You may have noticed a bit of a change to my blog. I changed themes mostly due to the tiny text size I was forced to use. There was no way for me to increase the size, so I chucked the old theme and added this new one. It’s a little cleaner I think and easier to read. There will be a few other changes soon, but mostly just cosmetic.
We had originally planned to drive from Globe, AZ and stay in Silver City, NM for several days to escape the heat of the lower elevations. We arrived in Silver City RV Park late afternoon on Thursday after another long 250 mile drive, and discovered it still was hot, but not as bad, and the higher elevation meant much cooler nights at least. Watching the weather reports though, it became clear that some major monsoon moisture was headed up from Mexico and promised to cool and dampen much of southern New Mexico. Since our main destination for the first part of this trip is White Sands, we decided perhaps we should head down there now to take advantage of the relatively cooler (mid 80’s) weather. White Sands is at around 4,200’ and can seem much hotter when walking out on the dunes. It might also be cool to watch some lightning storms as they pass through. But it did mean more driving – another 190 miles – but once there, we will stick for 5-7 days.Before leaving Silver City however, we decided a morning stroll through the old downtown might be interesting. First we walked along the Big Ditch. This was originally the main street of Silver City, but in 1895, after a huge cloudburst, a 12 ft. high, 300 ft. wide wall of water came barreling down main street, taking it out. When it happened again 10 years later – this time scouring down to bedrock, the town decided to just let it be and made a park out of it. Today it is a tree-lined 50 ft. deep ditch, and has a bit of a stream flowing through it. It really is not much to look at, but it does make for a nice shady stroll. The old downtown is much like countless others in these small western towns – lots of abandoned historical buildings. Here, however, they’ve done a nice job of restoration and moved lots of arts and crafts, and government offices in. There are 2 movie houses that no longer show movies. One is vacant, the other a barbershop. We walked along the street photographing the various buildings and storefronts before heading back to the RV park. Mary had spied a fresh mini-donut making machine in the office of the RV park, and you can guess what we had for breakfast – along with a peach.Then it was back on the road again. The drive was simple. Pretty much point south and drive. These New Mexicans seem to believe in really straight roads that go on forever. We eventually hit Interstate 10, and then Highway 70 into Alamogordo. As we drove and the day progressed, we watched the thunder clouds increase. We pulled into Oliver Lee Memorial State Park nestled up against the Sacramento Mountains. We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves right about now. It was still hot – and windy – but the approaching clouds would be changing that soon.
When we pulled into Oliver Lee, we were the only ones in the 44 space campground. 33 of the sites have electricity and water and some even have small shelters. Free hot shower are available in the restrooms. We took one of the sheltered sites and immediately turned on the air conditioner. I don’t think we’ve ever use it so much in one trip before, but it is SO nice to have right now. Later, another couple showed up. Of course they decided to camp right across the road from us. Oh well, they are quiet and it looks like they are just here for the day.After getting set up, it was happy hour time. We set up the chairs in front of our panoramic view of the valley, and watched as the thunder clouds gathered, began dropping rain, and throwing lightning off in the distance. After dinner, we stepped out again to watch the ever increasing thunder and lightning. It was a spectacular light show. Up until this point, we had seen no rain come our way. That changed quickly. One minute it was dry, the next it was pouring. It didn’t really stop all night. It was a light rain most of the night, but steady. Most of the lightning had stopped by now (9 PM), but there were still occasional flashes and distant thunder till the early hours. Friday morning and the rain has stopped. We are left with low clouds, but they seem to be clearing. It is deliciously cool and wet – though drying fast. We thought we would go out to White Sands National Monument this morning, but decided we had earned a day of not moving much. While cooler, it is still quite warm and looking out toward the dunes, we could see they were in full sun. But it was a good day of rest for us. Turns out last evenings’ rain was enough to close the road into White Sands. Our neighbor relayed that info to us. In addition, the visitor center’s gift shop had buckets all over the place catching the rain leaking through the ceiling. We’d made the right choice to stay put.You might think that the travel gods might punish us for being so lazy all day, but in the evening after dinner, we were treated to a really beautiful sunset – rainbow and all. We could see distant rain showers slowly pass across the desert floor, and the lowering sun cast warm colored light over the ballooning thunderheads. We wanted to just enjoy our last glasses of wine watching the sunset, but were compelled to pull out the cameras and click away. It was worth it I think. September 6This morning we got out early and headed for the dunes. The only inconvenience to Oliver Lee State Park is that it is 34 miles from the park. We’ve stayed in town at RV parks much closer to the park on previous visits, but Oliver Lee is so much nicer we are OK with the drive. If we could drive as the crow flies, we could easily cut 20 or so miles off the distance. Instead, we have to drive toward town for 16 miles, turn left almost 180˚and drive 18 miles to the park. Secondly there are relatively few really high dunes, so the extreme exertion required to traverse the highs and lows is very limited. Oh, and one little side note: the dunes are not really white. They have a slight tan tint to them. The extreme reflectance creates the illusion of white. Seeing the dunes wet confirms this, but we also had the chance to see them covered in snow many years ago after a brief flurry, and could clearly see the tan color next to the snow. We had a nice light partial cloud cover to begin with, but that was gone about an hour into the hike. It was much cooler today (mid 70’s at this point) and there was a nice cool breeze. I was a little worried this breeze would turn into a raging windstorm – that happens often here – butt that never came to pass. Instead the breeze was just enough to keep us cool. Each time we crested a dune ridge, we were greeted with a welcomed coolness. It was an exceptional hike – at least 3/4 of it anyway. Towards the end, the temps were up and the breeze was down. Mary had turned what I call “Mary Red” which only happens when she is overly hot. I could see the strain on her and was relieved our hike was so close to the end.