I am pretty convinced that every mile of this trip was worth it. The time I spent with my sisters exploring, laughing, and even arguing was priceless. Not since before I left for college had we spent so much uninterrupted time together.
It was also a dream come true for me to visit some of the amazing natural wonders of the USA. I’m all for traveling internationally, but that doesn’t mean I want to ignore what’s in my own backyard…even if it requires long hauls out west packed in a CR-V. Consider this the first of many annual road trips to come.
For me, the trip began in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Following a crazy of week of packing and moving, I drove to Savannah on Saturday to pick up my youngest sibling. We departed on Sunday, heading for Atlanta and our other sister.
An afternoon departure from Atlanta provided us enough sunlight to make it to Mississippi. I’m not actually sure how we found the Whitten Park Campground near Fulton, MS. However we came upon it, the campground was pretty good. We were able to get one of the last waterfront sites near the Fulton Lock. The sunset across the water was beautiful and accompanied by hundreds of fireflies illuminating our campsite and surrounding woods. We did battle some persistent mosquito though, so that was a drawback.
It was this first night that we discovered that the tent we had borrowed was too small. I guess it was meant for three people as long as those people were midgets with slim shoulders. I wound up sleeping in the CR-V with Courage, leaving Michelle, Adri, and Taco to the tent.
The next day, Michelle and Adri took a dip in the lock before we left. Surprisingly, Taco and Courage got in as well. I’ve never seen Courage willingly enter a body of water before…
Early afternoon found us in Morrilton, Arkansas. We stopped to see our grandparents, pick up supplies, and get a new tent. It was during this stop that the CR-V required a jump. To the friendly cop that helped Michelle out, thank you!
Monday ended with us reaching Red Rock Canyon State Park in Oklahoma. This stop is a favorite for avid rappellers. If you’re ever in Oklahoma and want to climb something…this is the place for you.
Tuesday morning, I made my first attempt at brewing coffee with a percolator. The French press I had brought hadn’t survived Adri’s first dish washing escapade. I guess it’s all about timing…between my haphazard attention span and guestimating amounts of grounds, it could have been far worse.
By Tuesday afternoon, we were in northern Texas. This was my second stop at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, but the first for Michelle and Adri. Thanks to a kind visitor, Adri got a chance to leave her mark.
The next stop on our south western descent through the states was the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. An artesian well and popular dive location, it’s a beautiful respite from the arid New Mexican desert. At a year-round temperature of 64 °F (18 °C), it’s colder than any of the springs I’ve visited in Florida.
Late afternoon saw us on the outskirts of Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was at this point that my first injury occurred. (Apparently, my clumsiness only grows.) A quick stop at a grocery store for dog food and I left with a bruised, bleeding toe due to a can slipping through my hands. So…that hurt. And bled. A lot. It’s a great way to start out a trip with many hikes to come. Between the first aid supplies that Adriana and I had brought, I was cleaned and bandaged quickly.
The KOA at Alamogordo set our standards real high. Between the amazing owners, Kelly and Sandy, and the free filtered water, and letting us borrow sleds for White Sands, and the amazing renovated bathrooms…we were basically ruined for all other KOAs.
We decided to spend the last few hours of sunlight setting up the tent and getting dinner ready. That night we learned the importance of nailing down every part of the tent’s rainfly. Around midnight, strong winds had the rainfly flapping against the tent. It’s not a great noise to wake up to. A few minutes and the rainfly was ripped from the tent and fluttering by a cord on the ground. Note to self: keep all cords nailed down and taut.
Courage being the brave beast she is, found a lot of comfort inside the tent. I got the distinct sensation that she would have spent the whole trip inside there, wanting for nothing. That’s my dog.
And finally, after 1,776 miles, we got to see the first major stop on our trip: White Sands National Monument .
This place is pretty much unreal. I won’t be surprised if you assume these photos are all elaborate green screen pranks. I was there and I still can’t believe it’s real. The bleach white of the gypsum sand dunes in contrast with the sky is phenomenal. Between the sun overhead and the sand’s reflection, everything was illuminated.
And everything was real hot. I left my keys out for a quick second. Not a pleasant experience when I grabbed them following their brief stint in the sun.
We did sled and take some shorter walks during this first visit to White Sands. But between the triple digit heat warning and the dogs loud panting, it seemed wise to return later in the day for a second (cooler) look. Good news is that entry is pretty cheap ($3 for each person) and is good for several days.
Our return to White Sands followed a large thunderstorm that was sideswiping the monument. The dark clouds and lightening were enough to send most of the visitors out of the park. We arrived to deserted dunes and amazing light. The setting sun and approaching storm made the beautiful desert even more unearthly in appearance.
The later hour and cool winds from the storm made the second visit much more enjoyable for the dogs as well.
The storm was far enough away so as not to be a huge concern for rain. We couldn’t even hear the thunder…but there was lightening. And rainbows. So…you choose. Are they running from lightening or toward rainbows?
I think I want to live here.