After my Arizona jaunts, it was time to enter New Mexico. One of my favorite places in the world. A place full of culture, history, striking natural beauty, and oh-so-delicious food.
I made a last camp near the Arizona and New Mexico state line on the advice of a volunteer at Chiricahua National Monument.
Much to my chagrin, it snowed very lightly on me! The locals said this weather was the coldest in two years.
A culinary pilgrimage was made to Hatch, NM and the home of those delicious chiles. A cash-only restaurant provided me with a lunch that was far better than my usual turkey wrap with cheese!
I then made my way to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near the famous White Sands Missle Range.
Before that. I made a pit stop at what can best be described NASA’s attic. An interesting collection of all kinds of “stuff” for the enthusiast. They even had a V-2 rocket leftover from World War II and it was used for testing nearby.
Since White Sands does not allow camping (backpacking only) and it was going to be in the high teens at night, car camping at Organ Mountains NM seemed wise.
The swirling snow and fog above made for interesting views.
I took a quick hike/scramble overlooking the valley below.
It was rather cold that night, but I had a winter sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothing. Just did not think I would need the cold weather gear this far south. 🙂
The following day I explored White Sands National Monument. A surreal place with eroded gypsum forming the namesake sands.
Only five miles of hiking, but as with walking on a beach, it is not the speediest of hiking. But it is not a place I wanted to rush through in any case.
After this day, I made an additional museum pitstop to a second space history museum. Another interesting local place!
I made my way to the exquisite Carlsbad Caverns the following day. I was dumbfounded at the majesty of this place. I even managed to have part of it to myself for a good twenty minutes. Unheard of typically unless you go in December, of course. 🙂
As I wrote earlier on Instagram:
I did not expect Carlsbad Caverns to be so striking. With the lighting, the shadows,the ornate formations, and the large spaces all observed at a whisper, this lapsed Catholic was reminded of a medieval cathedral. Instead of incense and chanting, I heard the subtle sound of water dripping and felt the very humid air. And tonight? A ranger led tour by candle light will be done soon. Only happens six times a year. And tonight, by chance, happens to be one of them. Just what I wanted from this trip: Good fortune and enjoying what that good fortune throws my way.
The photos speak for themselves:
The tour was a play of sorts called “Rock of Ages” (the most massive formation in the cave) covering the cavern history. The plat was directed, written, and acted by the park staff. No photography or filming was allowed, so the immersion was complete. Seeing the caverns by a candle lantern and the soft glow of one flashlight to highlight the actors was amazing. We even were able to experience the cave in total darkness for a few minutes. An experience to remember and something unique. And, as mentioned, one of those moments of serendipity that I had hoped for when I planned my trip.
Next up? Texas!