Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day Seven

We woke up early in beautiful Cloudcroft,

and drove back into town to Burro Street, where they have a quaint collection of shops.

On our way out of town, we ran into a shop called the Old Apple Barn, owned by Beverly and Bill Niffenegger. Beverly was possibly the most outgoing, friendliest person we met, but I still somehow couldn't bring myself to ask about the salt and pepper shakers I saw in the store.

And a close up:

We were a little late getting back on the road, and had to rush a bit to get over to White Sands National Monument to book our campsite for that night. They only have 10 campsites, and what with the beautiful weather and summer vacation, we didn't know how crowded it might be. In our worst nightmares, we pictured getting there in the early afternoon only to find that the campsites were all filled. So we got there around 1pm to reserve our spot and were told to return at 6 that evening to sign in for the night.

In the intervening hours, we drove up to the Three Rivers Petroglyphs site north of Las Cruces, with a short stop in Alamogordo's Shell Station to change the oil in the Impala.

Las Cruces was actually a pretty cute place from what we could see. At least we managed to amuse ourselves with crafts and ice cream (not pictured).

The petroglyphs to the north of Las Cruces were left by the Jornada Mogollon (pronounced Muggy-own, we found out) people who used stone tools to abrade designs into the rocks between 900 and 1400 AD. They feature animals, birds, even fish, as well as abstract designs.

I believe these are arrows sticking out of this ram. Wishful thinking?

We were a little shocked because the petroglyphs weren't protected in any way. If some wiseass were to come along and add some of their own scratchitti, there's nothing to stop, or even discourage it. It's really just a bunch of rocks on an open hill in the New Mexican countryside.

On the other hand, it's such an intimate experience to have nothing between you and these works, and to feel so integrated into the landscape. And I didn't see any defacement so far. I guess the people that go see this are a self-selecting group who aren't looking to damage the artifacts they drove a few hours to get to.

We got back on the road to White Sands with baited breath. Would we have to share White Sands with too many other campers? How many? Would they be loud? Wailing babies? Boy Scouts? We arrived promptly at 6 for our orientation only to find that we were the only ones spending the night in the entire park!
Even the lecture on unexploded ordinance didn't dim our spirits!

The sands of white sands are actually gypsum, which is water soluble. But since the Tularosa Basin has no outlet to the sea, wikipedia tells me that the rain leaves the gypsum in its crystalline, apparently sandy form, selenite. The road is packed down selenite, with white dunes in every direction. Here's the shadow of our trusty Impala in the "parking lot" of the campgrounds.

Note the rainbow in the background. Also note the sled we bought at the park gift shop.

Finding our campground wasn't too difficult, thanks to posts that guide you across the dunes. You move to a post, and then stay right there until you see the next one.

We got there just about an hour of light left, and we rushed to set up our tent so we could enjoy the sunset over the dunes. We were a little worried we were going to get creamed by this rather ominous-looking cloud,

but it passed us by without a drop. So we got busy with the sled on those dunes!

After a while, though, we had to just stop and admire the changing colors in the sky.

It was already quiet, but in the semi-light, with no one else in sight or hearing, we could have been the last people on earth.


Julia said...

New Mexico is such pure magic! Thanks for reminding me Audrey.

PS, a typo: White Sands has 6, not 60, campsites.

audrey said...

i'm checking the website, and it looks like we're both wrong. according the the national park service, there are ten backcountry campsites, six miles from the visitor's center. whoops! i'll fix the post.