Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Not Quite a White Christmas

If  you guessed where we were in our last post, I'm sure you expected it was somewhere that had experienced an unexpected snowstorm. Adults and children were bundled in winter clothes and enjoying the hills on their neon coloured "flying saucers". Even Dixie was fooled and snuffled, rolled and even took a small mouthful of what she thought was snow. In fact, we were at The White Sands National Monument in New Mexico where 275 square miles of white gypsum dunes boggle the mind. It was quite cold and windy, about 40 degrees F. Thus,it felt like winter and looked like snow. The sun lights up the gypsum crystals and casts dramatic blue shadows as it does on snow. There was even the peaceful silence on the dunes that one experiences while crossing a winter landscape.

The dunes were formed when a shallow sea covered the area about 250 million years ago. They are surrounded by the San Andres, Sacramento and Sierra Blanca Mountain ranges. A road takes tourists eight miles into the dunes, with many turn-offs and parking lots allowing for hiking anywhere. Without following the markers, it would be easy to get lost as there are not any particular features delineating one dune from the next. We have visited many lake and seaside dunes but usually they are partially covered by foliage to prevent erosion. It was really awesome to see miles of sparkling sand dunes stretching out towards the distant mountains.

We spotted an antelope grazing in the brush on our way home. Too late to see the museum, we stopped at the White Sands Missile Range. A number of missiles ranging in size and age were displayed outside and we explored until we were too cold. The sun reaching through the mountains provided a dramatic background for the objects of war.

 A funny thing happened to Caron on the way to the missile range....

After I recovered from the missile malfunction we spent three nights at the pleasant Rusty's RV Park near Rodeo, New Mexico. Our campsite was in secluded corner of the park beside the desert with a gorgeous view out to the mountains. It was private and quiet for our relaxing days and hikes. Just the way we like it. There was a mile long hiking trail in the park and a pond where ducks and geese played "let's not get eaten by the coyotes"

The Chirichaua Desert Museum was a real gem with exhibits of everything related to reptiles. There were some great posters, packaging, products and postcards that featured snakes, turtles, lizards and alligators. The walls were filled with exquisite paintings by local artist Tell Hicks. Skulls and skeletons were beautifully displayed as were a variety of reptile-themed sculptures. There were live turtles and a huge variety of local snakes on view. Chris captured a video of a rattler who decided that we were a threat and put on quite a display with loud acoustics. All the snakes are so camouflaged in their environments it is not surprising that sightings are rare. The museum owner has been a passionate reptile lover since his youth and travels the world to observe different species. He knew Steve Erwin and had a display of "The Crocodile Hunter" children's games and memorabilia. The gift shop was filled with an amazing book and art collection and fine crafted goods. To underline our desert location, we found a tumbleweed stuck under the car in the museum parking lot!

We took a vigorous hike up Cave Creek Trail towards "The Fingers" outcroppings in the Chiricahua Mountains. The rocks were ochre, green, orange and brick. There were many toppled Yuccas that only live one year and lots of prickly pear cactus among the rocky pathways.
The cold crazy winds blew in some threatening clouds and before it got dark that night,we could see some precipitation falling in sheets around the mountains. We celebrated New Year's arrival via London TV where we heard Big Ben and the fireworks over skype with Marilyn and Mike in England. Happy New Year!!!!

We headed into 2013 in cold and snow. The mountains were snow covered over night and the sun shining across them was beautiful. As we headed into Arizona, we got into deeper snow and actually had slush on the roads. It was strange seeing cactus piled with snow. A travelling day we headed south around the chirichaua range to a town called Douglas which is a Mexico border town the mountain town. Then north again through Bisbee, which at 6000' had received 6 inches of the white stuff and the ploughs were out clearing. After our scenic snowy drive, we settled in at the Tombstone Territories RV Resort for 9 nights. Tomorrow we are leaving for Quartzite or Darby Wells to do some boondockin'... yippee-ki-ya.


  1. ok, i'll ask....why was it 40o?..unusual weather? oor is it high elevation?..or the sand holds no heat?...ahh, i kin hear chris sighing at me now :)
    ...FAB photos!!..stunning...are you still doing dressings on yer nasty 'waist' missle trauma?

  2. it has been unusually cold everywhere this year!
    We went through 37 tubes of super glue putting me back together!