After seeing Carlsbad Caverns, I turned West and climbed the grade into one of the highest towns in the USA- Cloudcroft, New Mexico
My First Memory?
I've read before that your first memories can play a role in explaining personality. Not sure if I've ever really believed that but I can tell you that one of my first memories of childhood was hiking Cloudcroft, New Mexico. I must have been 4 or 5 years old and visiting family in El Paso much like this trip in my 30s. My Aunt and Uncle drove us up from West Texas into the mountains. It was probably the first time I ever saw a dust storm and the first time I ever saw snow. Two and a half decades later I returned as somebody who love the mountains and outdoors- I suppose this helps support some of my colleague's theories in psychoanalysis!
Back into the Mountains
After checking out the rolling hills and desert
around Artesia and Carlsbad, I made the climb into the Sacramento Mountains. I camped out at a lovely private site near Mayhill called The Camp at Cloudcroft
. This was your classic wife-husband run campground with reasonable rates. I camped right by the river pictured above. The next morning I continued my drive into Cloudcroft. The town is located at 8,600' of elevation, making it one of the highest towns of its size in the country. Cloudcroft retains its pioneer appeal and I would have loved to have stayed there longer. I did stop by High Altitude
for maps and a few pointers about exploring the area.
Hiking Mexican Canyon Trestle
Between discussions with folks on the road and High Altitude, one of the don't miss sites to see in Cloudcroft was the Mexican Canyon Trestle. This small town used to be an important railroad stop in the mountains. Though most of the rails are gone, they've turned them all into hiking trails! Just off the main drag in downtown is the Trestle Recreation area where a number of hikes begin. The Mexican Canyon Trestle trail is less than 2.5 miles in total length and includes a number of panoramas of the valley where Whites Sands is located.
From the parking lot, the trail almost instantly comes to the Overlook (0.2 miles) where I spent a lot of time just gazing off into the distance. A few large birds of prey were circling invisible thermals. The White Sands also were gleaming in the distance and I realized how massive they were! Almost looked like an ocean.
The trail continues to steadily loose elevation as you depart from the main overlook. I found the trail to be well marked, maintained and I had no trouble following signs to the trestle. Less experienced hikers should know that you gain all the elevation back on the hike back so don't expend too much energy!
After less than an hour, I was at the Mexican Canyon Trestle. Its a relic from the 1900s and still stands 130 feet above the canyon. I can't imagine what it was like to be taking an old-fashioned steam engine up these rickety rails! Looks almost like an old wood roller coaster- Naturally, you don't want to hop the fence and try and travel across the trestle itself! I decided to just hike back the way I came but you can use the combination of trails to hike to the Devils Elbow which is another fantastic overlook. In fact, you could just keep hiking the network of trails nearby to have a full day adventure.
Down to Alamogordo
Driving down Route 82 to Alamogordo from Cloudcroft was an adventure in itself. This is a well paved road but it also drives a bit like a roller coaster. Just west of the tunnel was a great pullout where you could see the large canyon created by Fresnal Creek. I'm sure there are plenty of hiking trails to take you through the canyon but I just liked admiring the view from the road. My next destination on this road trip of New Mexico was White Sands National Monument!