Southern New Mexico

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

In El Paso, or more or less north of the city center, we set, purely symbolically, our foot the first time over the Rio Grande.
Immediately afterwards we went back again and again we drove through the westernmost tip of Texas to get to southeastern New Mexico, where there are certain strange things to admire.

White Sands was our first destination: This national monument is located almost in the middle of a big air- and rocket ground of the US-Army and for this reason it is not always visitable. But on Sundays the rockets rest here and nothing stood in the way of our visit.

Already on the way there we were impressed by the white sand and on the hike through the dunes we were completely enthusiastic about what we experienced. Unfortunately we were not allowed to spend the night in the park with our jeep, as this is only allowed for people with the tent and we could not convince the ranger that our roof tent was almost the same.

After the white sand we wanted to find out something about the extraterrestrial life and according to “File-X” a UFO crashed many years ago near Roswell. Thanks to the military cover-ups a real popularity arose around this history and today there is a very interesting museum in Roswell on this subject. In fact, this city is ticking in this sense and at every turn you discover aliens that are causing some surprises all over the city.

After so many aliens we headed towards the mountains in order to have something real and festive under our feet again. But already during the outward journey we spotted the snow-covered Sierra Blanca in the distance, which is the highest mountain of the Sacramento Mountains with its more than 3’600 m. The Sierra Blanca is the highest mountain of the Sacramento Mountains. The skiing area located to the north is operated by an Apache tribe and still allows some sports activities, both in winter and in summer. For us, the very high prices were unfortunately a little deterrent, and thus we limited ourselves to a winter walk on the white blanket; this time it was not white sand but real snow.

In the nearby South Fork State Forest there was our first winter camp, where the thermometer fell far below 0° Celsius. It was bitterly cold and only the big warming fire made the night a unique experience. And, even our jeep was not prepared for these cold temperatures. The windshield wiper water of the Jeep workshop filled into El Paso was partly frozen in the morning! Apparently the temperatures in El Paso never fall below the 0°Celsius limit and frost protection is apparently something unknown.

On the way out of the Sacramento Mountains we steered through countless valleys and canyons. The longer we were on the way, the more we were enthusiastic about this winding and small landscape. In Cloudcroft, a real wild-west town high in the mountains, we would have liked to exchange our clothes for those of the cowboys. Although everything is very touristically built or preserved, one could spend a lot of time with money up here in this mountain village at the western bar and the countless souvenir shops.

On a stormy day we jumped across the Rio Grande again into the plateau around the Potrillo Mountains, where – one says between 24’000 and 80’000 years – volcanic activities conjured up a unique and bizarre landscape. In addition to the many elevations, volcanic implasions created large depressions, which initially posed a mystery to us – only later did we discover their “traces”.

Through the wide areas around the Potrillos Mountains, we went on ranch and other paths west to Columbus, where a little more than a hundred years ago the Mexicans wanted to recapture their former territory in a short carnage. The many commemorative plaques reminded us almost every step of the brave heroes of the US cavalry.

To the Rockhound-State-Park we didn’t just drive over the highway, but crossed wide ranchland, east around the Florida-Mountains, where even the omnipresent border guard was amazed by our presence and vehicle. You hardly ever see people in this area!

And, when we got completely lost in this path system and didn’t know what to do anymore, we searched our way through various pasture gates and ranches around to our destination for the day. Already a rancher of Mexican descent waved energetically to us. In Spanish we were asked what we were doing here and whether we needed meat. Thank God Chantal was able to communicate with us with her newly acquired language skills and already we were generously presented with fresh beef.
And, after the inspection of our jeep, finally these ways are apparently not suitable for all vehicles, he explained to us the further course of the way through the mountains to the Rockhound-State-Park.

East of the Cookes Range, on the eastern flank high in the mountains, lie many former mines where silver and zinc were mined until 1967. Since this land belongs to the general public, access to the mines is possible without a permit. In addition to the former mines, the trip to this area was of course also very adventurous and, in addition to the driving skills, the off-road capability of our vehicle was repeatedly put to the test.

The steep access path up to the central square, where the important buildings once stood and the cemetery is located, was anything but a normal path and also made clear that the former life out here in this secluded wilderness was anything but a piece of cake. My “research activity” was rather limited to the closer surroundings around the Campplatz and the evening time urged rather for furnishing and making fire than for further hikes on the former mine site. In addition, most openings are closed or access is blocked by thick nets.

The next day we bumped further on the way up to a saddle that lies north of Cookes Peak and should have brought us further northwest. Unfortunately we were forced to return on the descent due to the slippery road. Over x-kilometers we went back and finally had to drive around the mountain. This detour lasted about 5 hours and so we reached the next State-Park only at the late hour and all wind-protected places were already taken.

About 34 million years ago a huge inferno must have happened here at the City-of-Rocks: The active volcano collapsed and, after many years of erosion, wind and weather, left behind this bizarre landscape of boulders and towers, where today you can walk around these boulders in amazement.

The fenced pastures and the mines to the north prevented us from continuing over the green meadows and forced us to use the highway for our onward journey. But even on the highway one drives almost through deserted areas and only in the valleys, where there is water, we found few settlements. But many of these houses are slowly decaying and show the difficult economic situation very clearly.

From the north we reached Santa Rita, where today again – several years the copper mining lay still and depopulated the region additionally – the open pit mining was resumed and gave the region a new upswing. The mines to the east of Silver City are today among the largest copper producers in the USA; like small ants the huge lorries moved around in the mine pit. Whole mountains are dredged here and the copper pyrites are processed into raw copper in the nearby factories. The mines were closed for a short time due to environmental regulations and were supposed to produce a little more environmentally friendly today. But the huge reservoirs below the mines and factories suggest something else and clearly show that our life leaves behind many by-products, of which nobody knows where to put them.

Silver City was almost extinct during our visit on Sunday afternoon and shortly before a national holiday. The center left us with a rather sleepy impression and we didn’t feel the breath of Billy the Kid and other western heroes as it is described everywhere.

But we felt the nightly cold on the camping site, where the thermometer fell again to a two-digit number below 0°Celsius.

The weather forecasts for the next days announced again the return of winter; besides winter storms, there was also a considerable amount of snow here in the Gila-Mountains.
Neither we nor our jeep are prepared for such winter adventures! We studied the weather charts and prospects in depth and soon came to the conclusion that the best solution might be to flee to Texas and El Paso, as well as further to the shore of the Rio Grande south of the Big Bend National Park.

Our things were quickly stowed away and we headed south – this time quite normally on the highway – towards the Mexican border and along it to El Paso/Texas.

In El Paso it should snow, according to the Jeep workshop, allegedly every few years once and would be only a short thing. Anyway, we had the rare opportunity to experience snow in El Paso and to our further surprise; it was bitterly cold!
How is that supposed to end?



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