Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Four Valleys in New Mexico

Yesterday morning, I left Roswell (in the Pecos River Valley) and drove west on Highway 380.  Climbing toward the Sacramento Mountains, I left the desert and soon reached grass-covered hills, passing Capitan Peak (10,083 feet) to my north.  The highway then entered steep-wall canyons before offering a spectacular view of Sierra Blanca (11,973 feet), the crest of the Sacramento Range.

At the Indian Divide, I left the Pecos River watershed and dropped into the Tularosa Basin, famous for White Sands National Monument and the massive Carrizozo basalt flow (5000 years old).  Highway 380 crosses the latter and several pull-offs are provided for close observation of this interesting volcanic landscape.  After climbing the Oscura Mountains, the road then drops into the Jornada del Muerto (Day of Death) which I hastened to cross.  A long, slow climb from there took me to the east wall of the Rio Grande Rift, lined with fault-block ranges, laccoliths and volcanic domes.

After descending to the valley floor and crossing the Rio Grande River, I took the opportunity to visit Bosque del Apache NWR, a renowned birding site, 8 miles south of San Antonio, New Mexico.  There I saw large flocks of snow geese, a fabulous diversity of waterfowl, bald eagles and, yes indeed, thousands of sandhill cranes! (See the last few posts).