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Spring Break Road Trip - 2005 Part I
The sights include : Guadalupe Mountain National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, White's City, the Search for the Gargoyle Motel, UFO's in Roswell, Fort Sumner and Billy the Kid's Grave, NOT!, Lincoln, NM, Capitan, NM & Smokey the Bear, the Very Large Array near Socorro, NM, The Quemado Lighting Field, NOT and the Three Rivers Petroglyphs
Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)
I hope you enjoyed the Spanish Missions of Texas and Santa Anna's Trail 2004 and I hope you are ready to see some more Spanish missions! It was quite a road trip, so I split the story into a Part I and a Part II. We will begin with Part I :
I was trying to think of a catchy name for this month's segment. It could have been named, The search for the Gargoyle Hideout, On the Trail of the Butterfield Stage Coach Route, the search for aliens, the search for Billy the Kid or even The Mother of all Rock Hounding Trips. Also, the Search for Road Runners, the Graves of Famous Animals and last but not least, The Mysterious Disease. But, it was all of the above and more. So I just left it sweet and simple : The Spring Break Road Trip of 2005.
I remember Back in February of 2003, I made a quick trip into Arizona for the Tucson Rock Show of 2003. I flew into town and thus really didn't get to see any of the American Southwest, except from 30,000 feet above. After the trip, I began researching a new road trip into New Mexico and include a gem trail or two on the side. But other quick trips came about and then the big lay-off. So I had postponed the trip trip until this semester.
Once I had determined when Spring Break was, plans were again set into motion. The Chad was called in to see if he was interested in the trip and he was.
Besides, I really needed a break from my internship back at the Pharmacy. I work at the most popular Pharmacy here in town. Some of our patients, really need our medication. I also needed a break from our Pharmacist.
Before I forget, this trip allowed me to add to the Texas Roadside Attractions page and also I may create a new, New Mexico Roadside Attractions page. Be sure to check them out. So, sit back, relax and be an arm chair traveler for a while, for this will take some time!
Star Date : 03/06/2005 - Sunday
I had class on Saturday so unfortunately, I could not start off until Sunday. Chad was to meet me at our motel in Carlsbad. So, around 3:30 AM in the morning I set on out. From the Brazosport area, I took the Hwy 36 route to I-10. By the time I had hit I-10, it began raining. I had been watching the weather for the past week and quickly determined that by the time I get into the west Texas area, the rain will have passed.
By the time I got to Kerrville, TX, the light came out and by Junction, TX, I stopped for gas. I remembered that there were a few interesting sights to be seen in and around Junction. First, I found the Deer Antler Tree. Obviously, they have a steady supply of antlers from the deer they process. I also noticed that Junction, TX is the county seat of Kimble County.
Lastly, the Junction area is home to the South Llano State Park. I can't say I really found anything too special about this park. I mainly just drove around and checked out the South fork of the Llano river here and there. Since it was still early morning, both the park's turkeys and the deer were out in good numbers.
I called up Chad on his cell phone to see where he was at on his journey and reminded him to get some pictures of Fort Phantom Hill and evidence of the old missile compounds. Chad asked what was up with Fort Phantom Hill. I told Chad that Fort Phantom Hill was part of the old Butterfield Stage Coach Line which transported people from the East to California during the gold rush days. (More on this subject when we get to the Guadalupe Mountains.) Here's what Chad Found :
The Blacksmith Shop, The Old Guard House, Some of the Old Structures and the Powder Magazine
After I gassed up, I checked the map and noticed Rochelle, TX was not too far off. Granted about an hour out of my way, but I was making good time. Rochelle, TX is the exact center point of Texas. I just had to say I had been there. The center of Texas one day and the Highest point in Texas the next day. (I was referring to Guadalupe Mountain that we were going to hike up the next day.) I headed north out of Junction on Hwy 83 and once in Menard, traveled east on Hwy 190. As it turns out, Menard is the county seat of none other than, Menard County. I then passed through Brady and noticed that Brady is the county seat of McCulloch County. I continued east for another 10 miles and finally made it to Rochelle, TX, the exact center of Texas.
I then retraced my route back to Menard and continued west on Hwy 190, passed through Eldorado and then reach Iraan, TX. The last time I was in this area, I noticed one of the longest aqueducts I have ever saw running along the north side of Hwy 190 between Iraan and Eldorado. But this time, it was not to be found! Where was it? Could they have dismantled it in 3 years?
The last time I was in Iraan, TX was during the Big Bend Adventure 2002. There, Evie and I stopped for gas and food at a local Godfather's Pizza and noticed some huge Alley Op Comics plastered on the walls everywhere. I later learned that the creator of that comic strip was from here and the town had build a small park dedicated to Alley Op and his friends. I asked for direction and found the park. You can also have your picture taken with Dinny, Alley Op's pet Dinosaur. I finally found Alley and since Iraan is an old oil town a lot of old oil equipment was also on display. I guess, due to the I-10 windmills nearby, a huge windmill blade was on display.
I was back on the road again and quickly noticed all the huge windmills on the mesas. Once you see the windmills, you know I-10 is not far away. After reaching I-10, I followed it west with the windmills to my north side all the way into Fort Stockton.
While in Fort Stockton, I went downtown to visit Paisano Pete, their huge road runner mascot for the city. I was also able to visit the old Fort Stockton again and noticed a building or two that I missed from the last time I was here such as one of the old officer quarters. I also noticed that Fort Stockton is also the county seat of Pecos County.
After the photo op, I gassed up and continued west again on I-10 until I hit I-20. In Melinda Crow's book, Rockhounding Texas, she describes Site 13 "Kent Fossils", to be located in a wash of rocks off of the south side of I-20 from the I-10 crossroads. I was going to stop and take a look, but several truckers were pressing me from behind and it just did not seem safe to pull over on such a small shoulder. However, her Site 14, "Toyah Agate" was just down the road.
After another 20 minutes of driving, I exited off I-20 and entered Toyah. While trying to find RR 2185 to get to the agates, I noticed someone built a small ghost town in their backyard. I managed to find RR 2185 and headed west out of town until I saw washes of rocks along the sides of the road. I did find some interesting rocks, but none of the agates as discussed in Melinda's book. I did however, copied down the Coordinates from my GPS unit which are : 31° 19.012 North and 103° 48.189 West.
I doubled back and continued east on I-20 until I reached Pecos, TX and headed north on Hwy 285. While in town, I noticed Pecos is the county seat of Reeves County. Hum, something's wrong, my hands are starting to itch. I wonder if I got into something that I shouldn't have back in that field near Toyah?
As I continued north, I guess I had it in my head that I was to meet Chad in White's City. So I took CR 652 west to Hwy 62/180. Although I ran into a little rain, it did make a nice rainbow. From Hwy 62/180, I noticed the Guadalupe mountains to the southwest and especially the face of Mt. Capitan. I finally headed north and entered New Mexico.
Chad called me on my cell phone and told me he was already at the motel. I said fine and I wasn't more that an hour away. I got to White's City and checked into the Best Western there. The clerk realized that I had made the reservation in Carlsbad. No wonder Chad wasn't around. So off I went into Carlsbad which was just another 15 minutes to the north, found the motel and found Chad. It was a long day of travel, so we prepared for the next day's hike up Guadalupe Mountain before retiring for the night. This itching is getting a lot worse so I knocked myself out to get some sleep.
Star Date : 03/07/2005 - Monday
It was an early rise up. After breakfast, we raced back down south on Hwy 62 to Guadalupe Mountain National Park. Yes, we were back in Texas again. As a kid, I remember a TV movie called Gargoyles. The movie was shot somewhere around here among some old adobe style motel/building. Could this be the old Gargoyle Motel? We found the park, paid our hiking fees, we located to the trail head. My God! This is 3,000 feet higher than the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend! Well, up we go.
I'll be up front with you. This was probably the most difficult hike I had ever taken. Many rest stops were made on the way up. This is truly a day hike! Thanks to American Airlines, the reward was worth being on the highest spot in Texas! Of coarse coming down was a lot easier. Once down, we had our lunch and checked out some of the other trails such as McKittrick Canyon and the Permian Reef. Sorry, my feet are shot and I'm still itching like crazy! Let's try to check out Carlsbad Cavern before it closes. We headed back north again on Hwy 62 and found another old structure. Could this be the old Gargoyle Motel? We made it to White's City and then took Park Road 7 east to the caverns.
We made it to the Caverns just in time. I had been here once before as a kid on one of those family vacations many years ago. I guess as a young kid, I though this was a really great cave. Unfortunately now, the only thing I see going for it is its huge size. We took the elevators down for the tour of the Big Room. As a young kid, I remember this as being a guided tour, but now, you tour it on your own and carry these radios with you. As you get to a numbered area, press that number into the radio and then listen to the discussion of that area you are viewing. Now, they make a big issue of not bringing down any food or drinks, however, I do remember this area now selling t-shirts used to sell snacks and fast food. Although I did see a few good formations, this place though big, has nothing against its Texas counterparts such as Sonora caverns or Inner Space! Our tickets also allowed us to tour the cave from its outside entrance. Here's some pic.'s of a few good formations I found :
Cave Formation 1, Cave Formation 2, Cave Formation 3, Cave Formation 4, Cave Formation 5 and Cave Formation 6
Other tours of this cave that can be taken. I also understand that the formations found in the other cave tours are quite nice.
After the cave tour or should I say cave self-tour, we headed back out to White's City. Not really much to see here except for the Million Dollars Museum full of a bunch of weird junk :
Some Old Doll House, Mountain Lion, Some Old Phonographs and an Old Tobacco Indian
Hum, just across the museum, I saw these old adobe buildings. But they aren't Goth enough. But I did look a little higher and was this the motel used in the movie?? Please, someone tell me if this was it or not. It was just too long ago for me to remember and you can't find this movie at Blockbuster.
We had more sandwiches for supper. We planed our next day's adventure and retired for the night back at our motel. Unfortunately, I'm still itching! I'll definitely need some sleeping pills if I am to get any rest at all.
Star Date : 03/08/2005 - Tuesday
It was the normal early rise, free continental breakfast, loaded up and back on the road. We continued to head north on Hwy 62 and past The Living Desert State Park to our east just outside of town. Unfortunately, we were on a schedule and so we continued north and reached reach Artesia. There in Artesia, I got out my Gem Trails of New Mexico book by James R. Mitchell and we proceeded to hunt for quartz crystals just east of the city off of Hwy 82. We followed the map but, unfortunately, the land was now all fenced in and gated. We headed back into town and continued north on Hwy 62 to Roswell.
Roswell had two things going for us. First, another area to look for quartz crystals, and second, the Alien UFO Museum! The Alien Museum/Research Library was first encountered just into the downtown area. This town really gets into aliens and are very serious of it. After all, aliens have been crashing here rather too often. Here's a few pic.'s from the museum :
Air Force ID Chart, A Captured Alien, Big Map of Alien Encounters, The Alien Library , An Alien Autopsy and An Interesting Mural.
Remember, resistance is futile, or is it?
After out visit with the aliens, we proceeded north out of town and then turned east on Hwy 380 for about another 10 miles for another Gem Trails of New Mexico. Again, for more quartz crystals. But like at the Artesia site, this too, was fenced in and gated. We traveled a little ways up the road to try to get into the general area, but only found some gypsum/alabaster material much like what we found on out Texas Panhandle Adventure of 2003.
We then doubled back and continued west on Hwy 380. A quick note :
Time did not allow us to make this trip, however, if we had continued to travel north on Hwy 285 and then veered east on Hwy 20, we would have eventually made it to Fort Sumner. Here lies the last remains of Billy the Kid. I guess they had to put a cage over his gravesite to keep vandals from stealing his tombstone. Or, did he really die in Granbury, TX?
This route led us through the Lincoln National Forest. Along the way, we passed through Lincoln, now a historic little town with Beds and Breakfast's and taking Billy the Kid's legend as far as they can cash in on it. There was a ruin or two and of coarse the old McSween Store whose owner initiated the Lincoln Country war with the local ranchers which gave fame to Billy the Kid.
The next town heading west with some interest was Capitan, New Mexico. This was the birthplace of Smokey the Bear. We checked out Smokey's visitor center and the exhibits. Outside was an arboretum/garden which served as a monument to his fame and to those who fight forest fires. Yes Smokey is buried here. One last thing, the town also prides itself as an area which were Billy the Kids old running grounds.
We had our lunch in Capitan and continued west on Hwy 380and soon drove through Carrizozo, Bingham and then north on I-25 to Socorro. From Socorro we headed west on Hwy 60 for about 45 minutes until we reached the Large Array Radio Telescope facility. Hello, anybody out there? We are listening. Actually, these radio telescopes are listening to the electromagnetic radiation of distant stars and galaxies. They were really proud of their latest model.
Unfortunately, we lacked the time to continue to head west to Quemado. Quemado is the gateway to the antenna field created by by Walter De Maria. Walter created this site of and array of lighting antennas to attract lighting during a storm. Here is the website and a few photos of lighting hits I found on the web :
Lighting Field Website
Lighting 1, Lighting 2 and Lighting 3
We then doubled back to Carrizozo and proceeded south on Hwy 54. We had the San Andres Mountains to our west and the Sacramento Mountains to our east. We passed through Oscuro, in which the gate to the Trinity or first atomic bomb site is found. It was all government land, so we dare not go in to sneak a peak at anything. However, we did reach the Three Rivers Petroglyphs National Recreation Site. This was a place filled with a lot of old ancient Indian rock art. We headed up the hill to view all the rock art :
Interesting Animal, A Face, Circles, Various Figures 1, A Dancer, A Lizard, Thunderbird, Arrows in a Bighorn, Various Figures 2, A Shaman and a Turtle
I never saw any rivers. So, I really don't know where this site got its name. However, I was able to obtain a good shot of Mount Sierra Blanca to the east from the top of the Petroglyphs hill. After our tour of the Three Rivers Rock Art, we continued on to Alamogordo. We found our lodging for the night and I was still going nuts with all this itching!
To find out if my itching ever stops and more of the adventures, click on the link below :
Spring Break Road Trip 2005 - Part II
So, until next time, take care and I'll See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!
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