Monday, February 29, 2016

White Sands

After escaping the alien abductions at Roswell and Bottomless Pits, we went west again.  (Actually it wasn't the pits, Bottomless Lakes State Park was really great, but one of us called Bottomless Pits and it stuck)

There were great views on the Billy the Kid Trail from Roswell to Alamogordo, over the mountains.  We got nervous again about seeing snow up on top,  brrr...   But we made it through and back out to big skies again.
We had a close call with the world's largest pistachio outside Alamogordo, it was worth the free samples though.

We camped for two nights at a small spot of BLM land east of the White Sands National Monument.  The sunsets and sunrises were amazing.

The next day we took our house to White Sands, just 5 miles away, and played all day.  The sand is really soft, made of gypsum crystals, and it will actually melt away in your mouth (if you don't try to take a whole bite, just some on your tongue).  We played for a while and recovered over lunch, and then went back out again.

Sitting in the cardboard cabanas

It was really great to have a shady place to recover and rest during lunch.  We took our time, read some books, and moved to another spot.  We thought we'd just look at the one dune, but we ended up spending another 2 hours.  A nice photographer guy took some more shots of us playing in the afternoon.
We packed up the mobile hovel, and went back to the BLM spot for another nice sunset and a quiet night.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bottomless Lakes

We went north again.  Why, why, why...., won't it be too cold?   To find the aliens, silly.   Roswell, NM is one of the stops on our list since we're in the neighborhood.  And the weather hasn't been too cold yet.

From Carlsbad, we drove north through Artesia to Roswell.  Artesia was a good stops for all we needed; gas, groceries, internet at the Artesia library, and a couple block walk to a propane distributor for a new regulator.

Roswell is a bit bigger, and there are green aliens standing all around.  They didn't show up on my pictures though, I'll try again when we go back through tomorrow.  The government must have erased them from our pictures already.  I'm pretty sure that the T-shirts we bought do have government approved Roswell aliens on them though, those may have to do.

We didn't have a solid destination picked, finding a spot on BLM land was a thought, but it was getting late in the day for luck.  So we took the easy option, Bottomless Lakes state park just east of Roswell.  It turned out really great.  NM state park campsites with electric are only $14, and no daily extra entry fee per person, so it's pretty reasonable.

The lakes are sinkholes from underground caverns, all in a general line about 5 miles long, along a small bluff.  The chain of lakes are spring fed, and a large one by the campground flows out into a desert wetland area.  The soil has higher amounts of salt and calcium from the mineral water being evaporated.  Wooden posts along the road are encrusted with minerals from water wicking up and evaporating (my theory...).

Good sunsets over the lake and the valley toward Roswell.  See the spaceship in the sunset?  Maybe you just don't want to believe (we've been watching the X-Files now that we're here on location).

Around the lakes, the rocks and soil are tumbled down into the water, and it's fun for scrambling around.  It's not too solid in general, there is a lot of crumbly gypsum in the rock.  I still don't know what the red clay soil is from?  iron bearing fossil sediment?   Here's more about the geology of the lakes.

Look!!!  There's an alien in the bush!!!  Watch out Alice!

The park road is a scenic loop, about 10 miles around.  It was easy going with the wind at our backs, not so easy on the way back.

 And there's a fun little mountain bike loop at the north end of the park.  Pretty flat generally, with some small gulleys to shoot across.   Elliot and I did about half of the 3 mile loop.  There was a crashed spaceship on the other half, and the men in silvery suits told us there was nothing to see, so we left.

We stayed for 3 nights, and had relaxing days, walking & biking and hanging around. 

I put on the new propane regulator, it works and it doesn't smell.  The old auto-changeover regulator would not always flow propane, acting like the primary tank was out of propane, until I would fiddle with the selector, then it might go.  I could smell propane around the tanks and regulator faintly sometimes, but I was not able to find a leak with soapy water.  The final straw was how fast we used up the last tanks, I think it leaked away some and we ran out sooner than expected.

Tomorrow we plan to go back through Roswell, see the museum this time, and then head to White Sands.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


We went North a little bit (we keep wondering why...) to Carlsbad Caverns and then through the city of Carlsbad.

Driving North along the Guadalupe mountains was pretty, especially with the clouds up against the hills, and a big rainbow.

At the Caverns, it was cold and rainy up on top (surprise, up on the hills in the previous pictures). Down inside the cave it was a lot more comfortable. It was a long hike down and back, said to be 750 feet down, and about 3 miles long, and it was worth it. Sorry the phone camera doesn't do it justice.

Then we drove through the city of Carlsbad, and on to Lake Brantley state park. It's a nice park, the sky is pretty wide open. There are a couple of short hiking or mountain bike trails through the desert.

There is also a good playground structure, which was a hit with our preschoolers. Brings back memories.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Highest in Texas

Sunday we hiked up Guadalupe Mountain, and it was a real hike too.   About 8 miles round trip and 3000 feet up from the campground at the trailhead.

  We had a 50% attrition rate though, the girls headed back about a third of the way up due to the dizzying view.  However far up you go,  the views are amazing.

At least our pack horse made it all the way with water and granola snacks.

He got nervous when he found snow on the trail. What?! Snow!?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The other half of life in the camper...

Texas has been very scenic, at least the pictures we've shared. I thought we might balance it out a little. So everyone doesn't go off half cocked and start living on the road, expecting maid service and 5 star accommodations, I'll give a shot to show the other half of camper life; laundry and the occasional Walmart parking lot.

We had a destination in mind the other day at Balmorhea Springs, but the campground was all full, all reserved. So we went swimming there for a while, and Elliot and I enjoyed the really nice bathhouse hot showers after. Sadly, the ladies showers had no hot water, but the clear spring fed pool was refreshing and clean. It is a very large swimming pool constructed during the depression by the CCC.

Late in the afternoon, we drove on to Pecos for the Walmart. Another good option is someone's driveway, but the population in West Texas is a little thin, and there aren't any hosts out here yet. The sunset and sunrise were great even at the Walmart, there were several other campers around, and we got a little shopping done.

In the morning, we did some other errands; gas, groceries and laundry. We got up really early and went to the laundromat. It was so early that we got some interesting quotes; Annie said "it smells like water outside", and Alice replied, "yeah, it smells really early out here."

While the laundry was washing at the Fun Wash, we had breakfast. Baked pancakes, mmm mmmmm.

The drive from Pecos to Guadalupe Mountains National Park was easy enough. There were lots of oil & gas drilling trucks, some rvs, and not much else. The view of the mountains in the distance was great.

Here at the national park, the RV part of the campground is just a parking lot with numbered spots. But the view is good and the hiking trails are just steps away. We got the laundry hung up right away to keep the property values from becoming excessive. It is walkup registration only, no reservations. It's pretty full, but there are still one or two spots open this morning still.

We hiked up the Devils Hall trail, it is pretty amazing up at the end.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Big Bend mountain biking

Today (Wednesday) we left the national park on the west side, and took the paved FM170 road into the Big Bend state park. (there's a good tiny grocery store on the east end of Turlingua, called the Cottonwood general store. Annie liked it, good selection for being so far out. The Turlingua ghost town is fun to check out too.)

At the state park Barton Warnock visitor center, there's a dump and fresh water, so we got all set again.

The state park has primitive sites that rvs can fit into at Grassy Banks, Madera Canyon, and Arenosa, from East to west on the paved road in that order. We are staying tonight at Grassy Banks. There is at least one other camper here, it's pretty empty. Mexico is on the right, but there's not much over there at this location.

We stopped for lunch and biking at the west Contrabando trailhead. There are mountain bike (or hiking) trails close to the main road here and right at the east entrance. All four of us went in for a couple miles, and the trail was reasonably easy and level, except for some gravel or rocky washes.

After the first couple miles, it got a bit harder, and the camper was kind of small in the distance, so we split up. Elliot and I wanted to keep going to do a loop, and come back a different way. Up the west Contrabando trail, then North on the Contrabando Dome loop, and back on the Fresno Divide trail, maybe 8 miles total.

Out at the far end, the camper was really tiny (Elliot is looking at it, really, zoom in to find the little white dot).

There was a lot of up and down, and conveniently the way back ended up mostly all downhill.

The last mile on the way back was super fun, slightly downhill, sweeping single track, with cactus and boulders to weave around. Neither of us got bit...

There was a thermometer at the end of the trail, granted it was in the sun, and it is a nice dry heat, but boy it was hot for winter... The area had mining for mercury in the early 1900s, and the trail has some mining historical sites on it. I can't imagine cooking rocks here for a living, in the summer.