Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: How Did We Get From Cibola to Santa Fe Part II

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Did We Get From Cibola to Santa Fe Part II

This is a continuation of our journey and some of our adventures for March and April as we traveled from Cibola to Santa Fe. Part I is here.

Stop 5 – Alamogordo

After an admittedly too short a stay in Las Cruces we headed east over the Organ Mountains and into the Tularosa Basin and Oliver Lee State Park – one of our favorite state parks in New Mexico. The last time we were here was 2013.

Oliver Lee serves as a perfect headquarters to visit White Sands National Monument, drive into the Sacramento Mountains to visit Cloudcroft and Sunspot National Solar Observatory, see the world’s largest pistachio, and of course explore the park itself.

A very special treat this time was a return visit to the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945.

"clean" room where detonator was assembled

Early on Saturday April 4, we joined the caravan from Alamogordo for a two hour drive through White Sands Missile Range to the site. (It is only open two days a year – the first Saturday in April and October.)

Staging area for caravan to Trinity Site
While we had been there before, this visit was just as special. There are not many places you can visit that have had such an impact on human history.

White Sands National Monument is always beautiful but this time we joined a docent led sunset stroll. If you visit White Sands – this is a must and sunset is a great time to experience the park.

The drive into the Lincoln Forest and the Sacramento Mountains may surprise you as you quickly go from desert to thick forest. It actually felt like we were back in Colorado.

Our first stop was the Sunspot National Solar Observatory. Besides a very good and interesting visitor center, you get to walk around a ½ mile loop to see some very cool telescopes and a great view of the Tularosa Basin.

After the NSO it was a bit further up the road to Cloudcroft. Yes, Cloudcroft is “touristy” but we enjoyed the funky shops and a stop for coffee and afternoon snack. Before you get to Cloudcroft be sure to stop at the overlook of Mexican Canyon and the historic wooden train trestle. Check out JoAnne – and she does not like heights.

The last time we stayed at Oliver Lee we missed the tour of the Oliver Lee Ranch. Oliver had an interesting life filled with controversy – US Marshal, rancher, and gunfighter. If you are interested you can read more here.

I was also able to hike the Dog Canyon Trail. For you hikers this is a challenging 5 mile (one way) trek with about a 3,600 elevation gain.

Talk about coincidences… our long term friends John and Yvonne (John and I were business partners) who just started RVing last fall also ended up at Oliver Lee on their way to Chimayo for the Easter Pilgrimage. Lunch at Stella Vita (probably the best restaurant in Alamogordo) was in order.

Stop 6 – Fort Stanton, Capitan, Lincoln, Ruidoso and Valley of Fires

After leaving Alamogordo we traveled about 65 miles north to the BLM Equestrian Campground just outside of Fort Stanton. Yes, we did share the campground with several campers with horses – but that was fine with us. With our Senior Pass it was $5.00 a night for water and electric. There are plenty of free primitive sites as well.

Our time here was spent visiting the historic towns of Lincoln – made famous by Billy the Kid and the Lincoln Wars. Almost the entire town is unchanged from the way it looked in the mid-1800s. If only the walls could talk. It would be easy to blow through this town or pass it by on your way to somewhere else – don’t!

If you follow us on Facebook, you may get the impression that we do a lot of eating out – perhaps we do but sometimes eating with the locals has its rewards. In Lincoln we stopped for lunch at the historic Dolan House. We were sitting at the “community” table when a local rancher joined us. Turns out his great grandfather homesteaded in the area, knew Billy the Kid and had fought and was wounded in the Indian wars. Also, before “retiring” to the family ranch he had owned a Farm Finance/Bank and Oliver Lee III had worked for him. How cool is that? BTW – the food was great and the homemade cherry cobbler – Wow!

On the topic of meeting interesting people - on one of our drives back into the area around White Oaks (kid of a ghost town) we took a road less traveled to White Oaks Pottery and potter Ivy Heymann. Her pottery is fabulous and so is her story. She has lived alone basically out in the middle of nowhere for close to 40 years. She gave us a great tour of her studio - we purchased some pottery and gave us directions to Renee's Real Food in Capitan.  You guessed it, another great lunch with a New Orleans flair.

Fort Stanton is a State Historic Site but I am not sure why it is not National Historic Site. It is amazingly well preserved and has tons of history dating back to 1855.

Ruidoso is a ski and tourist town but it does have the Hubbard Museum of the America West a Smithsonian affiliate and operated by the city of Ruidoso Downs – Yep, the same place as the race track. This museum is mostly about horse related items. So it is quite different than many other museums in the desert Southwest.

This area has no end of horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking opportunities. We did manage a hike along the National Petroglyph Trail.

We had planned on staying longer but as it turned out the campground was the staging for a huge mountain biking rally over the weekend. So, we pulled up the jacks and headed 20 or so miles west to Valley of Fires Recreation Area and another really nice BLM campground overlooking the Malpais Lava Flow. In my opinion this is every bit as interesting as Craters of the Moon National Monument.

To be continued… next up - Albuquerque.

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