Saturday, May 7, 2016

Las Cruces --- Old Mesilla and White Sands National Monument

Roger here...  We spent two full days at the Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Our plan was to visit White Sands National Monument on one of those days, and to wander around historic plaza of old town Mesilla on the other.   It was supposed to be hot and very windy on the first day.  The thought of slogging through blowing sand dunes was not appealing, so we opted to drive a mile from the RV park and visit Historic Mesilla on the first day.

MESILLA is the best known and most historic community in southern New Mexico.  Most of the structures were built in the mid-1800s.  In many ways the central plaza reminded us of Taos in the northern part of the state --- not too big, but surrounded by stucco buildings filled with shops, restaurants and wineries. 

 We arrived the day after Cinco de Mayo, but one day before the weekend celebration in Mesilla.  We were greeted by these colorful ladies who were rehearsing for the upcoming festivities.

The San Albino Basilica dominated one side of the plaza.  I love these old Spanish cathedrals.  I tried to sneak inside, but unfortunately the doors were locked.

On the opposite side of the square a commemorative placard explained the historic significance of the Butterfield Overland Trail.  That evening we ate dinner in the original building of the stage coach stop.  More on that later.

One corner of the plaza was dominated by the Billy the Kid gift shop.  There was  a little more to this building than meets the eye.

The building once housed the Capitol of Arizona and New Mexico.  Later it was the courthouse in which Billy the Kid was tried and convicted.

However, most importantly, historic though it may be, on this day I got to flirt with one of the bar maids.

Dianne is not a shopper (with the exception of Amazon); however, she did seem to enjoy the day.  In fact, she purchased a few items.

The almond croissants and iced vanilla lattes drew us to the Cafe de Mesilla.  Tasty.

Many of the storefronts drew us in.  We bought some freshly roasted New Mexican coffee and a jar of local salsa at this food specialty store.

Can you spot the kitty cat?

A few steps from the plaza, interesting private homes opened onto the sidewalks.  Dianne loved the hanging peppers on either side of the doorway at this home.

Early afternoon arrived.  It was time to check on the dogs back at the motor home.  However, before leaving we tasted two small samples of the New Mexican wines at this shop. The pistachio rose was not our favorite, a little too sweet for us.  However, we did buy a bottle of a blended red.

That evening we returned to Old Mesilla for dinner.  Our friends, Barb and Greg, told us about La Posta de Mesilla.  It is an old establishment that USA Today named as one of the top 10 Mexican restaurants in the country.

The restaurant is housed in the original stage coach stop for the Overland Butterfield Trail.  

The main entrance to the restaurant was a good indication of the delicious food to come.  A little history, a margarita, wonderful Mexican food.  Not a bad evening.
Prickly Pear margarita (L) and Pineapple Coconut margarita (R)

Dianne's Chimichanga

Roger's Fajitas
We opted not to have two or three shots of the Clase Azul Ultra Anejo.  We would have needed to cancel the rest of our summer trip.  Oh, and we would have had terrible headaches stumbling through White Sands National Monument the next day.


The park is forty miles from Las Cruces in the White Sands Missile Range.  We had to check before we left to be sure that the government was not testing missiles that day.  If they had been, the road to the park would have been closed.  

We waited a day to make the trip due to the forecast of high winds and hot temperatures.  It was a good decision.  As you can see, it was windy on the day we went, but not too bad.  The temperature was in the low 70s --- perfect.

 Good news for the doggies --- dogs on leashes are allowed in all areas of the park.  I must say that Bandido was beside himself with joy.  He actually cried when we started walking in the sand.

Tequila had a good day, too. Why, you ask?

In case you are wondering, look at the above picture of a larger specimen to see how we found this little camouflaged lizard.  Tequila had no problem spotting it.  These white lizards were a common sight on our hike.

We started our trek at the half-mile boardwalk trail shown in the pictures above.  However, our real goal was to romp through the dunes of gypsum until all we could see was white gypsum and blue skies.  We found it on the Alkali Flat Trail.  BTW, it was NOT flat.  The trail was not really a trail, either. The hike basically consisted of hiking from one orange post ---

--- to the next, being careful to never lose sight of the orange posts.  To do so could be very dangerous.  A lack of significant landmarks ---

--- would make getting lost a fairly easy thing to do.  Park rangers and signage encouraged hikers to take water (above all) and cell phones (for calling 911) into the dunes.  

The picture below shows Dianne before we scrambled up the first significant dune.  We quickly learned that by going slightly to the left or the right, it was not necessary to crawl up (as we did) the steepest slopes.

At one point, as we attempted to stay on slightly more level terrain, we found ourselves on a highly elevated peninsula.  We could either backtrack, OR slide down the dune on our butts.  Of course, we opted for sliding.  I do not like to do things over :-).  Bandido and I slid down first so that I could...

... document Dianne and Tequila scooting through the sand (gypsum).  It was interesting to watch the small avalanche of white sand in front of our feet as we made our descent.

Dianne gave Tequila a hug after they made it to the bottom.  So much fun.

Me and my girl -- D.

Here are a few more shots of the stark beauty that surrounded us for the two hours of our hike.

All good things must come to an end.  We had consumed about half of our water (including plenty for the dogs), and knew we should retrace our steps before we found ourselves in a dicey situation.  So, back we went.

Before getting in the car it was kinda important for me to get all the sand (gypsum) out of my hiking shoes.  I do not want to be accused of removing natural elements from a national park.

Hey Bandido!  I do not want to see you snorting any of this white powder!

It was 3:00 p.m. when we arrived back in Las Cruces/Mesilla.  Our only lunch was an apple that we ate on the trail.  Andele's Dog House?  I wondered if they would allow our dogs to eat with us?

I hopped out of the car to ask, and was told to follow the dog prints.  We found an outdoor patio inhabited by people and a variety of other dogs.  Our waitress brought a bowl of water for the dogs before doing anything else.  Then she asked us if we would like a beer.  Duh?  What a cool place.

We ordered Mexican hot dogs for the humans...

... and a plain hot dog for each of our dogs.  Look at Bandido's face (especially his eyes) as he gets his first bite of hot dog.

Tequila was so... gentle (uncharacteristically so) as she accepted her first bite.

We are back at the motor home at this moment and the day is winding down.  Tomorrow's drive will be a short one to Deming, New Mexico where we hope to snag a drive-in spot at Rock Hound State Park.  If we don't get one, we have a back-up plan.  

The pet picture of the day is a classic.  Tequila waiting for her first bite of hot dog at Andele's Dog House.


Nancy and Bill said...

What a wonderful couple of days!! Love the stark beauty of the missile range and what fun to slide down!! Safe Travels...

Steve said...

Mesilla looks like a great small town with great food, nice scenery and a great location. As far as White Sands ... nothing like walking in sand that has a "slight" (lol) incline ... that was quite a workout.

Jim and Sue Kyes said...

Great pictures! That cat looked suspiciously like Charlie. You do still have him don't you?

heyduke50 said...

love new mexican food and how it is so different than our great tex-mex