These are trips that feature breathtaking views, visits to areas oozing history, and have a gazillion things to do along the way.
What I found interesting is that of these 500 trips across the globe – from the Strip in Las Vegas to Angkor Wat in Cambodia – three of them are centered on Lincoln County.
I’m not sure if many people living here realize all the wonderful things to see and do in a short driving distance from Ruidoso. This series will follow one of those trips and highlight how you and your family can take a vacation right here at home.
I’ve chosen the Guadalupe trail, a trip that starts at Aguirre Springs near Las Cruces and continues clockwise around Southeast New Mexico, with trips through Alamogordo, Carrizozo, Capitan, Hondo, Roswell, Artesia, Carlsbad, and El Paso before returning.
We decided to go the other way, driving down to Tularosa and starting south.
Day one, Friday, started out with breakfast at the in-laws, which necessitated a trip past the starting point of a completely different trip in the book, that of the Billy the Kid Trail.
Starting at the Hubbard Museum of the American West and the Billy the Kid Byway Interpretive Center in Ruidoso Downs – which the book states will provide background for the trip – the 84-mile route follows U.S. 70 and 380 and New Mexico 48 on trips through old Lincoln, the site of the Kid’s famous escape, through Capitan and back down into Ruidoso.
But that’s another trip for another time. Right now, we’re on our way to White Sands National Monument.
By this point, we’re in the Tularosa Basin, surrounded by mountains on all sides that keep all rainfall in one place. That’s led to the formation of Lake Lucero from which the famed dunes of white sands spring.
“Some of the dunes can move about 30 feet per year, but the ones at the edge anchored by plants are only moving a few inches per year,” said Rebecca Wiles, Chief of Interpretation at White Sands National Monument. “So, thousands of years, perhaps, the dune field will be at Alamogordo.”
Wiles said the dunes are particularly enjoyable for families with young children, who can buy sleds at the gift shop to ride the waves of the dune sea.
Next, it’s a 30-minute drive to the entrance to Aguirre Springs, located at the foot of the Organ Mountains, so named because of their resemblence to a pipe organ due to erosion.
In fact, driving up to the camp sites – which require a $5 day pass – we’re struck by how much the mountains resemble the alps, thanks to the unusual formations. It’s been raining – it showers right after we eat lunch – so the greenery makes the mountains look even less like they belong in New Mexico.
If it wasn’t for all the yucca and cactus, you’d never know we were still in a desert climate.
Then, it’s through San Augustin pass and down the other side into Las Cruces, a booming city that continues to grow in leaps and bounds. There’s plenty to do here, but we unfortunately can’t stay long. Just a quick stop at the Chamber of Commerce and then it’s on to El Paso.
This is the urban part of the trip. The I-10 corridor between Las Cruces as El Paso – the most populous city along the U.S.-Mexico border – is rapidly becoming one big city corridor, and you’re in the state of Texas before you even realize it. That’s assuming you can handle all the road construction made necessary by the high traffic.
Having said that, I’m glad we decided to go the direction we did. The north-bound lanes of I-10 were backed up for miles while we cruised south.
A side note – it’s been raining on us off and on since we got to Aguirre Springs, and there’s nothing like the smell of a desert that’s just been kissed by water from above.
There’s plenty to do in El Paso, but we’ve got one place to go, and it’s someplace that my wife – who was born and raised in El Paso – has never heard of.
It’s called the Magoffin Home, and it was the home of a very prominent family in the area. It’s a family that, according to the site’s official website, was a major participant in settlement of the area, trade on the Santa Fe-Chihuahua Trail, the U.S. Civil War and the development of El Paso into the city it is today.
“A large number of people come to this home from the surrounding area,” said Leslie Bergloff, manager of the Texas State Historical Site. “Those are our main visitors. Some people also don’t realize that El Paso has 26 museums. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.”
So, day one is done, and we’ve done some things that we’ve never done before. Tomorrow, it’s a trip across the desert to a big, spectacular hole in the ground.
For more information on the attractions highlighted here, visit:
www.visitmagoffinhome.com, www.nps.gov/whsa/ and www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/recreation/las_cruces/aguirre_spring_campground.html.