Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20: Las Cruces NM > White Sands > Carrizizo AZ

All in all, the night spent in a gravel lot just outside the Aguirre Springs Campground was not all that bad.

We didn't have any restroom facilities, but sometimes camping is like that.

We did have this spectacular view eastward.

Look! Something over there!

We were on the eastward side of the Organ Mountains, facing the White Sands Missile Range.

The Organ Mountains.


The Organ Mountains get their name from the fact that they look like church organ pipes. Pretty simple.

We took a drive through the actual campground, and it had many beautiful campsites that overlooked the valley below. This is a place I want to come back and camp in again.

We headed back westward over the mountains and into Las Cruces for a breakfast that was remarkable only for how unremarkable it was.

We then returned BACK over the mountains and headed eastward towards the White Sands National Monument.

Two hundred and seventy five square miles of gypsum sand is quite a remarkable sight to behold.

You can drive far out into the dunes, and then go climbing.

The gift shop offered sled "rentals" (you bought a sled, and they would let you return it, minus a small discount) to go sledding down the sand. Even though it was a crystal clear day, the temperatures were not all that high - probably in the high 50's. It was a beautiful day to wander around the sand dunes.

Look! Something over there, again!

From White Sands, we headed eastwards to Alamogordo, and then north. Along the way we found out that pistachios are HUGE in New Mexico (quite literally, with this giant fiberglass pistachio along side the road). We stopped and had a wine tasting and some pistachios, and purchased some wildly different flavors of nuts.

We continued north, until we came across a great little town:

We have two friends, named Carrie and Zo, so finding this town named Carrizozo brought us a great deal of delight.

Carrizozo a spanish slang word for a type of reed grass that grows in the area.

It was not a thriving town, but it was quite charming in it's own way.

Unfortunately, by this time the weather started to cloud up, and would continue to be unsettled for the rest of the day and night.

We headed westwards out of Carrizozo, and found the Valley of Fires Recreation Area, where we stopped for lunch. 

In the midst of an otherwise bleak desert scrub landscape, the Valley of Fires stands out as a large lava field. It was quite a stunning, and unexpected place to see.

We decided to camp there for the night, but we were both feeling a little run down, so we set out to search for a coffee shop with wifi, hot drinks and comfortable seating.

We ended up driving quite a ways eastwards to a small skiing resort town named Ruidoso, NM. Dreamcatcher Cafe offered us exactly what we needed, so we hunkered down for an hour or so.

Heading back down to the Valley of the Fires to set up camp, we were faced with this tremendous weather system, obscuring the blue sky.

We rushed to the lone market in Carrizozo, purchased our dinner and headed back to the Valley of Fires.

The tent campsites were at the far southern end of the campground, in a very small valley between rocks and lava formations. It was quite well protected from the weather, and since we were the only tenters, we had our pick of spots.

It was cold, and Steph was in no mood to stand around a campfire, but we made the best of it and had a fairly delicious meal, using tin foil, a tin pie pan, cooking spray and a bunch of veggies and sausage. Taking a camping trip after a flying to a distance place is often hard, but I have managed to figure out what I need to pack with me, and what things I can buy once in my destination to use.

Tastes far better than it looks, I promise you.

The overcast clouds finally moved out, and the skies cleared up. As we sat and enjoyed our dinner, out of the darkness a fellow camper appeared. We spoke to him at length about Carrizozo, his travels and ours, and had a generally pleasant, if slightly odd, interaction.

As we settled into the tent, the wind picked up, and proceeded to jostle the tent for the entire night. Couple the moving tent with a fire that the wind kept going all night, causing shadows from the flames to dance on the tent, along with our peculiar visitor and our remote location, and I stayed awake for most of the night, mildly fearful for our safety.

Steph slept like a log.