Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dry. Dry. Dry.

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had to reroute. Our original plan was to go north through Carlsbad, then west at Artesia, spending the night at Cloudcroft, NM, continuing the next day to Ruidoso. While talking with the park ranger at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, we learned that there was a fire at Mayhill, AZ and the road from Artesia to Cloudcroft was closed.

Instead, we were directed to go north to Roswell and then swing west, and southwest, to approach Cloudcroft from a different direction. That route took us through Ruidoso, a stop on our itinerary where I hoped we would spend three nights while my husband got in some trout fishing. So we figured it wasn't too big a deal ... just reverse where we stayed first.

On the way we took a short detour through Lincoln and Capitan, NM. In Capitan we visited the Smokey Bear Historical Park. It was in this area that a cub was found after a forest fire, clinging to a tree, burned and dehydrated, weighing only 5 lbs. It was cared for and became the live symbol for Smokey the Bear. Smokey lived most of his life at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. but when he died, he was brought back to Capitan and buried there. The historical park has a very nice boardwalk through a garden which displays the flora at various elevations in the Sacramento Mountains and, at the end of the walk, is Smokey's grave.

Finally we arrive in Ruidoso and it was nothing like I thought it would be. I envisioned a sleepy little town in the mountains. Instead, it is quite artsy, with lots of galleries, gift shops and restaurants. And no mountain streams filled with trout. The area was in a severe drought situation and the streams were dry. Not being the quiet laid back town I expected, and with no chance to do any fishing, we decided to move on to Cloudcroft.

Cloudcroft IS the sleepy little town Ruidoso was not. We stopped at Spruce Cabins and, after checking out an available cabin, booked it for two nights. We had a delightful relaxed time there but travel within the surrounding Lincoln National Forest was limited. Many roads into the forest were closed due to the extreme fire hazard.

We spent one morning visiting the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, about 15 miles from Cloudcroft but on a narrow windy mountain road that took us about 45 minutes to travel but with absolutely fantastic views, all the way out to White Sands National Park. (Click on photo below for a clear image.)



The observatory has an excellent display, explaining sun research, including several hands-on exhibits. A short self-tour walk around the area brought us past 4 telescopes, with visitors allowed in two of the buildings to view the actual telescope. We were glad the walk was short as we were at 9200 feet and we were both feeling the altitude.

We then returned to Cloudcroft, coasting down that narrow mountain road. We spent the rest of our day just relaxing and enjoying the Adirondack chairs outside our comfortable cabin. It was a great opportunity to recharge ourselves.

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