During the 2015 holidays, I got to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Alamogordo, New Mexico. White Sands is just outside of Alamogordo and is part of the National Park system. When I was a very young girl, I remember visiting White Sands Missile Range-not even sure you can do that now. I think it morphed into a National Park. I also got to visit White Sands with my daughter and son-in-law a couple of years ago. Today though was kind of special, because I was visiting White Sands with my daughter’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law. As the two mothers, we get along very well, over wine, of course. All kidding aside, we do get along very well. It was a comment that Lisa made that summed up this trip to White Sands. Even though it was cold and snowing on the mountain, White Sands was actually pretty nice with the sun peaking between and around the clouds. As I was stopping and starting again, taking all kinds of pictures, Lisa said, “it is so quiet and calming”. Lisa was so right! That is exactly the feeling I had-not a care in the world or anything on my mind at the time. Take a look below for some of the calm we saw on this trip.
I went to visit my daughter in New Mexico this summer and our adventures took us to Carlsbad Caverns for the day. Now simply making it a day trip eliminated one possibility-the bat flight which happens at night. Maybe another time. I supposedly was to Carlsbad Caverns when I was about 5 years old, but I don’t really remember it. So this was an opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter. If you plan on taking any of the really special tours, be sure to check out the website ahead of time and make your reservations. We got what we wanted, though.
I had checked ahead of time, so I wore my socks and closed toe tennis shoes, grabbed a jacket and took a bottle of water-as well as the camera and phone for pictures. Once you check in at the top (I was surprised that we actually drove up on top to go down), then you have a choice. You can either walk down through the natural entrance or take the elevator. Coming back out, you have the same choice. Since there was absolutely no way I would be walking out the 1.2 miles, I knew we would be going down when we entered. The average cave temperature is in the 50’s and we didn’t get down far, before we left the desert southwest heat behind. I had also seen somewhere that it is up to a 20% grade in places when you are walking down. We also chose to take one of the talking wands that would give us specific information at certain spots throughout the adventure. So down and down and down we went, getting cooler and cooler with every traverse of the walkway. It also got humid feeling quickly, but it wasn’t uncomfortable and I actually never did put my jacket on.
The ever changing scenery in the cave was amazing. We also occasionally would come upon locked entrances to some of those other longer tours that we would not be taking. We also passed several of the park rangers walking out as we descended further down into the cave. I finally asked one of the rangers if they were required to walk up. She shared with me that yes, they were required to walk out and police, clean up as they went. Since I had already decided to get back into photography, and had heard that pictures were better without a flash.
I was ready. I was so pleased that the smart phone automatically does so much when it comes to pictures. I didn’t even need to adjust anything, it automatically did it for me. The pictures came out great I thought. It would be fun to compare them to the guy who had the really expensive camera and was using a tripod to take pictures. I have found after this summer’s trips, that my smart phone actually captures great pictures without my messing with it. It also does better than my digital camera, which takes longer to “capture” it when on the smart setting. What a difference a couple of years makes, when it comes to technology.
Once we were down to the main cave, it was 1.25 miles to walk all the way around it. There was a lot more to see than I thought there would be. The ever changing different things to see included, stalagmites, stalagmites, draperies and many more. There wasn’t much water down there, but we learned there was a reason for that. If I remember right, part of it is because the visitor’s center and parking lot sit on top of it, so there aren’t as many ways for water to get down there. I was very intrigued with how they got all of the lighting done in the cave sections. Most of it wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist, but there were places that I know someone dangling from a very long rope was installing lighting elements.
It truly was wonderous, and both my daughter and I enjoyed our time there. I would definitely go back again, if other family members wanted to do the trip. It did involve about 3 hours of driving to go and return to where my daughter lives. I do have one piece of advice for that hike down though. Trim any long toenails before you put on your socks and shoes. The grade was steep enough and my toes kept pushing into the toe part of my shoes with a lot of pressure. By the time I got to the bottom, my toes were very sore. A month and half later, I still have little black bruise lines going across my toenails. That really is the only negative from the trip. Thunderstorms were intermittent while we were on the road, so the less exciting landscapes were transformed into more memorable sequences, including torrential downpour.
On my first trip down to Alamogordo, we drove past the VLA or Very Large Array on Highway 60 west of Socorro, New Mexico. I saw this on the map and immediately related it to the movie “Contact” starring Jodie Foster. I could relates to that-after all my husband had worked on a project at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico around the time of the release of that movie. So I am all excited and can’t wait to see it. Of course the sun is setting and the moon is not exactly bright that night. As a matter of fact the moon is a very thin one and it is dark out there. This can happen when you are out in the middle of nowhere and there are some clouds too! So when we reach the little pull out spot that is labeled VLA, we can see exactly 1 (one) and only 1 dish right next to the road. So much for trying to reproduce the really neat picture of all of the dishes lined up from the movie. On that extremely quick trip to Alamogordo, I flew home. As a result, I did not get to go past the VLA again. For those of you traveling to Alamogordo-unless you plan to drive, the nearest major airport is in El Paso, Texas.
Now, I am a very adventurous sort, so I have made that trip in a car several times. I am talking 12 hours each way from my home in Las Vegas to my daughter’s place in Alamogordo. We decide to go there for the holidays and decide to drive. We take a different route going, but coming back-guess what? I made sure we drove back during daylight so I could see the VLA and try to replicate the shot in the movie. Now the VLA sits down from a not too high pass. So as we are driving down, I start looking for all of these dishes I though I saw in the movie. Ooh, ooh, there’s one! Oh I see another one, like half a mile away from the first one. Then I see a third with the same distance between. I realize that from the main building/visitor’s center there are 3 lines of dishes all spaced fairly far apart radiating out in 3 directions. That is NOT what I saw in the movie, but surely I can still reproduce that shot with my simple digital camera if I find just the right place. That place has got to be the little pull of where the VLA sign is-right? Not so much! I can’t replicate the shot. Besides, does anyone remember learning arrays in school? I am thinking they have hundreds of these dishes in an array. By Very Large Array, they mean that they have some dishes and they are spread out in a very strangely shaped array over a very, very , very large piece of land. The story does get better though! I just returned from another visit to my daughter and was talking with one of the friends. The friend pulls out their phone, pulls up a picture and says to me, “That one?” YEP! That’s the one. He was able to replicate the picture. So what was my mistake? If you go to visit the VLA, you actually need to go to the visitor’s center where they have some slightly smaller dishes (it is all relative, you know) where you can replicate that shot from the movie. Oh well! It was an adventure.