Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ruidoso, NM: A Return to Pine Forest Hiking

We've spent the last few nights in Ruidoso, NM, enveloped in pine forests. Ruidoso is a resort town that sits at 6,920 feet in the Sierra Blanca Mountains. There are two ski resorts nearby and lots of hiking trails, so the town has many lodging and camping options, as well as lots of restaurants and touristy shops. We never did walk through town or try any of the eating and drinking establishments, our main objective was to hit the trails, enjoy the forest and start to acclimatize to the higher elevations we'll be in for the next couple of months.

The Ruidoso Chamber of Commerce has done a great job putting together a trail map for the area, you can get an excellent hard copy at their office or use the links here to view the maps online (though the maps would be hard to read if you printed it out yourself a favor and stop by the chamber office for the hard copy!).

We hiked a number of the easy fitness trails around town, some are paved, all are convenient and pretty and perfect for a nice evening stroll or quick workout. We also hiked a couple of wonderful loop trails in the nearby mountains.

For our first hike we drove North of town into the White Mountain Wilderness. From the Argentina/Bonito trailhead we did a wonderful seven mile loop going up Argentina Canyon, across the Crest Trail, then down Little Bonito and Big Bonito trails. We did the loop counterclockwise, which seemed to be a tad easier than clockwise, with a gentle ascent of about 1,300 feet. We sure felt it though...we hadn't hiked at 8,000 - 9,000 feet since last fall!

Many of the trails in the area look like this - small streams and forests of mixed conifers and some stands of oak.

Once we reached the Crest Trail the views opened up.
The fence protects Argentina Spring from livestock.

Long distance views to the North.

This wonderful view included the tallest point in the Sierra Blanca range at about 12,000 feet.

Nogal Peak is a hard-to-miss point on the horizon to the East.

There were many stream crossings on this hike, but not enough water to make any of them too difficult.

We played 9 holes of the 27 hole Grindstone Park Disc Golf Course. This was a terrific course with lots of variety of terrain, we just weren't up for a long game that particular day.

Hans contemplates his strategy...the basket is far into the trees across the ravine.

After disc golf we drove up to Grindstone Lake hoping to take a little hike...
it turns out the dam is having a liner installed to minimize leaks.
It's quite an elaborate and interesting project, but also killed our desire to hike there!

Our second long hike started on the edge of town and took us up a spring touched canyon, then along a ridge amongst giant alligator junipers and ponderosa pine, just beautiful! The Perk Canyon (T93) and Perk Ridge (T92-1) trails make up a five mile loop that includes a mile of strenuous uphill to the ridge, and then equally steep downhill from the ridge.

Love this waterfall!

The flowering apple tree in the center of the photo was the only one we saw on the trail...Spring is here!

One of many giant alligator junipers!

There were not a great many flowers along this trail,
but along the ridge were a few large patches of "Locoweed", poisonous to livestock.

Sierra Blanca peak through the trees.

There's going to be a bounty of strawberries in a few weeks in these mountains!

There are many campgrounds and RV parks in and around Ruidoso and we decided to stay at RV Resort of Ruidoso. It's a fairly new park and we just about had the place to ourselves. Only one other neighbor out of 66 RV sites during our entire stay! There is some highway noise but it's pretty quiet at night; the sites are terraced up a hillside creating views and getting you away from the road.

The RV park roads are paved (except the top tier, that's gravel) and the sites are gravel, there is a bit of slope to some of the sites, though management seems to be working on fixing this. Very few of the sites have picnic tables. All facilities are clean and new. We had good 4G Verizon signal.

Hans is showing Rosie the deer in the RV park.

Next up: We return to Santa Fe.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Roswell, NM

Roswell, NM surprised us with some excellent museums and art and historic homes. We only stayed two nights but we managed to pack quite a lot of experiences into that short time.

First stop: Spring Street River Park and Zoo. This small park and zoo is free and has the unique feature of being a locals funded zoo. Individuals and families adopt an animal to provide for its care. Some of the enclosures could use updating and enlarging but overall it was an interesting place to visit. I won't show you photos of the animals in their enclosures because that just makes me sad...but the freeroaming peacocks were rather photogenic!

He's a handsome devil.

I'd never seen a white peacock before.

Here is one of the fine old homes in Roswell:

Colonial Revival style.

The owner of our RV park highly recommended the Southeast New Mexico Museum. Unfortunately it was undergoing renovations during our visit but an enthusiastic historical society member did let us see a little bit of the downstairs of the beautiful old home that houses the museum.

Freshly renovated, the wood features and furniture of this home are gleaming and gorgeous!

It easy to see this was an elegant home in its heyday.

The Roswell Museum and Art Center provided a comprehensive look at all facets of local history, detailed displays of Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard's work -- considered the father of  liquid propellant rockets, plus several art exhibits for us to browse. This was an excellent museum and it was free (donations encouraged).

The Emporer's Palace.
Lots of New Mexico art on display.

Part of the Native American display.

Part of the Dr. Robert Goddard display.

Next, we checked out the International UFO Museum.  This museum's primary focus is on the Roswell UFO Incident, which is either a UFO event covered up by the government or the crash landing of a Project Mogul ballon in 1947.

Hans is ready to join the aliens!

Thanks to our RV park owner's recommendation, we had a fantastic lunch at Big D's Downtown Dive. Definitely worth a stop and let's hope that TV show never finds out about this place...

Our last stop in Roswell was the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. We LOVED the variety of art here and the purpose behind it. The museum was built to showcase the art of the Roswell Artist in Residence Program. Founded in 1967, the program gives artists the "gift of time", allowing them one year of residency to focus on their work.

This painting reflects the contradiction of water hungry Los Angeles in the middle of the desert.

Mixed media of mosaic and oil painting.

We stayed at Red Barn RV Park, a small park just a couple of miles from the center of Roswell. There are only about 20 full hookup sites, and most of those are taken by seasonal rigs. The owner was extremely friendly and helpful and made this a pleasant place to stay. The only drawback was noise from the local highway and an occasionally braying donkey across the road (we wore earplugs to bed).

This is actually a pull through site, the white gate in front of our rig opens up.

Back in sites back up to an alfalfa field.

Rosie especially liked the view...look at all those squirrels!

We're off to Ruidoso today, back to pine forests for a bit.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Carlsbad, NM

Our first stop in New Mexico was Brantley Lake State Park, about 12 miles North of Carlsbad, NM. This past winter has been a wet one for SE New Mexico and the lake is much higher than it has been in many years with lots of flowers blanketing the Chihuahuan desert.

About half the sites at the state park are reserveable and half are first come, first serve. Most sites have a view of the lake and are well separated from each other. A covered picnic table and a BBQ are at each site.

Our view from site #11.

Another view of our site.

Our first full day we drove about 45 minutes South to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This cave system contains the fifth largest chamber in North America (The Big Room) and the choice of self-guided or ranger-led tours. You can purchase audio guides for the self-guided portion.

We chose to explore at our own pace without the audio tour. We logged about three miles total by entering through the Natural Entrance where you drop, sometimes steeply, about 750 feet into the cavern system. After exploring all the trails open to those without a guide, we returned to the surface via elevator. There were restroom and snack and souvenir facilities down in the cave making it easy to spend several hours underground.

Though the cave system is subtley lighted for walking and to enhance some of the more extraordinary cave features, it is nice to have an additional source of light with you to view some of the dark corners throughout the cave.

On our drive in we spotted a herd of at least 20 big horn sheep on a distant hillside.
Look for the faint brown spots scattered horizontally.

Walnut Canyon.

This cactus wren built its nest right next to the trail leading to the Natural Entrance.

Down, down, down!
This was only the beginning of a long, long drop into the earth!

Once inside my camera did not perform nearly as well as Hans' cell phone so these cave photos are courtesy of Hans.  There were many fabulous formations inside the cave and we were amazed by the enormous size of the rooms we walked through.

On our second full day we visited the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Carlsbad. This is a small New Mexico State Park that showcases the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert.

One of the more natural animal enclosures.

Mural in the new reptile building.

The Pecos River runs through the area though much of it is diverted to an irrigation canal. Near the center of Carlsbad river water is dammed to create Carlsbad Lake and nice walking trails line both sides of this oasis in the desert.

I wish I could have seen the little turtle make its way up to its lofty sunning spot!

Brantley Lake was a very peaceful place to spend three nights. There are not many trails in the park and the lake loop is no longer a loop due to the high water level, but walking the grounds mid-week was pretty and calm with those great long distance New Mexico views that often include lots of puffy white clouds.

This road used to go to the primitive camping must have been in the trees that are now water bound.

Next up: Roswell, NM.