Feb 21 – 23, 2014
White Sands National Monument
Tularosa Valley or Basin is the next big valley east of the Rio Grande Valley. This valley doesn’t have drainage and the water from the Sacramento Mts. to the east and the Organ Mts. and others to the west flows down to several salt flats and semi permanent lakes. This led to thick deposits of gypsum under these lakes. About 5,000 years ago these deposits were exposed and erosion by the wind has created the huge gypsum dunefield that is White Sands Nat’l Monument. Where the dunes are low plants grow and they extend their roots as the dunes rise. These root systems bind the dune underneath so when the dunes retreat again the plants form towers of harder material. Eventually these erode and the roots are exposed causing the plant to collapse. Also, the brilliant white of the sands cause animals and insects to adapt to lighter colors so that they are harder to spot by predators.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site
This region was inhabited by the Jornada Mogollon people from around 700 AD to 1250 AD. There is a village with different forms of habitation by the river. This area had a wetter climate than today and a drought after the mid 1200′s caused the village to be abandoned. A series of ridges east of the village are covered with over 20,000 petroglyphs. There are a few later Apache petroglyphs and a few modern ones but surprisingly little damage to the site. An amazing variety of images from birds to animals to insects to design to anthropomorphic characters to tracks, foot prints, hand prints, and human faces and figures. Best petroglyph sites I’ve seen. About 8 miles west is a campground in the foothills of the Sacramento Mts. with a little water. Not much snow on the mountains this year.
A lava flow a few miles wide and about 40 miles long starting from a small cinder cone called Little Black Peak. In the Valley of Fires Recreation Area there is a trail that goes down to the flow and forms a loop through a part of it. An amazing amount of plants and animals, pristine cause there is really no way for humans or cattle to get into it. Like White Sands to the south, animals and insects have adapted to the background color, this time turning black instead of white.
Dog Canyon in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
Oliver Lee was an early settler to this region, a revered founder although he may have been responsible for the deaths of three people. Dog Canyon is a steep canyon reaching up into the Sacramento Mts. It provided a water source for settlers at the bottom. We climbed 3 miles to a ruined cabin just below a spring that fed the canyon. A rugged steep hike but I liked the trail markers every 1/4 mile, nice way to pace yourself. The trail continued another even steeper 3 miles to a forest road connecting the main road at the top. Couldn’t see doing this any season but February. It was a warm day anyway.