Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 38 - Rockhound SP, NM to Bottomless Lake SP, NM

Rockhound State Park was a nice place to spend the night.  We were able to get in a little more star gazing from our mountainside campsite.  The view must have stretched for 30 miles and one thing we kept an eye on was a lightening storm off in the distance.  It was very windy last night and the chill finally drove us inside.  Sometime during the night that storm made its way to us and we had some rain and thunder but nothing too severe.  We were underway by 8:30am this morning and heading towards Roswell, NM.
Today we left the interstate highway system and spent our time with our wheels "on the ground".  I much prefer taking the back way as it usually offers much more interesting sights.  The roadsigns often get my attention (I guess they are supposed to aren't they?).  I am accustomed to "Watch For Children" signs.  What manner of soil and how fierce must the rains be that one has to be reminded to watch for water?  The sign in the back is for an abandoned BBQ business.  You can get the business and 10 acres of land for $289,000.
And here's another sign I am not used to.  All the land around these parts is "open range" and there is a possibility that there may be a cow or two in the road.  They've got those cow grates up and there's a lot of fencing but I guess it's a real hazard.

Our first stop most days is usually for fuel.  Today we got just enough here to get us to Las Cruces where fuel prices were considerably lower.  There are lots of these trading post, souvenir shops around.  It seems that the ones with the most billboards are the ones that are the smallest shops.  I thought South of the Border billboards were annoying!

 Brett decided to wash the whales windows while we were stopped.  He likes to have a clear view out the back when he is enjoying his lunch.  I forget how huge this thing is until I see somebody standing right next to it. 

We saw more nut tree orchards today.  This one is irrigated by flooding it and then allowing that water to soak in.  I should think that quite a bit would evaporate as well but this does seem more efficient than the sprayers we saw working at high noon the other day.
Las Cruces has a great mountain backdrop.  Brett wondered if we were going to have to go through those.  Oh yeah baby!  And then some.
Here's the whale after we successfully climbed the Agustin Pass on US70.
We will now be headed towards the White Sands Missile Range where we will have many miles of keep out, restricted signs and no cell or Internet access.
There is a big display with a full-sized Nike missile for your viewing pleasure.  The White Sands National Monument borders US 70.
These are white gypsum dunes that are formed when the water evaporates from a lake.  Just after the monument we (and every other eastbound vehicle) were directed off the highway into a Homeland Security Border Patrol Checkpoint.  These are serious looking folks with serious big scary sniffer dogs doing their thing.  I decided to keep my camera in my lap.  The guard simply asked us if we were both US citizens and let us go on our way.  Another couple was not as lucky.  Their vehicle was up on a lift and the dogs were giving it a going over.
Many of the towns along the way feature lots of abandoned buildings.  The other thing that I've noticed about the towns is that they are very low slung.  There don't seem to be many buildings over three stories.
Are we going to have to deal with this mountain?  What do you think?  We have climbed over 7000 feet to Apache Summit in the homelands of the Mescalero Apache.  We wondered how this tribe is faring.  The homes look modest but the tribal headquarters building is new and large and there is an enormous casino resort called Inn of the Mountain Gods that looked busy. 
From the summit we began our approach to Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs.  If you've seen the movie Casey's Shadow then you've heard of Ruidoso Downs.  It is a horse racing town and there is a big track which sits right next to the highway.  This area is definitely horsey.  Almost every home we saw outside of the town itself had a small corral with a horse or two.  Other places were much larger horse ranches.
Seems like good advice.

This area was the first where we have seen hard wood trees.  Their leaves are changing color now.

 We changed our elevation a bit more, rounded a couple of bends and the landscape changed again!  This is the very wide, open expanse on the approach to Roswell.  I knew it had to open up because every UFO movie featuring Roswell also features landings out in the flat desert.  No evidence of saucers this afternoon.

The New Mexico highways do have one strange amenity.  About a mile back we saw a sign that said "Table Ahead".  And there was!  Every so often there will be a shelter such as this (for shade I would guess) with one picnic table underneath it.
I have two wildlife sightings to report for today and they are both living wildlife (at least they were when I saw them).  The first was a huge, brown bunny that hopped across the road.  The second was a huge, black tarantula that was walking beside the road while we were traveling at 65 mph.   I hate the idea of spiders that are big enough to see when you are driving that fast.
We got to our campsite at about 3:30pm.  Since we reserved it online we weren't too concerned when we couldn't find a ranger or a reservation desk to check in.  We just took our spot and set up.  Later some people told us that this is generally the case at NM parks.  There are spots available and there is a box to put your payment into.
Bottomless Lake State Park consists of several large sinkholes that have filled with water.  They allow boating and swimming but no fishing in the "lakes".  Our campground is on the largest of these and seems to actually sit inside a part of the hole as evidenced by the steep banks along the edges.
As we were watching these storm clouds develop we were told that this area often has severe weather.  To which I say "Boy howdy they were not kidding".  This storm cloud just built and built.  Because it is so open, we could see the storm coming for miles.  We were under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and a Tornado Watch (until 1am).  Fortunately this monster went just to the east of us so we missed the brunt of it.  After dark we went outside and watched an amazing light show from the remaining storm clouds.  Everything seems quiet now (except for the raccoons who are raiding all the trash cans in the campground).  I will be just fine if there is no more of this weather!

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