October 29, 2012
We spent a few hours with Alexis and her boys in the morning before leaving for New Mexico. The boys made sure Lucy was included in all the fun.
Neither Chan or I have been to the southern part of the US east of Arizona, except for Florida, so we’ll be traveling through new territory for a while, which is exciting.
Chandler and I had two goals for the day. Find good Mexican food and get to White Sands National Monument.
We have noticed that the crappier a place looks, the better the Mexican food. The place we found in Las Cruces was no exception to the rule. The only thing on the menu was gordita, which for the uninitiated are pita-like pockets of fried cornmeal stuffed with typical Mexican things. We each had three, they were incredible.
On the way out of town, Chandler noticed a display on the side of the road. We knew that White Sands is occasionally closed due to missile testing, so we weren’t too surprised to see one on display. This was the Nike Hercules missile, an anti-aircraft/anti-ballistic missile from the Cold War era. There is an old Nike station outside of Anchorage, on top of a mountain near a local ski area so it was interesting to see a full sized missile up close.
We made it to White Sands about an hour before sunset and met the grumpiest park ranger ever. After Surly Sally (name changed to protect the grumpy) informed us we had to have our tent set up before the sun went down, we had to hustle to get going. In our haste, we didn’t think about how cold the desert is at night. We grabbed our summer sleeping bags and Chan decided to not bring a sleeping pad since sand is so soft.
The hike to our designated camp site fun. We walked up and down sand dunes as the sun set. We joked about mining spice, sandworms and the interesting looking plants growing out of the dunes.
After setting up camp it began to get a little cooler. Chan experimented with taking long exposure photos and it got colder. Soon it was cold enough to want to just hang out in the sleeping bags and work on the blog for a bit. The sand on the dunes was super fine and dry which made it feel very soft like fresh powder snow. The sand around our campsite was down in a valley below the dune peaks, and lots of concentrated foot traffic packed the sand like concrete. Sleeping was difficult with our thin bags. At one point, Chan asked if we could share my sleeping pad because he was so cold. I gave him the dog instead as sharing didn’t work so well. I think we each got about 2 hours of sleep total and were happy when the alarm went off at 6am.
We bolted the mile back to the car in the dawn light and blasted the heater. The thermometer read 26F. We were experiencing the true extremes of the desert climate first hand, and we didn’t like it. After an inadvertent tour of Alamogordo in search of coffee (failure) we climbed one of the largest hills in a while to the town of Cloudcroft.