Holly and I had built up the return of the Prodigal Bus Sandy to her home environs at White Sands, New Mexico so we were eager to see the reactions of others. The US Army wouldn’t even let us on the base! Nonetheless, it’s been wonderful driving north from El Paso into Las Cruces, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Elephant Butte (lol), Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range, and our excellent mini adventure at San Lorenzo Canyon.
Watching the American West unfold in front of us leaves us speechless. We have embraced the subtle shifts in plants and animals and have shaken our heads at the paucity of water, having walked with our daughters in the dusty bed of the Rio Grande.
I advocated for – and Holly was patient with – a trip to Trinity Site, the location of the first nuclear weapon test in the Jornada del Muerto desert, now part of White Sands Missile Range. The site has been closed to the public in recent years, and even when open conducts tours only twice a year. I knew the site to be largely barren, but I hoped for an impact, a moral twinge, even a fleeting image. The visit was underwhelming. While there was no end of information, the tour lacked context or any sense of what in fact had been delivered upon us when “The Gadget” imploded. Even the name Trinity was a poetic flourish by J. Robert Oppenheimer, who in fact never came to terms with what he had wrought. No poetic flourish came my way, and hopes of an epiphany left in the dust.
We have had our smaller epiphanies: the desert is spiky; dust is relentless; water and trees are captivating; wind is transforming. The pictures below fail to capture the scale or depth of what we’re beginning to experience.
We had first planned to stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land for free camping at nearby Lake Holloman, until we discovered that the US Air Force at Holloman AFB has contaminated the lake with chemicals and poop. We went on down the road for free camping at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, also free BLM camping.
We left the Las Cruces and Organ Mountains area and spent two nights at Elephant Butte State park (8 bucks a night for camping on the beach) and met a lovely couple from Wisconsin who taught us two new games.
After San Lorenzo Canyon, we started to head farther west and north. There is more to see than several lifetimes can afford, so we are grateful for all we experience. We will be heading to higher altitude and redder rock. We’ll see dinosaur footprints and the ruins of people who, but for us, might still be populating these lands.