During our visit to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta in 2010, we thought it’d be interesting to check out some new attractions. We’ve been to Albuquerque a few times, and seemed to visit the same attractions each time. This trip took us to the edge of town and beyond.
We, of course, did the obligatory visit to the Old Town district for souvenir shopping and dining. It’s always cool to check out the latest jewelry offerings from Native Americans. But, this time, we thought we’d take a road trip on one of the down days the Fiesta – no morning balloon launches.
We hit the road for White Sands National Monument. It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth that I’ve been to. We had an interesting drive that day. While driving along a highway, we approached Truth or Consequences. How does that not scream out “Photo op?!”
We found a sign welcoming us to T or C, as New Mexicans call it. Mallory and I each posed with the sign, as well as getting a shot of the sign itself. The city was originally called Hot Springs because, yep, it is located near hot springs. The city of 6,411 is known as a spa city. The city changed its name when Ralph Edwards, host of the then-popular NBC game show “Truth or Consequences” challenged cities across the country to change their name to the game show’s title. Edwards said he would host the show from the first city to do so.
In March, 1950, as the game show celebrated its 10th anniversary (including its time on the radio), Truth or Consequences, NM, was born. The city hosts an annual Fiesta recognizing the name change. Ralph Edwards also has a park named after him. For more information on T or C, please visit www.torcnm.org.
Moving along toward our goal of visiting White Sands, we ended up about six miles north of the Mexican border in Las Cruces, home of New Mexico State University. It was lunch time, so we took a timeout for burgers at Blake’s Lotaburger.
After lunch, we headed out for our destination! A short drive brought us to White Sands National Monument in Almagordo. It just happens to be on an Army missile testing range. There are times when access to the park is closed due to testing.
However, not that day!
The white sand is the product of gypsum. Since the 275-square mile Tularosa basin is enclosed, the gypsum cannot flow into the sea like it would in other areas. Thus, this natural wonder has been created and is beautiful. The dunes look like huge snow drifts or white waves, depending on which take you want. LOL. The sun beats down on you as you walk along the dunes. The sand is soft and warm on bare feet. We each walked a bit. The wind blows fresh sand over your foot prints, so they don’t stay in the sand too long. We watched a family use snow sleds to ride down the dunes. Very cool.
The dunes are home to some unique creatures. We saw some lizards and newts scurrying about. They were quick moving, so you had to do a great job in keeping your eyes on them. The vegetation was interesting. According to the federal website (www.nps.gov/whsa), plants at White Sands have to be able to withstand temperatures ranging from below freezing to above 100 degrees. The type of vegetation in the park depends on its location. Salt cedar, yucca, evening primrose, woolly paperflower, Indian ricegrass, ephedra, and alkali sacaton can be found in the park. We enjoyed the beauty of the plants along the dunes. White Sands was a great day trip and a beautiful place to visit.
On our return trip to Albuquerque, we had to stop at two Border Patrol stations for inspection. One officer asked a question that the sarcastic side of me wanted to answer, but when I saw the German Sheperd at his side, the logical side came through. Otherwise, I may still be at Gitmo.
Another day, we thought it’d be interesting to check out Petroglyph National Monument on the western edge of Albuquerque. The park protects about 24,000 images or drawings made by Native Americans and Spanish explorer up to 700 years ago. The symbols are carved on volcanic rock. The carvings are located in two main areas – Boca Negra and Piedras Marcadas Canyon. We walked the path to observe the carvings. You make the walk short or you walk uphill a bit. The terrain is uneven, so it can take some effort, but not too much. I like to go as far on a trail as I can, so we did check out quite a few of the rocks. We finished with our first set of carvings. We decided to walk over to another set of rocks a few hundred feet away. There was a boardwalk for a portion of the walk, but some of it would be on the sand. As we started to go for it, Mallory noticed a warning sign – rattle snakes could be in the area. As someone who hates snakes, especially venomous ones, I agreed that we should drive over. That idea worked well, because as we headed back to the car, we saw a roadrunner in the distance. Petroglyph National Monument was a fantastic visit. I recommend checking it out when in Albuquerque. For more information on the Petroglyph National Monument, please visit www.nps.gov/petr.
After checking out a couple of new attractions, we did visit a family favorite – the Sandia Peak Tramway (www.sandiapeak.com). The tramway takes you 2.7 miles above the city. The observation deck at the top of the mountain is 10,378 feet above sea level (5 miles). I’m not a fan of heights. But, the tram is an awesome ride! You take in some beautiful scenery a the tram makes it skyward.
Once atop the peak, you can hike several routes. We actually started one that was right on the edge of the mountain. I didn’t last very long on that one. We found a nice interior trail. As we walked through the trees, we caught glimpses of squirrels scurrying about. Our family – thanks to Mallory – has a love affair with squirrels. Mallory and I tried often to get some photos of them, but they didn’t stay put too long. I lucked out and caught one while he was on a tree stump eating. Thank you Mr. Squirrel. The trees atop the mountain are tall and thin. They provided a great canopy. It was beautiful to see the blue sky and white clouds above the treetops. We hiked to the end of the trail. We came upon an old stone cabin on the edge of the mountain. The view from there was spectacular. I know I am biased because I love the area, but the view from the Sandias is among the best in the world. We enjoyed our trip on the Sandia Peak Tramway.
We have a couple of favorite places we like to dine at when in the Duke City. We didn’t stray from them. The Route 66 Malt Shop is always a good call for an affordable and enjoyable meal. Our other favorite restaurant is Papa Felipe’s. They have the best sopapillas in town. My love affair with this place dates back to 1996, when I spent three weeks (Mal will tell you it was 10 years – she was in grade school and missed her daddy) working for a former employer. We had a great time during our visit to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta and then the attractions we visited. I love visiting Albuquerque and it remains on the short list for places I would move to.