Category Archives: New Mexico

Sledding in the sand at White Sands National Monument

DSCN1141We were missing snow so much that we rushed home for a quick trip to the Fraser Summit – NOT!!! We did however have a fun 18 hours at the White Sands National Monument, where those of us that are very familiar with snow would swear that you are surrounded by snow piles not sand dunes.

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At one point driving down the sand road we had to hit the breaks due to some other cars slowing down and both Tim and I cringed while waiting for the skid of the truck and the swing of the trailer until we remembered that this is a sand road not a snow road – what tricks our brains can play on us!

We got to the park an hour before dark and were able to experience the sunset there – it seemed to go on forever. With very little surrounding light and an almost full moon it was a fabulous place to spend the night. The only downside was the temperature – it got down to freezing and I fell asleep still wearing my winter hat and mitts. Tim got mild frost-bite in his toes from running around in the dunes in bare feet that night!

We were up bright and early the next morning and drove around the park checking out all the various parking lots and picnic sites. You can definitely envision how busy it is in the summer time. Their picnic covers are really quite cool and futuristic looking – the shade cover and the table are all one piece and made of metal.

By 10:00 am the day had warmed up enough to get out and play on the sand dunes with the 2 sleds we bought at the gift shop. Sand definitely has a higher friction factor than snow so you need to pick tall dunes to get some speed going. It was a morning full of giggles and smiles with many versions of head to head racing, and the workout of climbing back up to the top.

whitesands JFR

We finished off our junior ranger book by lunch time and were then back on the road headed eastbound to Balmorhea State Park in Texas. White Sands National Monument is barely out of the way for anyone heading east or west along I-10 and definitely worth a stop to play for the day.

Wandering in the dark at Carlsbad Caverns

family with lanterns

Carlsbad caverns was our 3rd cave experience of the trip, after Great Basin National Park (Nevada) and Horne Lake Basin (Vancouver Island, BC).  This was definitely the biggest and the best!

In Great Basin National Park we did a ranger lead tour and learned alot about the world of caves. I thought we’d mix it up a bit this time and so we did a ranger lead tour of the Left Hand Tunnel, which is conducted by candle lantern. It was great fun and really helped give you a sense of what the original exploration environment was like.

lee hunter 750 ft underground

This national park is a great example of the changing philosophies within the National Park system. It has 2 elevator shafts and used to have a full restaurant and retail store 750 ft below ground at the base of the elevators. The logic at the time was to make the cave more accessible to the public vs the core preservation of the cave, which is what we experienced in Great Basin.

Both Tim and Hunter tackled the junior ranger program (Tim doing the 13yrs and older version) and we all had alot of fun. It really helps make for a great learning experience while you are in the park. This was definitely a great family experience. We spent about 5 hours here but could have easily spent the entire day if we hadn’t needed to continue our travels south east…

 

exploring the mysteries of Roswell – still not a believer

hunter lee aliens

 

If you’re going to drive through south eastern New Mexico, you have to go to Roswell and the UFO Museum. I’m not sure what I expected, but it was fairly small in size and a bit hokey in approach. We spent an hour reading through alot of the materials and giggling at the pictures.

The blocks around the museum have an assortment of Alien related things that can only make you smile!

Valley of Fire National Recreation Area

valley of fire landscape

 

After spending the night at a rest stop in Socorro, New Mexico we headed east on highway 380 towards Roswell. It was mid morning and we hadn’t had breakfast yet and needed a stop. Just around the corner we saw the sign for Valley of Fires National Recreation Area so we pulled in. What a pleasant surprise!!!

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It is a small campground and recreation area at the side of the Malpais Lava Flow. The boys enjoyed the flat asphalt with their skateboards and we took the time to do the interpretive trail as well.

Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States.

From a distance, Valley of Fires appears as barren rock but when you walk through the nature trail there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees and bushes typical of the Chihuahuan desert. Animals include bats, roadrunners, quail, cottontails, mule deer, barberry sheep, and lizards. It’s also a virtual birdwatcher’s paradise with great horned owls, burrowing owls, turkey vultures, hawks, gnat catchers, cactus wrens, sparrows and golden eagles.