde. The first cactus blooming is the cholla, and the next is a prickly pear cactus

4 May 2017

I can't believe I forgot our home-away-from-home for five nights--a small studio apartment in a wing of a lovely adobe home. It has its own entrance and is separated from the residence by a garage, so completely private. We are quite happy with our choice. It's in a quiet area outside of Mesilla, nearly completely surrounded by pecan trees. (There are acres of pecan groves all along the Rio Grande in this area.) It's very quiet and peaceful. Well, except for the birds, especially doves (sounds like hundreds!) and the local peacock. His cries greeted us when we arrived, and he walked right by our door the next morning. My, his tail is long!! Jay, our host, said peacocks are good "watchdogs," and I believe it! He said four just showed up here several years ago, and now there's only one left. Pictures show the entrance, on the west side; and the north side, that faces the road. Pecan groves & inside photos are self-explanatory. We have digital TV stations, + Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Lunch today after Bosque del Apache was the famous Owl Bar and Cafe chile cheeseburger. Yum! Not spicy, just that good green chile flavor I love. When we were there before, there were dollar bills all over the ceiling. They now have a normal white ceiling, and the dollars, with notes giving people's names, are tacked along the walls. If you look at the back wall, that's what you see around the pennants from a couple of local colleges.
Sunny day at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge ("Bosque" = grove of trees). Amazing! The ranger who first greeted us and two others in the visitor center were from Indiana. I don't know about one of them, but the other two were from Clarksville and Angola. Interestingly, there were two guides who weren't there, and they were from Indiana as well.
We saw a couple of cell towers (?) like the one pictured. I'm not sure why the difference. They were located at high elevations. We wondered if maybe it was because of strong winds. We enjoyed visiting Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge again. We were here in March before, when a lot of winter migratory birds were here. We saw different birds and a much greater variety this time. We saw ducks, greves, coots, ibis, egrets, Canadian geese, doves (of course), turkey, a double crested Cormorant (32-in tall!), black chinned hummingbirds, Gambel's quail...and two deer We DIDN't see any bobcats mountain lions, coyote or javalina. Oh, and lest I forget, there were lots of little mosquitoes swarming me when we were out; they didn't bother Bob at all. Pictures are 3 white egrets and a coot (he's black and hard to see) with his long, curved beak. Also 2 egrets in the dead tree. Apologies for all the posts (partly because of character limit) and posting out of order time wise.
Shortly after we headed north on Interstate 10 after breakfast, we encountered a border patrol checkpoint. This shows the highway narrowing for all traffic to be screened. I did NOT take photos of the two border patrol agents and their dog. I thought that might not be wise! I would have thought border patrol checkpoints would be closer to the border, but I have seen others on the map that are also not near the border.
We stopped for breakfast on our way to San Antonio (NM) and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, about a 2-hour drive. Thanks to Trip Advisir, we found Jake's Cafe in Doña Ana. Clean, 50's diner style, as you can see, including a 48-star American flag. Love the Formica table tops, too! Perry Mason was playing silently on the TV, but of course, country music provided the sound. Jake himself waited on us (it was just him and the cook), very friendly and personable--well, they both were. Bob and I both had my favorite breakfast, huevos rancheros, again. I forgot a photo yesterday, so here's today's. Huevos rancheros = corn tortillas topped with chile sauce (I prefer green, but could be red), eggs-your-way, and cheese. I'm going to have to learn how to make the chile sauce, as I've not found any that taste like these in Indiana. It's all about the sauce!
Our view of the Organ Mountains in the distance as we headed out of Mesilla this morning. It's a little hazy, humidity is up from 10 percent yesterday to roughly 30 today.

3 May 2017

We picked the right time to head to the Southwest! Spencer temperature at 2:34 pm and Las Cruces temperature at 12:34 today (two hours difference). Humidity? 85% in Spencer and 10% here, quite comfortable.
There will probably be more pictures of the Organ Mountains later. If you could see a little more detail, you could see that they do kind of look like the pipes of a pipe organ.
"The Watering Place" is an amazing work of art, all steel. You can get an idea of the size by the bench seating inside. (New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum)
There wasn't much going on outside at the museum. I don't think they had many displays ready. We did see several breeds of cattle--Hereford, Charolais, Angus, Brahman, longhorns--a goat, a few horses and a pony. We were unable to get good pictures because of the protective fencing. They also had a nice exhibit of saddles showing how the design had developed over time. This exhibit included a display of a saddle-making workshop.
it was a short drive from the Walmart past (through?) the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum (must have been named by a committee!!). Great views of the Organ Mountains at the west edge of Las Cruces. We stopped to read a sign about a historic bridge, caught sight of a rabbit, and then Bob realized there was a rattlesnake there, too. I had never seen one in the wild, and hope never to be that close to one again! The crazy rabbit seemed to be fascinated by the rattler, watching him and hopping closer for a look. We soon saw that he had nothing to fear; the rattler had caught a smaller rodent. You will, I hope, forgive me for my failure to get a close-up of the rattlesnake, his meal, and the rabbit! (The snake on the left between the building and the bush. The rattler began a warning rattling. He must have been concerned that we wanted his dinner, because the noise stopped when we walked away.
We got off to a slow start this morning, recuperating from a day traveling. I found the coffee in the fridge, so that helped to get us perking. The owners of our B and B recommended The Shed for breakfast. We both had the huevos rancheros with mild salsa verde, pinto beans and potatoes with tortilla. We probably will be returning, though we have another place or two to check out. I'll have to find out the name of the bush/tree with the yellow flowers. We stopped at Starbucks (Bob's idea!) and then at Walmart for a few essentials--sunglasses, water, Advil, etc.)

2 May 2017

The flight from Houston to El Paso was also in the an Embraer 175 and was uneventful. On each flight we were served a small bag of snack mix and a beverage. We supplemented between flights with granola bars and cheese I had brought. We are to arrive in El Paso around 8 pm (10 pm Indiana time). Will hunger or fatigue win out, with an hour on the road ahead of us? We'll have to wait and see. The pilot told us before departure that there was a 30 mph wind in El Paso. It must still be a little windy, as we are experiencing some turbulence in our descent. I was hoping to see Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park on the way in, as we did the last time we flew into El Paso, but either we weren't on the right side of the plane or we were on a different path. We did then, and will again, drive around that on our way back into El Paso from Carlsbad Caverns next week. It was interesting to see this populated area in the middle,of the desert on our approach.
The flight from Indianapolis to Houston left on time. The plane is one of United's new Embraer 175s. I thought I was getting seats in front of the wing. Wrong. Two rows behind, so it's a little noisy. If I had paid attention to row numbers...duh...I would not have made that mistake. There is certainly a difference in a smaller jet, as we feel more turbulence than I remember in larger aircraft. Though I have a window seat, I quickly lost track of location. One really good thing? Plenty of legroom, even for Bob! Very large!! Emirates Airlines jet in Houston. Look at all those windows! Shortly after this we saw an Air New Zealand jet--normal size.
We thought this was Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, so I took a photo to check...and we were right! We were surprised how close they are to the Ohio River.

1 May 2017

Tomorrow we leave for New Mexico, so today all the last minute tasks and details are on the agenda: shopping, final laundry, organizing packing, double checking that all documents are collected, etc. You can see the box I've been using to collect items to include; that will be receiving quite a few more tidbits this morning. Our last trip to New Mexico was two years ago to Santa Fe. We saw quite a bit of the northeastern part of the state on that trip--all new sights and adventures for us. This trip will be a blend of old and new. We plan to revisit Bosque del Apache, the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio (NM), Carlsbad Caverns, and perhaps White Sands and Cloudcroft. The new? We're not quite sure yet, so we'll all just have to wait and see!