White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument is another of those places that every New Mexican should come at least once. Its the only place in the world like it. The only gypsum sand dunes anywhere, an ever changing landscape with some very unique wildlife that have adapted to it. Its been used as a backdrop for numerous movies, most recently as Iraq in the Transformers movies and as a different planet in the upcoming Stargate Universe show.

The place is highly photogenic with spectacular sunsets and sunrises and amazing light and shadow effects in the mornings and evenings. White Sands is one of those must haves in your portfolio of any South West photographer, unfortunately we arrived at noon so I had to work a lot harder for my shots. I had to go a few notches lower on my exposure and my ISO sensitivity to not overexpose shooting white on a white background. I think I still got some good ones, what do you think?

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Sitting Bull Falls

We are thankful for our campground neighbors at Dog Canyon Campground for giving us the tip to check out the water falls on the way out. Sitting Bull Falls was spectacular, one of the highlights of our trip. If you are ever out on this side of the Guadalupe Mountains or spending some time in Carlsbad its not to be missed.

The way to the falls is a side branch off Highway 137 is just a narrow 9 mile long chip ‘n seal path with no painted road markings that runs down the bottom of some sheer rock canyons. We saw dozens of gigantic turkey vultures flying in and out of the caves along the cliff walls, I’ve never seen where they nested before. The road crosses back and forth over the dry creek bed at the bottom with no bridges over most so they’d probably get flooded quickly in the smallest rainstorm.

Its also open range for the most part. We passed by a steer grazing and the bike startled him. He jumped up and shook his head and stamped his front hooves and looked he was about to charge us. All I could see was sharp pointy horns and briefly think, “Uh-Oh, here we are on a bright red bike passing by. I sure hope they are right and bulls are really colorblind.” Luckily he only snorted and watched us cruise by.

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is one of three World Heritage Sites in New Mexico out of 21 in the USA. The countless rock formations formed drip by drip over eons are just spectacular but any attempt to describe the grand feelings of awe when viewing them in person is doing the caverns an injustice by limiting them. With the immensity of the Great Room and the beauty of all the small details, its no wonder that early explorers said that it was a product of the Devine Creators own hands.

Natural beauties and wonders are not all the park has to offer, however. One of the star attractions are the thousands of Mexican Freetailed Bats that spew out of the mouth of the cave at dusk like thick smoke. There are evening and dawn bat flight programs available to view them, not to be missed. Several other guided tours inside the caverns are also available and highly recommended, call for reservations they fill up quickly and some of the special tours for more advanced cavers have long waiting lists.

Of course we arrived during a holiday weekend so it was jam packed and we didnt have time to go on a tour, we had to get to Ruidoso before it got too dark and we were cutting it close as it was, maybe next time. Next time I’m going to have to remember to bring my monopod or get a good tripod ahead of time, taking long exposure shots in near total darkness freehand is virtually impossible. Out of the hundreds of shots I attempted only two came out good and the ones you see here are all of the not too blurry at small resolution ones hehe. Its was pretty much, relax.. one.. two.. three… deep breath.. time between heartbeats, click, dont budge a muscle, pray, damn I moved, try again.

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

We totally blew past Highway 137 without seeing it the first time on our way to Dog Canyon Campground in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Its around 55 miles to the campground and theres no gas whatsoever so regardless I would have needed to have gone the extra 14 miles past the turn to Carlsbad to fill up and backtrack. However, I was still trying to keep an eye for it so I’d know where to turn. It ended up being across from Brantley Dam on the other side of the highway with nothing else but desert scrub land for miles and miles. I guess we were to distracted by the only thing of interest in ages and missed our turn.

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Labor Day – Roswell UFO Museum

Three day weekend! You know what that means … Road Trip!

I know I’m still working on finishing up the posts from our epic trip back in July, and now I have another one to work on. We’ve got another trip this weekend back to Colorado and then another the weekend after that for the Ruidoso Rally. Just been too busy traveling to keep up with posting what all I’ve been doing heh. Dont worry, I’ll catch up.

We headed down to camp out in the Guadalupe Mountains and check out Carlsbad Caverns. On the return trip hopefully we can fit in White Sands and the tunnels on the way down from Cloudcroft too. We had intended on doing this trip earlier in the year as a last practice shakedown run before our epic July trip, but plans got put on hold with the bike down for a few months following the Close Encounter of the SUV kind.

Researching the Guadalupe Mountains for campgrounds I found Dog Canyon was pretty remote and isolated. Hopefully less crowded with tourists. I was a bit concerned that they didnt take reservations. With us traveling 400 miles first to get there on a holiday weekend and the few campsites they had being first come first serve only we might not get one.

So not a whole lot of pictures along the way, not that theres much to see. There are a lot of cool abandoned buildings in Vaughn and Encino that would make good photographic subjects sometime. There was even an abandoned garage with a 40’s era sedan still inside with the hood up covered with decades of dust, way cool. I’ll have to stop next time through.

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