Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mountains, White Sand, No Ocean

Chris, Jim & Odie -- Geeks on Tour
New dunes at White Sands starting to cover the plants.
Nanc standing on top of a cottonwood tree that is buried but will remain alive as long as some branches remain exposed.
A lizard that has adapted to the white environment.
Newly plowed roads following a windy day.
Jim collecting a sample of sand in his shoes.
That is a sand storm moving the dunes.
San Andres Mountains, White Sands and Tularosa Basin from the Rim Trail.
A "flutterby" sunning on the Rim Trail.
Matilda the camel and her owner out for a walk.

We are happy to be among like minded people and finally be in a blue state for the first time since the election in November. We are staying at the Edgington RV Park in Alamogordo, NM where we were planning to stay for a couple days but because the weather in Santa Fe and Four Corners is still cold we extended it to five days which will give us a chance to enjoy many things in the area. The first day we were here Jim and Chris Guld and their dog Odie, Geeks on Tour, who we met at the Gypsy Journal Rally last fall, pulled in. Jim and Chris are fulltimers who pay for their adventure by offering seminars at RV rallies, selling computer video tutorials and other computer services. We have taken their classes, purchased their videos and read their blog and they all come highly recommended. Alamogordo is another place with strange traffic reports with the local NPR station announcing whether or not route 70 will be closed for a missile launch at White Sands Missile Range any time during the day. Also nearby is Holloman Air Force Base where the F117A stealth fighter is based. We have not seen the stealth, but I guess that is the idea.

We visited White Sands National Monument that is really like a huge beach without the water. There are 275 square miles of white gypsum sand that is slowly moving across the Tularosa Basin forming a large dune field. They look like big snow banks and after a windy day (quite often in the spring) heavy equipment is needed to keep the road open. The park service even sells snow (sand) saucers, made in Girard, PA, to glide down the slopes. The few plants that grow there are fast growing so they can establish their roots before being buried in the dunes while the tops remain exposed. Even the animals have evolved to blend in with the nearly all white environment. It is a place we have always wanted to see and it did not disappoint as it is one of the most unique places we have visited. We know the rules about never taking anything out of a national park, but we were able to collect a sample of sand when we emptied our shoes back at the motorhome.

Another day we drove into the Sacramento Mountains and did a eight mile hike through the woods in the Lincoln National Forest. This was a real change after being in the desert and plains for so long. The Rim Trail wound along the edge of the mountains among tall trees and offered great views of the Tularosa Basin and White Sands below. The nearby mountain town of Cloudcroft is only sixteen miles but some 4300 feet above Alamogordo. It is at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler, so many people have summer homes there to escape the heat of the valley. It was a neat little place with many small cottages, large homes, several inns and all the businesses to support them. We had dinner at a local pub and on the way back down the mountain we thought for a second we had had to much to drink because along the road in High Roll we saw a man walking a camel that had a flashing red light on its butt. We stopped to get a picture, so we could prove we weren't seeing things and the man told us he was just out for a little stroll so Matilda his pet camel could get a little exercise. This proves you never know what you will see if you travel off the beaten track.

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