|View of volcanic Mt. Taylor from El Malpais |
As with most places, it’s important to have on hand a working list of “Things to do”. For example, if I were to go to Carol’s house, my list would read something like: visit her pet ground hog. Our ambitious to-do list for Las Cruces has taken on the level of Pressing Urgency these past few weeks because we are moving this Sunday for crying out loud, and in addition to packing up an entire apartment we still need to find time to tackle The List.
So far so good. Not with the packing, but with getting to the fun stuff around these parts.
The weekend before last we headed back out to White Sands, about an hour’s drive away. It’s a cool place because, as the eponymous name would suggest, the sand is white, and there is lots of it. Interestingly, a few plants have figured out clever ways to survive out there on those heaping piles of sand. Also, lizards and other small insects have begun turning white in order to evade predators. It’s a place like no other. When we went it was raining, which turns the sand hard and makes diving into it rather unpleasant. But hiking around is easier so we made it farther in than we did last time, and from that inland portion we would like to delight you with this photo:
Our next stop was the Capitan mountains, a few hours up the way from White Sands. We arrived that night and set up camp with the intention of climbing Capitan peak the next morning. Without going into detail about the plethora of ranchers who close off public roads because… they feel like it, I will just say that the peak remains unclimbed by us. It was still a nice drive and got us up to an area we had heard about but never experienced.
|The scenic hike up Wheeler Peak|
That short trip was small potatoes compared to what we accomplished this past weekend. We left Saturday morning and drove several hours north, past Albuquerque and Santa Fe, into the bohemian town of Taos. We found out, upon arriving at the base of the Sangre de Christo mountains, that there was a dirty hippie music festival going on and because of that we were going to have a hard time finding a campsite. A few miles down the road we snuck into a spot and managed to rest up before climbing 13,167’ Wheeler Peak. It was not a particularly difficult hike, but it was so very long. My legs, by the end, were perilously close to boycotting the act of stepping. After a full day of hiking we returned to Taos and ate festive New Mexican food, which Las Cruces curiously doesn’t offer. That portion of the trip was scenically reminiscent of my first trip to New Mexico in 2009.
|Top of Mt. Wheeler. We got there just before the storm came in.|
After eating, we had to drive a few hours down the mountains to Bandelier National Monument where we camped. It houses quite a few interesting ruins, none of which were open to the public on account of an enormous wildfire that had effectively wiped out large chunks of the vegetation earlier this summer. The website had warned us of the closures so we knew there wouldn’t be much in the way of viewing ruins, but we weren’t too dispirited because the next morning we were on our way to Chaco Culture. The drive from Bandelier to Chaco was stunning. The windy roads follow rivers and canyons, and provide views of just about the finest vegetation New Mexico has to offer. There were also some alarming views of wildfire damage.
|That's me, I'm the Spanish Queen|
We arrived at Chaco in the late morning and spent a few hours admiring the handy work of the Ancient Puebloans. Exquisite planning allowed for multi-storied buildings using sandstone and mortar that still stand centuries later. It was incredible walking around the ruins and reading about archeological theories and discoveries based on these ruins. If you find yourself in northern New Mexico Chaco Culture is a stop worth making.
|Ruin at Chaco Culture|
From there it was simply a matter of getting back to Las Cruces. Tomorrow it looks like we’ll be rappelling, and this coming weekend we’re going into the Carlsbad Caverns. And that’s it for our Las Cruces to-do list; incidentally, that will also be it for Las Cruces. At least we’ll leave knowing we made the most of it.