Hi everyone! We just finished up visiting Valley of Fires and White Sands National Monument, and have settled in at a nice KOA for the next few days.

We spent a few days camping at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area outside of Carrizozo, New Mexico.  There wasn't much to see at the park itself, with the exception of a series of lava beds, but they did have exceptionally nice bathrooms considering it is owned by the BLM.  We hiked the short nature trail through the lava beds and met two very nice gentleman.  Later in the day, one of them gave us a huge bag of citrus!  Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and even an avacado!  It was certainly a nice change of pace from Pop-Tarts and crackers.

Quarai Pueblo Mission

While in the area, we visited the three Salinas Pueblo Missions Ruins: Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira.  Abo was definitely the nicest of the three, with beautiful views of the mountains.  It took us about four hours to visit all three ruins, which are spaced rather far apart, but it made for a nice afternoon.

Inside the Quarai Mission
It was pretty funny to see snow in New Mexico, especially juxtaposed against the desert environment.  Some areas looked to have about 6-8 inches of snow, while five miles down the road there was no snow at all.

Late Afternoon at Abo Pueblo Mission

The next day we made a short trip to the Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site, which contains over 20,000 unique petroglyphs.  What we found most amazing was that all of those petroglyphs were condensed into a very small area.  Everywhere we looked, there was something new to see.  The petroglyphs here were very different from those we have seen on our previous excursions; there were faces, animals, intricate geometric shapes, and these strange crop-circle-like drawings.

We then headed west about 50 miles to the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, located outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico.  The campground was beautiful (and cheap -- $14/night!), sitting at the foot of Dog Canyon, which is part of the Sacramento Mountains.

Night sky over camp

Wandering in the Sands
This park made a nice base camp for exploring White Sands National Monument, which we did for the next four days.  White Sands is very bizarre.  While driving down the park's Loop Drive, it looks almost beach-like.  At night, it looks like 12 feet of snow.  The best thing about White Sands is that you can walk anywhere you want, which is a luxury you rarely find in today's parks, but you have to be careful that you don't wander onto White Sands Missile Range.  To get away from the ever-present footsteps in the sand, we would just pull off the road and walk and walk and walk.  It is probably pretty easy to get lost while wandering through the dunes, as there are very few landmarks, but we were able to retrace our footsteps for the most part.  Trying to find our way back to the car after sunset proved to be a little more tricky.

We decided to take a break from all the hiking and did some dune sledding, which actually ended up being more taxing. The steep dunes made sledding really easy, but trudging back up to the top was exhausting.  We were able to purchase a sled right from the visitor's center and then they bought it back from us after we finished. (Videos at end of post.)

We hiked a few of the park's marked trails.  The 1-mile Dunes Life Nature Trail was an easy hike through the more vegetated portion of the park.  We met a nice couple and their dog Gypsy about half-way through the trail.  We spent the next 30 minutes exchanging travel stories and they gave us a few ideas for our future travels (WWOOFing...look it up!).  We also hiked the five-mile Alkali Flats trail, which proved to be tricky towards the end.  The trail markers were spaced very far apart and were often hard to see.  I think we ended up off the trail, but still hiked at least five miles with all of our aimless wandering.

Currently, we are staying in Las Cruces, NM.  We will be here for a few days for some car maintenance (60,000 mile service on a 1-year old car, yikes!).  Hopefully we will get to see some epic sunsets/sunrises over the Organ Mountains.

Sunset and Yucca

A photographer in the distance
Sunset over White Sands
A snowy sandscape

Heart of the Dunes...Can you spot the heart?
Sandblasted Trees
Interdunal Candy Crush Saga

video video

Coming up soon: Chiricahua National Monument and Saguaro National Park.  


  1. I thought about WOOFing once, but the idea of manual labor didn't entice. I think I would do World Teach or something like it if I had a choice.


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