Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall in New Mexico

Every fall I look forward to a week off in October when I can drive to New Mexico and take in the fall colors and the land of enchantment.  My travels usually end up in Las Cruces but this year Cloudcroft was my destination.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in Phoenix.  I blame that on being sick the week before break and functioning and packing in a brain fog.  All the pictures you will see here were actually taken on my phone and look decent enough I think.

Cloudcroft sits on a mountain which overlooks the Tularosa basin.  This picture shows the view.  The white area is actually White Sands National Monument, one of the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
My husband and I stayed at the Lodge in Cloudcroft, a historic lodge which used to house lumberjacks instead of tourists.  It is a nice old lodge with a great restaurant and it is said a friendly ghost as well.
Cloudcroft had a railroad which transported people and lumber in historic times.  Some of the old tracks and trestles from the railroad can still be seen outside of town.

There are some great hiking trails in and around Cloudcroft.  One that isn't too long is called Osha Trail.  This hiking trail can be accessed from inside the town or from a parking area right outside of town.   It is about 2.6 miles long and a gorgeous hike in the fall.  This is how the hike began at the trail head.
There are many beautiful aspens and maples along the trail that are really breathtaking in the autumn.  Here are a few pictures from along this wonderful hike.
The interesting thing from a geology perspective is that Cloudcroft, New Mexico sits on Permian aged rocks.  If you know anything about geologic time, the end of the Permian ends the Paleozoic era with a mass extinction much bigger than the Mesozoic extinction event that did in the dinosaurs.  The Permian extinction basically killed of mostly everything.  The rocks on the Osha trail are Permian and they also have many fossils that are easily spotted on this trail.  Here is a Permian cephalopod I spied in the middle of the trail.

Cloudcroft is not far from a solar observatory in Sunspot, NM.  If you are ever in the area a visit to Sunspot is a must.  The road to Sunspot is a scenic byway and the telescopes are very interesting as well.  Here is a big solar telescope at the observatory.
White Sands is another must if you are near the Tularosa basin. The sand is gypsum and extremely white and soft.  I was messing around on the dune field when I took this picture.

It generally looks like you are driving on snow in White Sands National Monument.  This is a very odd sensation because it isn't cold at all in October.
Most of the animals, through natural selection, are white on the dune field.  However, I was about a mile into the field and I saw this black beetle.  Who knows where he came from but he left some cool tracks as well.
If you are every in the southwest, do stop in to see New Mexico.  It is truly the land of enchantment.


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