26 January 2008 We have been spending a quiet few days in Benson, AZ, about 22 miles north of Tombstone, AZ, allowing Anneke’s ankle to continue to heal. We have a great view of the mountains and actually had a rare winter rainbow with a small amount of rain. We have been just enjoying hanging around the motorhome.
We did find Saguaro National Park on the outskirts of Tucson that fit our current sightseeing mode. It has an eight mile loop to observe the classic cactus form. For those with an urge for adventure it also has remote camping opportunities and many miles of hiking available.
When the park was founded in the early 1930’s these cactus were heel to toe in the park and everyone thought that they were here forever. Then they started to die in large numbers and thru study they realized that any period where the temperature drops below freezing for 20 hours or more will kill the cactus. Additionally, a cattle grazing was still allowed in the park and they were destroying the young plants. They are now working on preserving those that remain and carefully protecting the young plants and have eliminated the cattle grazing.
Tomorrow we are off to Casa Grande, AZ for ten days.
Before leaving Las Cruces, we managed to find a great place to visit while Anneke continues to recover from her sprained ankle-White sands National Monument. This is one of the unique natural wonders of the world. It is the largest gypsum sand dunes in the world. These dunes were formed from the gypsum washed out of the mountains and forming crystals as the water evaporated out of the large pools the water formed in the desert in the mountain basins. While there are a few other such dunes, this is by far the largest since there is no river to carry the dissolved sands to the ocean.
It is over 275 square miles in size and continues to grow. The dunes also move with the winds across the desert floor at about 30 feet per year. There are unique plants and animals that have made this their home, including plants that have adapted to the moving sands that allow them to grow higher enough to get above the moving dunes which bury as much as 30 feet of the plant below the sands and still survive. When the sands move on, they often retain some of the sand around their base.
We were able to enjoy the dunes in an 8 mile drive thru the dunes. If you are inclined to take a hike there are many miles of trials to enjoy. Areas are set aside for just playing in the sand, as well.
Other than the beauty of the area, one of the things that we found interesting was the extensive and somewhat other worldly picnic area.
22 January 2008 After a few days of dealing with Anneke’s ankle sprain, it was clear that we were not going to be able to do any hiking for quite some time. We decided that we may as well move on to a new destination, and arrived at Las Cruces, New Mexico a few days ago.
Yesterday, she felt well enough that we tried a little modified touring and visited Mesilla, NM, which is now a small suburb of Las Cruces, but was a very important town in the 1800’s. Based on the remaining evidence, it stresses its part in bringing Billy the Kid, one of the dime novel western bad guys, to justice. It was also once the capitol of Arizona and New Mexico.
Today it is a quiet town with an historic village area filled with gift shops and at least some good restaurants with a great view of the surrounding mountains.
We have spent the last four days in the Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas. It is over 800,000 acres of rugged and beautiful country with many vistas. It is very popular with those who love hiking, back country camping and mountain climbing. There is a lot to see and many places to explore.
Unfortunately, our time here has not been as busy as we had planned. On our second day in the park, while hiking on a fairly rough trail, Anneke had a fall about a half mile into the hike. She badly sprained an ankle and has been laid up since. I have, however, had the chance to spruce up on my domestic skills the last few days.
We did manage to hike into the Santa Elena canyon, where the Rio Grande runs thru the canyon marking the boundary between the USA and Mexico. We also did a number of other short hikes before the accident, but there are so many more to do. For those into long wilderness hikes, there are many months of trails and free roaming to do. There are of course all kinds of hazards from Mountain lions (who have attacked hikers in the past), bears and various other animals to contend with.
Now that we have had a taste of the park, we will have to return and enjoy the wilderness with a bit more care. This is definitely a must see National Park.
As we were reviewing the history of Pecos, Texas, we discovered a reference to the nearby town of Toyah. It seems that it is nearly a modern ghost town precipitated by the majority of the population abandoning their homes to move to Pecos. Having just toured Pecos, that seemed a bit hard to believe, so we headed west to Toyah to have a look.
After a quick tour of this small town, indeed it appeared that 90 plus percent of the population had departed apparently abandoning their homes and other property. It does seem clear that very few people would have been interested in buying any property here. If Pecos was a bit depressing in terms of condition, Toyah made it look a lot better.