Carlsbad, New Mexico

Day 505

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7277_Fotor

     Carlsbad is located in the Chihuahuan Desert on the Pecos River at an elevation of 3,295 feet. We came to hike the Carlsbad Caverns which is located eighteen miles southwest of the city, within the Guadalupe Mountains

     In 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving drove vast herds of cattle along the Pecos River and set up “cow camps” in what is present day Carlsbad. 

     In 1881, Charles B. Eddy came to the area, and developed the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company.  In 1884 the Eddy brothers and Bissell broke ground on the Halagueno Ranch. The cattleman recognized the value of diverting water from the Pecos River to the grazing lands on their Halagueno Ranch, which included the town of Eddy (guess whom it was named after). In 1899, the town of Eddy decided to change the name to Carlsbad, after the famous European health resort, Karlsbad, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), as both towns had identical, mineral rich, springs. Many of those residents settled here.

     James Larkin White was born July 11, 1882. He worked as a cowboy on a ranch not far from the town of Eddy. One day while riding his horse through the Chihuahuan Desert looking for stray cattle, he saw a plume of bats rising from the desert hills. Investigation led to the discovery of what today is called Carlsbad Caverns.

     This is the entrance to the cave discovered by Jim White. The drop to the cave is equivalent to an 80 story skyscraper.

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7294_Fotor

     He began giving cave tours and made this wire ladder to descend the first part to where he could climb down. When the cave became a National Monument in 1923, Jim became a Ranger and continued to give cave tours.

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7391_Fotor

     He also built this stairway from the entrance.

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     They say this is the largest cave in the United States (don’t they all say that?) and that all of it has not be explored.

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7317_Fotor

    When we got to the bottom, which took us an hour and fifteen minutes, we entered the vast chambers of the cave.

     The cave formations vary depending on how the water flows and dissolves the minerals, redepositing them as the water drips and evaporates.

     Stalactites, which are formations growing from the ceiling

 Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7416_Fotoru

      Stalagmites, which form from the ground up

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7416_Fotor

     columns, when they meet

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     This is a view of the cave from the outside

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     and from the inside

 Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7329_Fotor

     It took us about 4 hours to explore the cave.

Technical Stuff:

Las Cruces, New Mexico to Carlsbad, New Mexico 203.5 miles

4 hours 25 minutes

9.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.53

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Day 503

     The city of Alamogordo was founded in June 1898, when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad extended the railway to the town. We came here because it is the home to the World’s largest Pistachio. This is one really big nut. 

     Pistachioland is owned and operated by the McGinn Family and is home to 12,300 trees and 6,000 wine producing grapevines. The original trees were planted in 1980 and the first nuts were harvested in 1984.

     The World’s Largest Pistachio monument is 30 feet tall and was built as a tribute to the Farm’s founder, Tom McGinn, in 2008, whose vision was to grow pistachios in the New Mexico desert.

     This ole cowboy, Pappy, sits on the front porch and tells you a story about the farm. 

White Sands Missile Range

Day 502

     In the early fall of 1944, as a result of America’s accelerated missile program, it became evident that a land range somewhere in the United States would be required so missiles could be test fired and recovered after flight for further study. These studies would provide data to aid in the development of future missiles for military application.

     A group of specially selected officers, including Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner, and civilians representing the War Department and the Corps of Engineers visited all sites designated as “possible.” One area, in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico, fit the bill.  On July 9, 1945, the White Sands Proving Ground was established for testing German and American long range rockets. Just seven days later, the first atomic bomb test, code named Trinity was exploded at Trinity Site, near the north boundary of the range.

     Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner was the first commander of White Sands Proving Ground. Turner had the task of getting the proving ground ready to test rockets. There were no buildings, potable water or transport facilities in the area. Not only was there nothing at the site, it was still called “that place in the desert.” Turner is credited with naming it White Sands Proving Ground so personnel would have a mailing address. After the war ended Turner was informed 300 railroad carloads of captured German V-2 components were in Las Cruces. He was told to get the Proving Ground ready to fire them. The first 28 V-2s were fired during his tenure.

         After World War II, White Sands Missile Range became home to some of the German scientists who turned themselves over to the military, including Werner Von Braun, who were instrumental in the conception and development of the V-2 rocket. The range is managed by the U.S. Army, however all branches of the military services and NASA, as well as civilian scientist use these facilities.

     On display in the museum was the WAC Corporal, a sounding rocket. A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. On May 22, 1946 this became the first U.S. designed rocket to reach the edge of space. This would be the first man-made object to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and  marked the beginning of America’s missile program. 

      Outside the museum is a missile park displaying a variety of missiles and rockets tested at White Sands.

Remember “duck and cover”?

Dripping Springs, New Mexico

Day 501

     We hiked the Organ Mountains, about 20 miles east of Las Cruces and Mesilla to view the Dripping Springs. 

     It was near this spring, in the 1870s, that Colonel Eugene Van Patten chose to build his Van Patten’s Mountain Camp resort and, later, that Doctor Nathan Boyd would decide to establish a tuberculosis sanatorium.

     Eugene Van Patten was born in Rome, New York on November 10, 1839. He attended West Point for two years. He came to the El Paso and southern New Mexico region with three brothers, at the behest of their uncle, John Butterfield, to work for the Butterfield Stagecoach Overland Mail Company.  He was a confederate officer during the Civil War, although born a Yankee. 
     Among many other enterprises, he acquired considerable land holdings, and drawn by the lure of Dripping Springs in the 1870’s, the enterprising Van Patten began construction of his resort, a two-story 14-room hotel with dining and recreational facilities. Not much is left of it now. 


      Nearby, he built a livery, where guests could stable horses and mules and park coaches and wagons.

     The Hotel guest had an impressive view of Las Cruces from atop the mountain.

     Some three decades after he built his resort, Van Patten rented nearby land to Nathan Boyd, a doctor and international entrepreneur. Dr. Nathan Boyd charted his own course in history—an adventurer in his own right. Born in Illinois, he studied medicine in San Francisco. He lived in Philadelphia.

     Sometime after his wife contracted tuberculosis, Boyd moved his family to Las Cruces and took up residence at Dripping Springs, placing his faith in the conventional wisdom that the high dry climate of the location would relieve her disease.

     About 1910, Dr. Boyd turned his attention to the construction of the sanatorium, building a wood-frame kitchen, dining hall, a caretaker’s house, a guest house and “ephemeral,” or short-term, patient housing. Given his medical education and his wife’s condition, he clearly understood the horror of tuberculosis, or “consumption,” as the highly contagious disease was often called. 


     By 1916,Van Patten, now an aging man, turned Dripping Springs over to Boyd.

     As a sanatorium, however, it would begin to fail during the 1920s, when high dry air and tranquility began to give way to new vaccines and treatments as a more effective means for dealing with the disease.

     Although we were warned about rattlesnakes before we began our hike, we did not encounter any, however, we did come across this tarantula.

White Sands Desert, New Mexico

Day 500

     It is hard to believe that today is the 500th day we have been traveling in the Sphinx. We have slept in 25 of the 50 states.

     White sand dunes covering 275 square miles in the Tularosa Basin in the Chihauhuan Desert in southern New Mexico, is where we are today. The sand is gypsum (the stuff Plaster of Paris is made), and this is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The gypsum sand is much finer than the sand in Ocean City, and stays cool, even in the blazing sun. They say the astronauts can see this dune field from space. 

     A favorite pastime of the locals is “sledding” on the dunes. 

     Not to be outdone, Barbara tried it.

     Let’s face it, there is no stopping this grandmother.

Mesilla, New Mexico

Day 499

     A small group of citizens of Las Cruces were unhappy at being part of the United States as a result of the Mexican American War and decided to move south of the new border. They settled in Mesilla which was incorporated in 1848 and was an established colony by 1850. However, they were under constant attack by the Apache Indians. By 1851, the attacks caused the United States to take action to protect its people just to the north of the border, so they built Fort Fillmore and claimed the whole valley as part of the United States, while Mexico also claimed this area. The dispute was resolved by the Gadsden Purchase, which is a 29,670-square-mile region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that the United States purchased via a treaty signed on December 30, 1853, by James Gadsden, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Soldiers raised the U.S. flag on the Plaza of Mesilla on November 16, 1854. This would be the last major territorial acquisition within the contiguous United States. 

     We stood in the Plaza where this event took place. Today was the New Mexico Pecan Festival. Of course, we bought pecan pies, and various pecan snacks. 

     Cura Ramon Ortiz was a priest appointed by the Government of Mexico to assist Mexican citizens who wanted to resettle in Mexican territory after seizure of part of Mexico by the United States. The settlers soon established a central plaza which included a primitive Catholic Church on the south side of the plaza and named San Albino. The church is named for St. Aubin who was born in 469 in Brittany, France, and performed many miracles there. In 1856, the primitive structure was replaced on the north side of the plaza by a traditional Mexican church, a fortress style providing protection from raids. The present day church was built on the same site in 1908 in the Romanesque style. Of course, Barbara wanted to tour the Church, which we did. 

     The Government building, on the east side of the plaza, built in 1850, at one time housed the Capitol of Arizona and New Mexico. Later it was the Courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. Obviously that didn’t happen as he escaped and was ultimately killed by Pat Garrett. It is now a gift shop. 

     We ate lunch at La Posta.  The La Posta Compound was originally constructed in the 1840’s. Sam Bean and his brother Roy Bean, operated a freight and passenger service line to Pinos Altos, New Mexico, from this building in the 1850’s.  After the Civil War, The La Posta Compound became an important stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line. It became a restaurant in 1930. 

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Day 498

     The area of Las Cruces, New Mexico, was inhabited by the Mescalero Apache when Juan de Oñate claimed all territory north of the Rio Grande for New Spain in 1598. They governed the land until September 28, 1821, when the first Mexican Empire claimed ownership. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 established the United States as owner of this territory, and Las Cruces was founded in 1849 when the US Army laid out the town plans.

     We are here to visit with friends who moved here from Maryland. 

Technical Stuff:

Rosewell, NM to Las Cruces, NM: 190.7 miles

4 hours 21 minutes

9.1 MPG

Diesel $2.62