Day 107 – New Mexico’s Scenic South Part 2: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In yesterday’s post I left out some entertaining sights by mistake or they were at least entertaining sights to me after driving hours at a time. Little things go a long way. The highway paralleled a train track. As I passed by the trains I noticed most of the cars were tagged, I believe that is the new word for graffiti. I thought to myself, why wouldn’t the train company clean those cars, but then, it made it kind of interesting to look at all the cars as I passed the graffiti like art work.
A few minutes later I passed a poor man on a bicycle loaded downs with bags, on the handles, in the back, everywhere. He was going about three miles per hour – I think that is about as slow as a bicycle can go without tilting over. I hope he didn’t have to ride far on the side of the highway as vehicles sped by him and dogs chased him!
Petey and I started the day going to Smokey Bear Historical State Park. The country’s fire prevention symbol, Smokey Bear, comes from a cub that was discovered clinging to a tree during a forest fire in 1950. I thought the park would be larger with hiking trails, but it appeared to be gardens and dogs weren’t allowed. Had the gardens been blooming with flowers and dogs could provide fertilizer perhaps I would have considered the entry fee to see Smokey Bear’s grave, but I wanted to take Petey for a cool morning walk in a picturesque setting, so we turned west toward Valley of Fires.
I can’t say that I would call the Valley of Fires picturesque either, but Petey got to follow along on the ¾ mile loop that twisted through solidified lava flow. Cacti covered the lava tubes and caves. I kept an eye open for desert critters that live in the area, but didn’t cross their paths. The area is home to several geocaches, both physical and earth. I found two of the physical caches and one earth cache, so I can check New Mexico off the list! The morning sun was quite strong compared to what we had been used to and Petey was panting away, so we returned to VANilla to visit Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.
I think a few days ago in Big Bend was the first time I had seen a petroglyph. I was so excited just see the carvings on one small rock. Three Rivers is home to over 21,000 petrogplyphs! It was like an art studio. Everywhere I turned, I saw a petroglyph. By the end, I felt like they were a dime a dozen. Several types of symbols could be found here: a circle and dot motif, masks, animals, tracks, geometric designs, birds, and four-legged images. The area offered wonderful views of the Sacramento Mountains.
Our final stop of the day was at White Sands National Monument to watch the sunset. We arrived in late afternoon to see the dunes before the shadows and lights changed with the sun sinking behind the mountains. The views were lovely, but the best part of our time at the dunes was meeting Zoe and Alex. Alex was from Germany and over visiting Zoe who was running cross country from California to South Carolina. How cool is that? I peppered her with questions! She planned for six months before she left. She has places to stay almost everywhere, including couchsurfing members. She runs on average 25 miles per day, pushing a 60 pound stroller full of her gear including a tent and sleeping bag. Dogs came out and chased her the other day. I wondered to myself if she ran by the same area where the bicycler had to dodge the barking hounds. I put the link to her website on the left of my page in case anyone wants to support her. We chatted until dark when Petey and I left for Las Cruces to stay the night with Mike, a friend of my accountant!
Mike used to be an engineer in Dallas, built a fantastic house in Las Cruces, and has retired here. He came back early from his model train meeting just to host me, a complete stranger. We enjoyed a lovely chat before I turned in for the evening. ETB