Moonlit Dune Walk

Sunday, September 7
2238_tresselWe weren’t up for more hiking after the hot Saturday venture into the dunes, so we hung around the campground for the morning. All the promises of rain were not coming to pass in our particular area – plenty of clouds, but no rain – and it was too hot, and now humid, to do much else. We decided to do a little drive up to Cloudcroft – a small community in the mountains at around 8000 ft. If nothing else, it would be cooler up there. Well, we found the rain. All the clouds that had been clinging to the mountains behind us we dropping moisture in the higher elevations. It wasn’t a lot, but it was nice to feel the cool wetness on our faces. Really, the highlight of the day was dinner. Mary fixed a great potato salad with kielbasa, and we opened one of our nice Tobin James wines we’d picked up with the gift certificate friends Mary & Rick had given us before we left.

Monday, September 82246_campViewAnother warm day in the making. We were up and out early for a hike up a portion of the Dog Canyon Trail that leaves from Oliver Lee State Park. All of the recent monsoon rains have really made the area feel as lush as a desert can feel. The Ocotillo is all full leafy green – some even blooming, and there many more wildflowers than I would have ever expected. The portion of the trail we did rises moderately for about 1/2 a mile before leveling off onto the first bench. We hiked along here for another mile or so, but decided to turn back when we reached the next rise to bench 2.
and there many more wildflowers than I would have ever expected. The portion of the trail we did rises moderately for about 1/2 a mile before leveling off onto the first bench. We hiked along here for another mile or so, but decided to turn back when we reached the next rise to bench 2.2250_ocotillo2253_MaryTrail 2258_agave 2260_TrailViewBefore we started out, I noticed a group of about 8 young men who had gotten out before us. They were zipping up the cliff like no one’s business. I didn’t think we’d see them again. but on our way down, a couple actually passed us by. There was no way they could have gone all the way (5 miles and 3000 ft), so I asked one how far they’d gone. Perhaps it was my commanding presence, or maybe it was the camo SF Giants hat I was wearing, but his reply contained the word “Sir”. As in “About 2.5 miles Sir”. It is more likely they were military and have that sort of lingo embedded in their heads.2276_MoonDuneHike1We stayed in camp the rest of the afternoon until around 3:30. Tonight is supposed to be another “Super Moon” and we wanted to see it rise over the dunes at White Sands. Normally the park closes about an hour after sunset, but because of the full moon, they had extended the hours to 10 PM. We headed into Alamogordo to pick-up some take out from the Keep on Smoking Barbecue and headed for the dunes.2282_MoonDuneHike2 2287_MoonDuneHike3 2294_MoonDuneHike4Even at 5:30 it was still very hot. We ate our delightful dinner at one of the picnic shelters and dithered a bit about when we should start walking. Mary was inclined to wait a while, but I wanted to get out there sooner. We started out around 6 PM on the same dune trail we’d done on Saturday. I am really glad we went so early after the rains that day. The dunes were pristine like with no footprints except the one’s we left. Today however was a different story. The calm weather wasn’t wiping the dunes clear of the daily foot traffic and they were simply covered with the marks of other peoples’ trails. This made making photographs a little more challenging. But the area is so vast that good compositions were still possible with just a little extra effort (and a very long lens).2306_MoonDuneHike5 2312_MoonDuneHike6 2321_MoonDuneHike7It was still quite hot, but cooling nicely now that the sun was about to set. Once it did, the air became very still and absolutely wonderful. We hiked out about a 1/4 mile photographing and looking for a good place to set up for moonrise. We were treated to a subtle but lovely scene once the moon began to rise. We could see people scattered all around the dunes enjoying the same scene. Heading back to the car, we watched the last light on the thunderheads blossoming in the distance. We zoomed home with the moonroof wide open and reveled the nice cool air. Back in camp, we finished off with 15 yr old Glenlevit whiskey. Another fine day.2322_MoonDuneHike8 2331_MoonDuneHike92341_MoonDuneHike102348_MoonDuneHike11 2357_MoonDuneHike12Tuesday, September 9
2410_COR11On Tuesday, we began our drive back to Silver City, but before that we decided to stop for a couple of days at City of Rocks. We wanted to check it out for the first time and the elevation is a little higher than White Sands, so we figured why not? It has really lived up to expectations. Of the 10 electric sites there, 4 were available and we ended up taking Pluto – yes, they name the sites after planets and star clusters. Having power is once again proving very helpful, though I would rather pay less for the non-electric, the $14 per night charge is well worth it. It was a long drive again, but once here, we had our happy hour in the now pleasantly cool air watching another great sunset over the wide open desert.2364_COR12390_COR6In the morning we were up fairly early and exploring the jumble of rocks that is The City. Mary had spoken with the camp host and found out there were petroglyphs and pictographs located at various campsites. We went in search of them. Most were not anything special, but we did find a couple of depictions of Kokopelli that were quite special. Most of the time, the pictographs could only loosely be described as a depiction of the fluted trickster, but the two we found here were classic and in great shape. One was located in a small hole in one of the large boulders. It was hidden by a small rock you had to remove to view it. It was about at eye level and perfectly formed. The other was located high at the tip of a rock in another campground. This one was again in the classic pose, but this time, the legs were squiggly. Never seen that before. We walked around again later in the day, and I photographed the pictographs when the light was better.

Dedicated to friends D & D.

Dedicated to friends D & D.

2398_COR82396_COR72363_vultureWe really didn’t need to move around much to see the wildlife. Just in our campground alone, we’ve seen woodpeckers, quail, buzzards, hawks and several other birds we haven’t been able to positively identify. The ground squirrels have been quite amusing as well, climbing up the long yucca stalks to munch on seed pods. There have also been cottontails, plenty of lizards, but thankfully not rattlers.2367_COR2 2369_COR3 2380_COR4 2401_COR9 2407_COR10

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