Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In the Tulies with Birdies, Pistachio's, Petroglyphs and Lava Beds.

White Sands forms the south end of the Tularosa Basin, or Tulie Basin, as some call it.  Truly out in the Tulies, trust me.  Wide open spaces, and also some interesting local places.  High mountains surrounds the 200 mile long basin. 

We arose with sun and headed out for some early morning birding.  Light was good.

Last Early morning birding at Holloman Lake

I managed to get some passable photographs of some of the shore birds feeding and flying.  The swallows were particularly difficult with their dodging around so fast.  I had to handhold and try to catch them in good light.  Did ok.  Avocet was easier as it is larger.  Click on any picture to make it larger.

Greater Yellowlegs (in front left), Avocet, Stilt 
Ring-Billed Gull Flying

Avocet Flying
Ibis and Black Necked Stilt
Violet Green Swallow
(Talk about hard to photograph)

Barn Swallow in flight

After some early morning birding, we pack up, head north, fill up Toad at the local Alamogordo Walmart, dump trash and recycling and fill up water jugs.  All in one stop. A little bit north, we find a Pistachio Farm
Pistachio Orchard  20,000 trees here
Did you know that New Mexico grows huge amounts of Pistachios.  Apparently this area along with the area over by Las Cruces in southern New Mexico is similar in climate to Iran, the main source of world wide Pistachio nuts.
Pistachio nuts soon to be harvested
We buy some Pistachios both regular and green chile flavored.  Nothing says New Mexico like green chile.  Unfortunately when we arrived at our campsite and broke out the bags we were disappointed with the quality.  Last year's crop.  Fortunately we placed a call with the vendor who is going to refund our money.
Old International truck in good condition
We head north along the highway.  Clouds are really wonderful.  Not much wind today (yet...)
Heading north through Tularosa Basin
Some of my train buddies have been giving me a hard time about not seeing trains.  Well, one buddy in particular.  You know who you are.  Seems there is a major north-south rail route through the basin. We saw 4 trains today in both directions.  I caught this one below by pulling over along side of highway as he passed.  He tooted his horn!.  Note the new streamlined car behind the engine.
Mainline North-South Union Pacific Train. We saw several today  
We stop at Three Rivers Petroglyphs area for lunch.  What a sight.  We can see Sierro Blanco in east which is 12,0003 mountain on Mescalero Apache Indian reservation.
Lunch at Three Rivers Petroglyph area (BLM)
This is a BLM site which we thought we might want to camp.  Nice place with flush toilets. We hike the trail to see some of the 20,400 petrogplyphs from the Mogollon era sometime in distant past.  Some artists were quite busy.  You could see different styles.
One of many, many Petroglyphs in area
I could put up a lot of photos but here are a couple.  We spent maybe 2 hours hiking around looking at them.
Cool design.  this artist was a bit more sophisticated than many we saw
We decide not to camp here and head north to Valley of Fires Recreation area where we are now.
We pull into the BLM camping area and find an incredible space.  There are some with electrical but we don't need it.  So we pick a dry camping spot on mesa overlooking the lava beds.  360 degree views.
Our Campsite at Valley of Fires overlooking Lava Beds
We get out the chairs, the aforementioned Piastachios (notice bowl), water, iPad (we have good internet here) and proceed to spend next 2 hours watching sunset.
Looking South from Valley of Fires campsite with Sierra Blanco in background
This campsite is amazing.  I would say it has it all.  Internet, cell service, view,  only $6 per day.  We will return here and spend a few days as a base next time where we can drive to various locations.  Beautiful locations with good internet and cell are hard to find.  This is a keeper.
Sunset reflections over Tularosa Basin
Next morning we hike around the lava beds.  Apparently 1500-5000 years ago the northern part of Tularosa basin opened up cracks and vents in the earths crust whereon lava flowed out.  Not erruptions but just flowing like some places in Hawaii.
Crack in Lava Bed 
The lava flows are over 40 miles long in certain areas which then cooled, and nature took its course.  Now all kinds of vegetation, plants, animals live in area. 4 different kinds of bats sleep in the cooler cracks left behind below ground.  Birds, lizards, rabbits,  coyotes, etc.  Amazing variety out in the "Tulies"  wouldn't you say?
Another Lava Bed
The wind was heavy overnight but now calmed down.  I have a conference call at noon.  With spotty internet north of here, we elect to spend a leisurely morning and will head out after noon call and lunch, northbound.  Only have 70 miles to drive and a couple stops along the way.  We expect our destination campsite not to be full, so have made no reservations.  Such is the life of nomads.

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