My cousin Karen flew out from Chicago on Wednesday. During our 50 or so hours together, we will have covered about 600 miles and enjoyed some of my favorite places in SoNewMex: the Rio “Petito,” The Lodge in Cloudcroft and White Sands National Monument.
Visitors have mentioned White Sands should be listed as one of the natural wonders of the world. Karen agreed. It’s 275-square-miles of the finest sand, which is made of gypsum crystals blown and tumbled over 45 miles from the dried up Lake Lucero. The dunes are thought to be only a few thousand years old, were the back yard to the Apache Indians and now a national park used for hiking, picnicking and even sledding.
Since I am in the process of selling my house and leaving New Mexico – oh, did I mention I’m moving back to the land of lush, east of the Mississippi? – it was a treat for me to share with Karen one of the local wonders. White Sands is in the Tularosa Basin, just over the St. Agustin Pass from Las Cruces. In addition to the natural beauty of the basin, surrounded by three mountain rangers, that part of the desert is home to White Sands Missile Range Headquarters. But I’d rather stick to the natural wonders than talk about military installations.
From the monument it’s only another 40 minutes or less to Cloudcroft. I love that we can be in the Las Cruces desert at 9, drive across the Basin to walk on the dunes, and be in the mountains for lunch.
Cloudcroft was hoppin’ yesterday and there was a line of hungry folks waiting to get into the bar-grill on main street, so I made a quick U-turn and headed up to The Lodge. It’s a turn-of-the-century inn and home to the ghostly chambermaid, Rebecca. Karen said her talapia was perfect. I’m trying to enjoy as much Mexican food as I can before I leave later this month so I ordered the Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla. And we shared a hot apple cobbler. Oh my.
I’m happy Karen wanted to come out one more time before I leave town. Her desire to see White Sands allowed me to implant some fresh memories of places that have come to love, and hope to see again.
BTW, the Rio “Petito” is my name for the Rio Grande as is passes through our Mesilla Valley en route to El Paso. It’s – I don’t know – maybe a hundred yards across and only a few feet deep. It’s the major feeder for the local farm irrigation system and it’s, well, turned off in the winter. I’ve seen people playing football in the dried river bed. It doesn’t seem to be that “grand” to me. But then people here think Lake Michigan is just a lake.