From Las Cruces I made my way to Alamogordo, NM where I stayed at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, which is situated on the outskirts of town tucked into the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains.
Alamogordo, or nearby I should say, was the site of the first detonation of an atomic bomb, the Trinity Test, and the result of the Manhattan Project. The test took place in mid-July 1945 and after it’s success, a few weeks later, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today the test site is located on the White Sands Missile Range and once a year the Trinity Site is open to the public.
While I was here I experienced my first thunder and lightning storm in the Airstream. Perched on the bleak hillside I wondered how I’d fare in my aluminum box…with no trees around to attract lightning from me. The storm lasted two hours or so and every bolt of lightning lit up the interior of the trailer thanks to the two skylights! I’ve been told the trailer is grounded…fortunately that was not tested that night.
Other sights in Alamogordo were the New Mexico Museum of Space History, which contains the International Space Hall of Fame and White Sands National Monument. White Sands, located on the missile range is about 300 square miles of gypsum sand dunes. Quite a sight seeing it at its edges, which shift each year. I drove in and did a one and a half hour hike in the backcountry camping area. I did it bare footed as the sands were cool and firm. The hiking trail was marked by poles similar to those used on the side of the road in the northeast so snowplows can tell where the edge of the road is. A lot of people had purchased toboggans and where sledding down the dunes…looked like fun!
Next stop was Roswell…or as my friend Lisa who’s from there calls it,“Rotwell”. Roswell is the UFO capitol of the US mainly due to the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident…as it’s referred. In 1947 there was an alleged crash of a UFO…supposedly debris was recovered as were alien bodies that were autopsied! The military claims it was a crashed weather balloon. In any case, the is a very kitsch UFO museum in town and tons of shops selling alien memorabilia. There was also a Starbucks with free Wi-Fi that I quite liked.
My last stop in New Mexico was Carlsbad home of Carlsbad Caverns.
I stayed at Brantley Lake State Park…kind of a strange place on the outskirts of town and surrounded by small oil wells…when the wind blew in the “right” direction I felt like I was living in a tank of petrol. Not pleasant. Even less pleasant was the invasion of insects once the sun set. My first evening, as I sat inside with the lights on watching television I heard a humming noise which sounded like the converter in the trailer doing it’s thing. I ignored it. Then the sound grew louder and I realized that the window screens were covered with mosquito-sized insects. This all happened while I was on the phone with my bank in Australia who had an urgent message that a phantom charge had occurred on my card and that they would need to cancel it and send me a new one and where’s the best place to send it and now the bugs were getting inside and it’s difficult to send a new card overseas due to security so we will have to ask several security questions and now there were like five thousand bugs covering the shades inside the trailer and I was on the phone answering security questions and literally vacuuming insects with my Dyson hand vacuum. It was gross.
The next day at Carlsbad Caverns made up for the previous nights invasion. I hadn’t been to any caverns since going to Howe Caverns in Pennsylvania when I was a kid. If you ever go, and to any cavern for that matter, walk in the natural entrance instead of taking the lift to the viewing area. Firstly you get a sense of the actual depth of the cave and also you get to see how the geology of the cave changes as you go deeper. I walked into Carlsbad Caverns and loved every minute of it as the light from the cave opening faded and my eyes adjusted to what was around me. There was every kind of “decoration” from stalactites to stalagmites and those that joined to become “columns”. There were small narrow stalactites which were hollow and called “soda straws” and pools of clear water. At the depth of The Big Room it takes eight months for a drop of water to reach the cave…wow! The pictures say it all:
After the caverns I returned to the trailer to find my new neighbors Jon and Jim had arrived. We’d met at Alumafiesta in Tucson in early February and they happened to be passing through Carlsbad at the same time on their way home to Missouri. I had my first dinner party that was made all the better with the two great bottles of wine they brought. It was a fun night and great to see them again!