Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Mexico: Land of Enchantment, Indeed!

It's heeeerrre .... our first eastward-roving trip since summer 2013!  The Lucky Charm's "Spring Adventure 2018" will take us 3,639 miles over seven weeks, with destinations in New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma ... come along for the ride!



New Mexico is called the "Land of Enchantment," and enchantment is indeed around every corner.  Within a few days and a few hundred miles, we had sledded down pure white sand dunes, explored a cave by candlelight lantern, devoured a huge steak in a delapidated dive restaurant, visited one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in the US, and seen the World's Largest Pistachio Nut!  (What?!  The World's Largest Pistachio Nut isn't on YOUR bucket list?)

At White Sands National Monument, the world's largest gypsum dunefield, its 275 square miles of endless cool white sand provide recreational opportunities like no other!  The white sands blended into the white clouds such that you could hardly see the delineation between land and sky.  


You can .... bicycle on the 16-mile packed gypsum loop road
(recommendation: beware the sudden sandblast facial)


You can ... hike with your furry friend -- shoes optional (sand is cool and soft!)
(recommendation: take a dog that is any color OTHER than white)


 You can ... sled down the dunes
(recommendation: remember that what goes down, must then climb back up -- pant, pant)




(secondary recommendation:  wax it up baby -- lube is very very important)


You can ... have a picnic with friends
(recommendation: swivel your picnic shelter to block any blowing sand)

 

You can ... admire the expansive beauty, both far and near, which Mother Nature has provided!
(recommendation:  you really gotta see this place!)



Lastly, you can ... ponder why June through January are the only good months for alcoholics to visit.
(And if you figure out the answer, please let us know.)


White Sands National Monument was a blast ... a "sand-blast" to be exact!


At Deming, the not-to-be-believed Adobe Deli serves up luscious steak dinners behind the walls of the most nondescript exterior ever.  Would you think to stop if you saw this place?


And yet, step around the rusty windmill, through the chain-link fence, and take a left at the huge elk statue, to enter the Adobe Deli (which isn't a deli) for a unique dining experience.



You could spend a day, a week, maybe even a full month exploring all the dusty corners and wandering passages and unique decor in this place.  Unique, indeed!






At Las Cruces, the old-Mexico feel of Old Mesilla Village is full of quiet delights,
including the beautiful Basilica of San Albino.


The Plaza was the site of the consummation of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 by the raising of the US flag.  At the courthouse on the corner of this plaza, Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang in 1881.  /end history lesson/


Shops surround the plaza today, with many beautiful trinkets and treasures to choose from.


Also on the plaza, La Posta de Mesilla, set in an 18th century stagecoach station, was named one of the Top Ten Mexican Restaurants in the U.S. and has been in continuous operation since 1939.

 


At Alamagordo, McGinn's Pistachioland Farm highlights the 30-foot-tall "World's Largest Pistachio Nut" and working-farm tours of its 111 acres teach visitors all about the wonders of pistachios!


The W.L.Pistachio was erected in memory of the founder of Pistachioland, and is made of steel, concrete, and many multiple coats of paint.


On the tour, besides confirming that Philip is a nut, we learned that pistachios are NOT nuts ... they are actually the seeds of fruit trees!  So when you are eating a pistachio, you are eating a seed.  Who knew?!


PistachioLand has over 11,000 trees, currently in off-season but still beautiful.
To keep birds away (one bird could clear an entire tree in an hour or two), they play a looping audio soundtrack of bird sounds that (if you're a bird) sound like genocide.  So, birds hear what sounds like mass mutilation of their species down below, and stay away.  



Finally, at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, we took a spooky candlelight-lantern tour back into the depth of one of the cave fingers ... the "Left Hand Tunnel" on the map below (one of 119 caves and counting at CCNP).


We've visited lots of other caves, including Kartchner Caverns in southern Arizona, and even slept overnight in the Grand Canyon Caverns cave as the sole occupant 200 feet underground.  (Sadly, they no longer let people sleep there overnight, having turned it into a restaurant.)  So we know a lot of things about caves, but had never explored one by candlelight lantern!



These pictures are blurry because it was DARK down there!
But it was super-cool to experience the cave just like the very first rancher to stumble upon it .... quietly and without laser pointers and LED uplighting and handrails.



Carlsbad Caverns is known for its bat colonies ... hundreds of thousands of bats who alight from the caverns every night at sunset to fly to the nearby rivers and gorge themselves on insect dinners.  They are still in hibernation now (until mid-April) but there was plenty of "guano" (bat poop) evidence of their existence throughout the cave.  Also, all the amazing cave formations we love!




At one point, the ranger had us all blow out our lanterns and stand silent for a full minute to really experience the deep, dark quiet of being 750 feet underground!


We also did the self-guided trail through the "Big Room" of Carlsbad Caverns,
which was truly spectacular, but much less personal of an experience than the lantern hike.
Still, these are the formations people come from around the world to see!




Alas, our visit had to end, and it ended with a ranger coming and yelling at me for climbing on their sign.  Oh, well ... you can't please everyone!


Our New Mexico enchantment tour was brief, but we'll be back into northern New Mexico on our way back home in about six weeks.  Next up, we're going into Texas ... Austin, Galveston Island, and the Houston Space Center!  The Lucky Charm continues eastward.  Tally Ho!