Here goes my second attempt at writing this post, after draft #1 was wiped out by poor internet and poor saving skills on part.
After we headed out of Gila National Forest (still kicking myself for not taking a picture of that sky... it was "Dark Sky Country"!), we found the best green chile cheeseburger ever at the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, NM. The owner beat Bobby Flay in a burger cook-off on the TV show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. And damn, that might have been the tastiest burger either of us have ever had.
Bellies full, we shoved on. Only to stop an hour later when we rolled through the small town of Carrizozo, needing to wake ourselves up a bit. We found Roy's Ice Cream Parlour, an old-timey, soda fountain type place, and were beguiled with stories about the haunting building (it used to be a drug store and hospital). Following Sean's ice cream pit stop, we were back in the car and on our way to a Tularosa Winery to try some New Mexico wine (because at least we could say we've tried it!).
White Sands National Monument
The next day we were up bright and early to head to White Sands before it got too hot. White Sands spans 275 square miles, and is the largest gypsum dune in the world.
We unsuccessfully tried sledding in the dunes on borrowed sled, but we did see a white lizard. The unusually harsh environmental conditions present at White Sands National Monument have not prevented numerous animal species from adapting, surviving, even thriving there.
Fun fact: Only the top few inches of the gypsum dunes are made of loose sand. Rainwater falling on the dunes dissolves some of the gypsum and cements the sand grains together, creating a crude form of plaster of Paris. This makes the white sand dunes easy to walk on.
About 40 minutes from White Sands and shortly outside of Las Cruces, one of New Mexico's largest cities, is a small town called Mesilla. Two battles were fought at or in the town of Mesilla during the Civil War and it served as the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona (at one time Mesilla also held Billy the Kid in prison.) Today, it's a small pueblo-style town with small shops selling mostly Native American and southwestern wares. We picked up a really great Zapotec rug for Betina (the Zapotecs are considered master weavers, only behind the Navajo in the quality of their weavings).
After spending one more night in Alamogordo, we hit the road early in the morning to make get to Carlsbad in time to check out the National Park. Just 15 minutes outside of the desert, Lincoln National Forest is sprawling with trees and greenery. We stopped along the side of the road to capture just a few pictures on our way out of New Mexico.
This trip has been totally lighting up my inner eight year old, and this next stop was unbelievable. Carlsbad Caverns National Park sits in the Guadalupe Mountains in southwest New Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns includes a large cave chamber, the Big Room, where we spent our afternoon hiking around with A. The chamber is the fifth largest in North America at 4,000 feet long and 625 feet wide (255 feet high at its highest point). I could write a whole post on how amazing caves like this form, or I could just send you to this Wikipedia post instead.
Our afternoon trip to the Caverns helped us miss a severe thunderstorm rolling through South Western New Mexico. We ended our evening with some pre-birthday festivities for Sean, and got BBQ delivered to our campsite (luxury!).
I'll leave you with more Cavern pics, because caves are cool! Next stop: Marfa, Texas!