Monday, August 27, 2007

(12) pt 1, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Lincoln Forest

(Part 1)
Las Cruces NM
Lincoln Forest (Three Rivers)

Before leaving El Paso, I read in their local paper that unemployment was around 22% and the high school drop out rate was a horrid 40%. Hard to believe when you take a surface look around the city.

I headed out early this morning, getting on the road about 8 am and hitting rush hour traffic through El Paso. Slow going, but not stressful towing the camper, as it’s easier to drive at 20 mph in heavy traffic rather than going 55 or 65 mph through heavy traffic. Besides, I leave myself tons of room in front of me for stress free stops and slowdowns. Of course, once I was out of the city, the traffic let up quickly. And you all know the routine, more stress, greater chance of shortening your life.

So I head towards Las Cruces to have work done on my Atwood water heater. It runs on either gas or electric and neither was working. A great Rv shop, S&H Rv Super Center was able to get me in right away. After replacing a couple thermostats and fuses they were able to get the gas working. They have to order the electric heating element, so I’m doing a tour around the area for a week.

I’ll tour more of Las Cruces on my return, but today I head out over a mountain range into the White Sands Missile Range. You know, it’s home to the “Trinity” site where the first nuclear bomb was set off. The government owns pretty much the entire valley that White Sands encompasses. I can see many of the military buildings dotted across the vast desert region and occasionally see a sleek black military plane flying overhead.

I’m over city’s and towns for now, so I head towards the Lincoln National Forest and the Three Rivers campground. What an awesome site! It’s about 30 miles north of Alamogordo and is tucked in the Sacramento Mts. and the Sierra Blanca Peak rising to an elevation of 11,977 feet. The road leading in passes the Three Rivers Petroglyph Trail finally leading to an unpaved 5 miles of forest road to the campsites at the base of the mountains, but still about a 5,000 ft level. By the way campers, the gravel/dirt road leading into Three Rivers campsite is very well maintained.

The camp host, (John), one tent camper and I are the only ones in the area. Surprisingly, I have cell phone service and Internet service. I’m getting very comfortable with the solar panels. To tell the truth, I can’t tell the difference between being plugged-in or unplugged. I’m able to use as much power as I want to without the feeling that I need to conserve “battery power”. Of course I camp only at locations/elevations that are comfortable and wouldn’t require the need for A/C. I wonder if my friends Betty and Dave take their motor home out to primitive campsites? For me, it’s such a treat to be off the grid and away from civilization.

Feeling the cool mountain air this morning, the scent of cedar and pinion pines after last nights rain, a treat for this dry region. I plan on going on a hike up the mountain range. It’s a 6 mile strenuous hike, but I’m only going to go as far as Billy the Kids former hang-out. Where he hid from the law. Oh, and my buddy, cowboy Walt, would love being out here. Almost every campground, BLM, forest and rest stop I’ve come across has corrals for horses. If I stay out here much longer, I’m going to have to learn how to ride a horse.

But for now, I’m getting in my hiking. I bought a new pair of rugged hiking boots as well. They are high enough to protect my ankles from possible injury. A must in these rugged rocky trails. I drove over to the Petroglyph site. Taking advantage of my Park Pass ($80). The site is home to over 20,000 Petroglyphs. Now that’s a lot. If you’ve been following my travels, you know two years ago I saw quiet a few petro’s in NM and Utah. This site has some very unique Petroglyphs Many faces, animals, geometric patterns and bird-men. They were created by a group called Jornada Mogollon tribe and there are no known living descendants. Imagine, a whole culture, disappearing into time. Leaving only markings on rocks to remember them by.

On the way back to the campsite, I stop at a chapel built in 1912. It’s very Spanish/Mexican and I say a prayer for peace and loved ones who have passed on in this charming farmers chapel.
After jotting down these notes, I put on my hiking boots and head for the mountain range. The sun is out, but it’s still cool. Good for hiking. The path leads me to the mountain fed stream and I was glad my hiking boots are waterproof, since I had to hop across a couple of boulders, splashing in the cool mountain stream to get to the other side. The stream is running high with the rain we had last night.

The path continues rising through the forest, with the trees becoming larger as I ascended the mountain. It’s a great path, following a natural water shed that runs parallel to the stream. I hiked about a mile up hill and came across many primitive camping sites. Thinking of my friend David L who loves to camp out in rugged country like this. Campfire pits surrounded by large rocks, each site nestled in pine nettles and surrounded by evergreens. I came across an ideal campsite along the stream, huge boulders along side the rushing water, the pine trees reaching for the sky against the sides of the mountain. And there in the wilderness was a well built angular wall, once used to hold back the stream and diverting it to a control gate which led to miles of diversion channels and pipes, bringing the water to the new trains heading west and eventually bringing water to over 500 homes in the area. It was built back in the late 1800’s.

I eventually circled back and noticed that dark clouds were once again forming over the mountain range. I met up with John and his girl friend back at the camp host site. Nice couple, in their late 30’s. We talked about the area and how Billy the Kid used to hide out in these parts. How he has found many smudge pots in the area, as this had become great apple and pear orchard country back in the late 1800’s and early 1900 era. He said he’s come across some trees that are a mix of the two, apple/pear trees. How being so close to White Sands, that there are still people who have illnesses caused from the first Atomic bomb going off here. And how he and his parents have seen UFO’s over the years. He said until you’ve seen one, he wouldn’t expect anyone to believe. But he’s seen them. Interesting stuff.

I’m heading out tomorrow, but I’ll miss this place. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you! After a brief but blustery rain this afternoon, I looked out the picture window of my camper, up at Sierra Blanca Peak and was amazed to see the summit covered in snow! Wow. Who would have guessed. Yesterday I saw a rainbow and today I see snow. Life is good.

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