Las Cruces, White Sands, Alamogordo (March 1st-3rd)

I woke up to the sound of car horns from the main gravel road. It was still chilly, and so I burrowed back into my sleeping bag for another few hours until the sun started warming up the tent. More honking. Time to get up, I suppose.

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The nearby Organ mountains were gorgeous.

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Our packing was rushed, as the situation was a bit sketchy. We were not supposed to be camped here, and cars were passing by every ten minutes. I may have accidentally mooned a sedan while taking care of business behind a joshua tree. Awkward. Sorry!

Navigating the trail, as always, was easy with daylight. Someday I’ll learn…

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We headed back into Las Cruces, found a coffee shop, and I spent some much-needed internet time making plans for New Mexico. Oz was excited to have his picture taken.

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East on highway 70 and 60 miles later, we showed up at White Sands, just after the visitor center had closed for the evening. We only had a couple of hours until the park followed suit. This is why I like having the annual pass – if I’d had to pay an entry fee for only a few hours, I likely wouldn’t have stopped.

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I couldn’t get over how much the white sand looked like snow! It was spilling into the road in places. There were reduced speed limit signs and orange cones here and there. At one point I stopped to take this picture and discovered that the sand on the shoulders was VERY soft.

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The road gave way to hard-packed, routinely plowed/scraped sandy ground.

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The dunes looked magical in the setting sunlight. I was happy we’d stopped. The sunset turned the entire horizon shades of pink and orange.

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The sunlight faded, and it was time to go. I wished I had a bit more time, but I can always come back.

It’s impressive how much stuff Oz manages to fit in that bungee net I gave him.

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We stopped near the gate to the park, bundling up for the ride ahead of us. It was COLD. We continued to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park and enjoyed their nice, hot showers.

By this point it was quite late, and we still had yet to find a good spot to camp. Looking at my map, I saw a nearby sliver of national forest, its access road leading through a military base. Unfortunately the road was closed, and, not wanting to backtrack 40 miles and further freeze our asses off, we decided to just limp back to the state park.

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We awoke very late, the tent had grown hot from the sun beating down on it. Neither one of us had slept well – Oz was congested and his tossing had kept us both awake. We opened up the tent and shed some layers, then had a nap. A ranger arrived to collect the $10 camping fee. I guess we paid for that shower after all!

While packing up, Oz decided he wanted to climb to a dip in the mountain not too far away. He set off and I packed up the tent. Upon returning, he said that there was a foot-deep pool of water up there, and cougar tracks.

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We headed into town. I spent a couple of hours doing research on possible causes for the engine knocking I’d experienced the previous evening. Afterwards, we headed about ten miles west out of town, to a nice spot near Holloman Lake I’d read about. The sign was easily missed. We were rewarded with a nice campsite, and set up along the lake. We had the place to ourselves!

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The setting sun over the lake was beautiful. The lake, however, stunk quite badly.

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Holloman Lake is a man-made lake near Holloman Air Force Base. I’m not sure if the stench is caused by the natural soil content or some shadowy wastewater treatment history, but it was quite overpowering. It was a sharp smell, like ammonia, sulphur, or concentrated brine. Signs warned that the water was unsafe for swimming or drinking.

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As we walked along the beach, the “crust” crunched under our feet. Sometimes, if you weren’t careful, you’d sink down a good 3-4 inches.

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These salt deposits built up on branches, rocks, and anything else that was left out. Frankly, it was kinda gross, but at least it was interesting.

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After our stroll, we broke camp and went back to Alamogordo. This was another laid-back internet day – still trying to figure out what might be wrong with the bike. I kept coming up empty-handed. Maybe it was just bad fuel. Oh well. Either it would get worse and something would break, or it would resolve itself. We were tired of staying near the stinky lake and decided to head out the next day.

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It was a warm night at least, with lots of cloud cover.

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