Next stop on my agenda was New Mexico. My first destination in New Mexico was the Carlsbad Caverns. I was expecting a huge Carvern under ground, but I was blown away by the actual size of the Cavern. The hike down into the Cavern is about a mile and a half. This leads you on a descent about 750' below the surface (Just the big room, some parts go much deeper). Early pioneers came to cave to collect Bat Guano, that in some parts of the Cavern was up to 40' deep! Thats a whole lot of Bat Shit! With 119 known caves, the cavern opens up to a couple big rooms and one huge room called the Main Room.
After checking out Carlsbad Caverns, I headed a bit more north to Sitting Bull Falls in search of some water to cool off from the heat! Sitting Bull Falls is out in the middle of no-where. The drive down Dark Canyon Road is a beautiful drive through a twisting hilly road which goes through cow pastures and horse farms. Cows are free to cross the road on most parts of this drive, so you have to pay attention! Once I arrived at the Falls, I hiked up the river to get away from the crowds of people. Along the river, the landscape and foliage changed almost mimicking an African landscape, from the red clay, green tall grasses, and smell of cattle. It was a beautiful and quiet hike. At one point I heard a noise, and looked over to see a big cow standing about 15 yards down the trail. We stared each other down for a moment untill he took off. As soon as I continued down the trail, I heard yet another noise. This time I looked behind me to see a group of 6 cows and bulls crossing the trail. The cow in the front of the pack droped his head and began to kick the dirt back as if he was about to charge me! I began to slowly walk backwards to continue down the trial. That was a close one! (Look at the fourth picture down!)
After leaving Sitting Bull Falls, I headed north to Brantley Lake State Park to set up camp for the night. Lake Brantley is a resevoir that is a destination for swimming, fishing, and boating, although its catch and release only. The fish in these waters have been known to have large amounts of DDT. It was a nice campsite for the night, and I caught a beautiful sunset.
I had been told by some friends to check out Ruidoso, which is a cool mountain town of about 10,000 people. It lies right on the Sierra Blanca Mountain Range. The peak of the Sierra Mountains sits at over 12,000'. Some of Ruidoso’s main attractions are Ski Apache Resort, a RaceTrack, Casino and Golf Course. After getting advice from some locals, I set up camp at Oak Grove Campsite. This marks my first night camping in Bear Country! Oak Grove was a beautiful campsite on the side of the mountain. Apparently there are wild horses and turkeys that roam the area. I did not see any wild horses unfortunately. I was a little nervous about cooking and then camping by myself while being deep in bear country, But luckily I survived the night. :P
I was eager to do some cool mountain biking at high elevation. So I drove another 10 miles up the mountain to Ski Apache Resort. I bought a half day Gondola Lift ticket to get to the top of the mountain to ride the downhill trails. The main trail offers a 5.5 mile run to the bottom of the Resort. This was a super fun and fast trail. It was a bit rocky at sections, which was a little rough on a hardtail mountain bike. I ended up getting two flat tires and had to cut my riding short. It would have been a little bit better with a full suspension bike, but it was fun nonetheless! There is an excellent view from the top of the mountain. You can see White Sands in the distance (see the fourth image down), the white sands missle testing area, and the Trinity Site where they tested the first Atomic Bomb.
After leaving Ruidoso, I headed south to White Sands National Monument. White sands was pretty cool, it’s just a huge desert of sand dunes that constantly shift by the minute. White Sands can get a little sketchy if you are not careful. You cannot rely on the layout of the dunes to find your way, because they shift every minute. There have been groups of people that wander out too far, and die from dehydration because they could not find their way back.