A neighbor at El Pais Motel in Tucson made a point of mentioning how much she’d loved visiting White Sands, New Mexico, so before commencing the next leg of my eastward journey on the morning of the 23rd I hastily looked up a campground for the evening in the White-Sands-adjacent Organ Mountains.
Just as I lucked out with my hasty-and-largely-uninformed selection of La Luz Trail as my pre-Albuquerque hike, I lucked out this time by haphazardly selecting just about the beautiful mountain campground I could imagine (Aguirre Springs). And I have to say, reviewing the photos I took at the site has been one of the more disappointing parts of this trip retrospective for me [laugh/cry emoji].
I don’t even say that to be annoyingly self-deprecating, I just know the site was far lovelier than I captured in my photos… Perhaps there’s something positive to be garnered from the realization that there are some places you really just have to see in person. I did get a decent sunset time lapse, which I paired with one of the favorites night-sky lapses I’ve gotten. And having been prepped in windy-tent-setup the night before in Tucson, with the help of some heavy stones I had an easier time getting my tent up on the equally windy mountain.
The next morning I packed up and set my GPS for White Sands National Monument! But something weird happened… it took me as far as the missile range, then completely diverted me, citing a road block. Everything about what was happening felt wrong, and it was: I got deposited at an empty hotel parking lot serving as basecamp for an overpass construction site, in the complete opposite direction of actual White Sands. I was too far gone to consider turning back.
If this story sounds familiar, it is (almost went to Painted Desert, almost went to Meteor Crater, almost went to Saguaro National Park)… but it also doesn’t end there! My next stop, as suggested in my Road Trip USA guidebook, was Hueco Tanks, a prehistoric site just across the Texas border and not far off my route to Marfa. The line of cars leading up to the entrance didn’t bode well, and soon enough a ranger came by to explain the situation: because of COVID, they were only allowing five cars in at a time, after which visitors would exit their cars to explore the site. Except good ol’ Ollie pup was growling and barking at the ranger the whole time, and he told me that while dogs are allowed, people are discouraged from bringing aggressive pets [smile/sweat emoji]. So for the fifth time on the trip, we were thwarted from seeing an intended attraction.
From there, on the heels of my second pass through New Mexico, I continued my third pass through Texas on the trip. More dust, more desolation, but this time with jagged peaks in the distance. Got some photos in the old town of Sierra Blanca along the way.