Cross Country 2022

Day 8 ~ Tuesday ~ Independence Day ~ El Paso ~ Las Cruces ~ White Sands ~ Santa Fe

Day 8. On the road again.

But first a haircut. As I made my way to the hotel parking lot shirtless, Jules exited the building on her way back from her morning workout. What was I doing she asked. Giving myself a haircut of course. Well if I was going to do that, she would ‘help’ me so at least it would be decent. Jules mentioned something about a little redneck and I agreed that I never said I wasn’t a little redneck. She suggested that perhaps I’m a lot redneck.

The Babbs met us at our hotel and from there we would be leaving for one of their favorite hikes in the area, a slot canyon.

The hotel parking lot barbershop was open.

The hike is 45 minutes from El Paso and fortunately North in New Mexico which happened to be where we were nomadding next. We stopped for Nate to get gas and while there ducked into Rudy’s gas station to pick up a few breakfast burritos as a second breakfast.

While living in Europe we got the hang of appreciating gas station food (see Ireland and Italy), but in the USA it’s still hit or miss. Not Rudy’s.

As an Android user, the Apple pin that had been shared with me was useless as the location my Droid showed, came and went as we kept driving. Good think I stuck to Nate like glue on the drive North. Soon we pulled over at a location with no sign or trailhead to speak of.

Into the slot we went.

After dousing ourselves in sunscreen we crossed the road and approached a gate sidelined by barbed wire. The Babb family made a note the gap that previously existed next to the gate was no longer present so over the gate we climbed. Whether any of this was legal didn’t really concern me as I knew if this was a Babb hike, it was going to be a good hike.

As we walked through an unshaded dry riverbed, the Babbs mentioned this was the first time they had seen water in the Rio Grande next to the road we had taken to this trail. However there was no water in the riverbed upon which we now walked. After maybe 1/4 of a mile we came to a rock formation that soon rose on either side of us creating a slot canyon. The slot canyon lasted perhaps 1/3 of a mile. Having never been to Antelope Canyon but only the Narrows at Zion, this was as good as it was going to get for enjoying a narrow canyon.

Our tour guide Erin noted that you should use the ‘warm’ feature on your camera phone when capturing the blue sky and sand walls of the canyon to make the red pop on the walls and the blue in the sky.

Once through the slot canyon we began our ascent to a mesa overlooking the area we had just traversed. Between adjusting to the altitude of the high desert, the 100 degree dry heat, and not being accustomed to hiking while living in Petersburg, Virginia, Acadia struggled to the rear. I volunteered to stay behind with her (not that I needed a break) and routinely had to play the part of drill sergeant.

Acadia doubled over on her way up.

She and I made it to the top just in time for the group resting to take a group photo before we began our descent. The walk back was sad not only because it meant there would be no new ground covered on this hike, but we were closer to saying good by to the Babbs, possibly for 2 years as they are headed to Korea.

Once those good byes were said, Jules and I decided to backtrack just a tad to White Sands National Park. In all the times we have traveled cross country and came close, never have we stopped here. The temptation was too much for me, especially it only being a 30 or so minute detour on our way to Santa Fe.

The kids enjoying the sun and surf.

After about an hour we arrived at the White Sands Visitor Center to witness park seeker after park seeker walking around with sleds (yes the Park store sells them and yes, they sell wax for your sled). After learning more about the park and it’s history we headed out on the 8 mile road that leads into white dunes themself.

The road soon became encroached with white sand and the familiar Vermont winter hallmarks of rutted roads and snowplowed banks were ubiquitous. There were so many white hills I was unsure where to stop for some exploration. I decided to circle the entire lollipop road and after having surveyed the landscape settled on a ‘mountain range’ of white sand we would climb.

Acadia alone in the sand wilderness.

Unfortunately we did not have enough time for hiking and quite frankly, it would be foolish to hike White Sands in midday in July. The white sand reflects the sun and it’s probably wise to reapply sunscreen every 15 minutes in this locale. I would love to hike White Sands but only starting at sunrise or in a cooler season.

Now our children do not believe in sunglasses and failed to bring any of theirs on this trip. Because the sand was so blinding, we took turns climbing the sand dunes next to the snowplowed parking lot where we were stationed. Hunter and I especially enjoyed the solitude of our location. As I mentioned this was midday in summer at White Sands and there were very few people anywhere in the park.

It was hard to turn away from that peaceful solitude but soon we did and began the nearly five hour drive to our hotel just outside Santa Fe.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in the Santa Fe area we were fairly tired from our morning hike, time spent outside at White Sands, and the long car ride. This prevented us from driving to the Santa Fe Independence Day fireworks. Being from New England, Independence Day and small town parades are something I miss. However I made a pact with Hunter that we would buy some fireworks and recreate an Independence Day celebration at a date to be named later.

TOTAL FRIENDS SEEN: Lauren, Emily, Jill, Jud, Hazel, Kate, Mike, Nate, Erin, Beckett, Harper, Callan, Finley, Mr. & Mrs. Babb
TOTAL ITEMS LEFT BEHIND: Comfy black dress, collared Hunter shirt, scot tee shirt
PARKS VISITED: Washington State Park (AR), Franklin Mountain State Park (TX), Hot Springs National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe National Park, White Sands National Park

Quiet homebody.

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