Socorro is only an hour drive from Albuquerque and the attraction for me was the Bosque de Apache. I stayed at the Escondida Lake Campground. This campground is owned by the County and had hookups and a nice view of the lake. It also had a welcoming committee of ducks and cats!
The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located near Socorro. It was founded in 1939 and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a favorite spot to watch the migration of the Sandhill cranes in the fall. There are many other species of birds and ducks too. Photographers flock (pun intended) to the Refuge to capture the magnificent sight of the birds flying in to the refuge at sunset and leaving at dawn. I chose sunset (no surprise there!). I sure looked like an amateur with my camera equipment compared to all the other photographers. I did the best I could. Here are a few of my best photos.
After the sun set I headed to the Owl Café for the best Green Chili Cheeseburger I had thus far. It was delicious! Yelp had it right again!
Truth or Consequences
The next stop was only about 60 miles south to Truth or Consequences (TorC). T or C, where the water is hot and the people are cool! The former name of this small town was Hot Springs. And, as you would guess, there are hot springs in the area. When I learned about them, I promptly made a reservation at Riverbend Hot Springs. Riverbend overlooks the Rio Grande River and offer group and private soaking tubs. I enjoyed my visit there very much. I also attended a play by the local theatre group. It was all about the small town of T or C. Hot Springs changed it’s name to Truth or Consequences because they thought if they did, the television show would film in their small town. However, the show was never filmed there.
I camped at Elephant Butte Lake State Park and attended the Christmas Luminaria. The Luminaria Beachwalk features 3000 luminaria lining paths on the beach leading to community-sponsored campsites with posole, chile, cocoa, cookies, s’mores, and music. I was able to hang out with a group of people that I met in Albuquerque and had wonderful time.
My next stop was Las Cruces near the bottom of the state. Las Cruces is a small college town and was a good place to stay and visit White Sands National Monument. White Sands is about 40 miles east of Las Cruces and is in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. It’s known for its dramatic landscape of rare white gypsum sand dunes. It is the largest gypsum dune in the world. The sands of White Sands National Monument are formed from gypsum, a soft mineral often left behind when water bodies evaporate. Thick layers of gypsum settled onto an old sea floor. About 70 million years ago, the Rocky Mountains began to form, and a broad area—including the giant gypsum field—rose.
Trails through the dunes include the raised Interdune Boardwalk and the Dune Life Nature Trail, dotted with interpretive exhibits on wildlife and other features. I hiked both trails and had them mostly to myself. It was an awesome experience. Dunes Drive is a looped road from the White Sands Visitor Center to the dune field. Driving the Dunes Drive is like driving through snow.
White Sands was established as a national monument in 1933. Today, its location between several military bases means the monument is sometimes closed due to missile tests. You should check before making the trek.
It was short drive west to Deming where I only stayed a couple days in order to visit Rockhound State Park and Silver City. I stayed at an Escapee Park (Dream Catcher). Rockhound State Park is a great place to stay if you are a rock hound! It is named for the abundance of minerals in the area, and visitors can search for quartz crystals, geodes, jasper, perlite, and many other minerals right there in the park. I hiked one mile around the park and thinking my rock hound friend, Lynn should be here with me. It has a very nice campground with hookups and if I’m ever here in the future I will stay at this park.
I also drove 60 miles north to Silver City to check it out. It’s where cowboy meets hippie and a very cool little town. It’s at around 6000 feet so I didn’t think I’d want to bring the rig up and stay awhile because it would be too cold. But I changed my mind and moved to the Elks Lodge there. It had full hookups so I had electricity to run both my small electric heaters, 24 hours a day. Silver City was a good place from which to visit City of Rocks State Park and the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
As suggested by its name, Silver City began as a mining town at the height of the prospecting boom in the 1800s and has survived a long Wild West history that hosted such notorious notables as Billy the Kid and “Dangerous Dan” Tucker. Evidence of its even earlier history can be seen at the nearby Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, where ancient homes of the Mongollon Pueblo still stand.
Silver City is a collection of local art galleries, restaurants, shops, a museum and Big Ditch Park. Big Ditch Park was originally Main St., but a series of flash floods in the 1890’s and 1900’s dropped the street about 55 feet. This is not a river, but water runs in the Big Ditch all year round. They had to relocate Main Street on higher ground.
The 66 mile drive to the Gila Cliff Dwellings takes you through the beautiful scenery of the Gila National Forest. The Monument consists of 553 acres and contains the remains of a Mimbres Culture community in various locations, two of which are most prominent. The people made use of natural caves to build interlinked dwellings within five cliff alcoves above Cliff Dweller Canyon. The TJ Ruins are located on a bluff overlooking the Gila River. The Mogollon Peoples are believed to have inhabited the region from between 1275 and into the early 14th century. These cliff dwellings are unique in that you can climb up and walk through the alcoves. I had a private tour from a ranger and she was very informed on the dwellings and the people who called them home.
The selection of restaurants in Silver City was a real treat. There was even a local brewery. I had no problem spending a week in this interesting city. But alas, the weather was turning very cold so I headed to Benson, Arizona back to the Saguaro Escapees Park.
Till next time…