White Sands National Monument and Chiricahua National Monument

I wanted to be on the road by 9:00 am and breaking camp has gotten to be a slick (well that might be an exaggeration) routine. I think what makes a difference is I no longer worry about dirt and try and sweep out tent and get all of the sand and grit off the equipment. Just roll it all up and while my dirty hands on my dirty pants. As it happened in Organ Pipe Cactus NP Kili yet again sat alone in the middle of the empty campsite and just didn’t want to move on. Perhaps he is road weary and not into this change thing like his “Mom.”


But we bid adieu to Mt. Lemon, enjoyed the drive down though I still am still aghast at the gray pall hanging over the Tucson Valley (and most everywhere else I have travel in the western states). I counted at least thirty cyclist grinding up the mountain as I was heading heading down. There was a day I would have probably joined them but was not looking upon them with envy for sure. The goal was a Suburban Extended Stay Motel in Alamogordo, New Mexico with a visit to White Sands National Monument the next day. I was trucking along the interstate (there was no feasible alternative route ) and saw a sign for Chiricahua National Monument. Thinking I may never be back in this area (way too many new areas to explore) that why not take a side trip to visit it. So I sailed off the ramp and headed that way. Then a sign announced it was 42 miles to it. iI began to second guess myself since I had no idea why it was created or what the uniqueness was to designate it a monument. But since the drive today was not an extensive one, I continued on through a pleasant valley, a sea of grass dotted with mesquite and cactus, and up into an isolated mountainous range. Chiricahua Monument is very biodiverse as it intersects he Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts and southern Rockies and northern Sierra Madre. It was established to protect the pinnacles. Rock pinnacles tower over the road that winds up into fir woodlands. There is an infinite variety of spires, and rocks balanced on top of one another and often appearing as if these rock towers might topple over any minute.


The many shapes can let the imagination go wild. So I was in great form finding faces in the myriad of balanced rocks on the 8 mile scenic drive to the summit, Massai Point.

I noticed I was low on gas but knew I had enough to get back to the interstate. But I wanted to take the shortest route which would take me through the historical site of Fort Bowie. The hitch was it was 12 miles of more gravel roads. It was a lovely bucolic drive in rolling hills. One of the problems with these gravel roads is that the jiggling tends to loosen the front clamps on my car top carrier and it, having a mind of its own slides over the right side of the car – definitely not very aerodynamic. So yet again i would have to get out my step stool (because I am SO short) to fix the clamps when at my destination.


Once back on the interstate, I had to take the next exit for gas which was 23 miles up. When refueled and with fountain soda in hand I got back on the interstate going west— the wrong direction. It was 12 miles back and 12 miles forward before I was truly on my way. I began to think I was on the wrong road – one that was permitted for trucks only because it seemed I was squeezed up front and behind and on the side by one truck after another. I would pass an occasional car but to pass the time I decide to count the trucks and cars going in the opposite direct for a few miles. When I reach 100 trucks I had counted only 51 cars. Is I wasn’t completely skewed in my perception of this truck route. I finally arrive at the motel around 6:30. I think and was a bit relieved to not be setting up camp. I inched my little Prius in between two monster pick-ups and observed she was surrounded by more and more trucks in the parking lot. I am beginning to think I am behind the times! Shortly thereafter I began to re-remeber why I prefer to camp vs. motels. It is awful trying to walk a couple of dogs around a motel parking lot (or if I chose so here, along a busy highway). As with most motels west of the Mississippi every single border is some kind of stone – rarely a blade of grass to be seen and if there is some it is wild and full of burrs. So Simba poops right in the middle of the parking lot. I felt like leaving it there but dutifully picked it up. He hates to walk on the stones or burrs. But a hot shower felt great and spent some time on the internet— which was painfully slow. As I was thinking about turning off the light it occurred to me I had to make the rounds of the parking lot again with the pups— camping they can just hop out of the tent and find their own spot in the woods. So I had to put on my clothes again and perform the ritual circles.

I had thought about spending another day at the motel but change my mind since the wifi was pathetic and I was bored to tears circling the parking lot. But I did get a load of laundry done , checked out and we were on the road to White Sands National Monument in the Tularosa Basin. This monument captured my heart years ago when I was in southern New Mexico. This to me is a very wistful and serene place with white gypsum shimmering sand dunes of all sizes and shapes in the Chihuahua Desert. It is a vast sea of wave-like dunes in the desert. That seem to be alive as they are constantly building, cresting and then receding. The sand seemed hard packed and moist and because of the gypsum remain that way in draught. I took a hike with the dogs (yes they are dog friendly here) up one of the dune trails but they were not very keen about the sand. Many years ago I had my heart set on camping at White Sands and because of violent thunderstorms they closed the park and did not permit me to go into the campsites. I was so angry and upset but looking back I can understand the reaction given this is such a magical place. It was great fun watching kids slide down the dunes in saucers and then having a picnic in one of their “space age” picnic shelters.



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