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New and Old Plus a Big Surprise in Southern New Mexico

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Our route through southern New Mexico included new discoveries, old favorites and, on one particular morning, a big surprise - one we had hoped to avoid on this trip!

Let's start with the new. We had never driven the central north-south route (Hwy 64/70) that slices new Mexico down the middle and passes through the small cities of Carrizozo and Alamogordo. We looked forward to visiting two small BLM parks on this route: Three Rivers Petroglyphs and Valley of Fires. Both had been highly rated by RVers we met on past trips.

Since they'd been recommended (more than once), the only research we had done ourselves was to find them on the map. This is not entirely unusual; we like to be surprised once in a while! But, in this case, Valley of Fires was a bit of a let own. With a name like that, we were ready to be impressed by walls of colorful formations. In fact, the park is named for volcanic eruptions. It’s a rather flat valley, covered with black volcanic obsidian that extends as far as the eye can see. A natural wonder , but one of our least favorite types. Vegetation is sparse and the glass-sharp terrain difficult to traverse. The park has built a short boardwalk trail and the campground facilities are quite nice but I'm afraid the beauty was mostly lost on us.

Valley of Fires

Valley of Fires

On the other hand, we were quite impressed with Three Rivers Petroglyphs where we spent two hours walking a one-mile trail. We see a lot of rock art on our travels but agreed that these were very unique. Over21,000 carvings are concentrated in this small area where visitors are free to wander among them without barriers.

Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyphs

New Hikes

In Gila National Forest, we hiked a new trail, requiring two river crossings.

Trail Crossing the Gila River

Braving the crossing. Surprisingly, the water wasn't as cold as expected.

Lite Feather Hot Springs

The destination, Lite Feather Hotsprings, was worth the effort.

Space History Museum

Alamogordo Space History Museum

The Alamogordo Space History Museum had been on our bucket list.

Alamogordo Space History Museum

Woah - they handed out space suits! I seized the opportunity to dress up and ham it up.

Heart of the Desert

At a pistachio farm, we sampled pistachio wine. It'll never replace the grape!


Another stop on our southern New Mexico bucket list that came highly recommended was the small town of Lincoln. We LOVED it!

Again, we knew very little about the town; we'd been told, "The whole town is a museum". And it truly is. Lincoln continuously wins the annual award for best preserved historic town in the west. And, before you yawn and say, "History is boring", let me assure you, "Not in Lincoln!"

This town was made famous by the Lincoln County War of 1878. Without going into the details, let me just say that there were many colorful characters who took part in the true historic events that unfolded here. Billy the Kid was just one of them.

The story unfolds for visitors through a short film at the visitor center/museum - the place to start the $5.00 tour. If you have any interest in the real old west, you'll end up spending far more time than anticipated - an entire afternoon - exploring this town. We did!

Billy the Kid

A painting - from the only known photo of Billy The Kid

the actual bullet hole

Actual bullet hole in the wall from Billy's jail-break. Just one of many artifacts of the “war”

A stop at Fort Stanton, a prominent feature in the Lincoln County War, now a State Park. This young soldier was keen and very helpful. He directed us to some great camping nearby. (Who would have thought they'd heard of boondocking in the 1800s?)

Fort Stanton

In fact, we found a real variety of awesome new boondocking sites on this leg of the trip.

Lakeside camping

Like this beach on a small lake

Boondocking with flowers

This high meadow campsite with a mountain view and lots of wildflowers

guitar at camp

And this tall pine forest for a campfire sing-along (even if it WAS just the two of us)

Favorites from previous trips that we revisited were:

Gila Cliff Dwellings N.M.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Aguiree Springs camp

And Aguirre Springs

Aguirre Springs hike

We repeated a favorite hike there, too.

This was our third visit to White Sand National Monument. This park always produces the distinct sensation we need to drive carefully. But it's only sand. We thought this photo would fool you - make you think we were driving on icy roads with a lot of snow.

White Sands National Park

At White Sands National Park

Surprise - the joke is on us!

But two days later, we camped in the forest at Cloudcroft (elevation 8,500 feet) and, as it turned out, the joke was on us. We heard a soft rainfall on and off through the night....

Cloudcroft in April

And woke up to this!

Surprise! We haven't totally escaped winter after all. I guess April is still too early for Cloudcroft and a few other southern New Mexico destinations.

Days on the road on current trip: 102
Total camping costs to date: $153.00

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