We know it well: South means warm and sun! And it does apply to the US as well! Excursion near the Mexican border in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. With prickly cacti, rocky sculptures and a stowaway in the Jeep, these few days in the South were full of adventures!
Sunday, November 6th, 2022
Quite unexpectedly, we are in Texas! It's the largest State in the continental United States (second only to Alaska) and we're going to discover only a very small part of it. Too bad for Houston, we save it for another time 😉
We go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The Guadalupe Mountains rise more than 900 meters above the arid Chihuahuan Desert that surrounds them. They are mountain lions and even black bears. Caution is advised, as the climate is so mild here that bears don't hibernate! They are indeed able to find food all year round. We go for a nice hike in a beautiful and preserved nature. We go up the dry river bed and the autumnal colors are splendid.
After 3 kilometers jumping from rock to rock in the river bed, the path ends at the bottom of a deep gorge. There is nothing left to do but to turn back!
It's then time to take the road. The Mexican border is very close and there is a checkpoint on the highway. We slow down, we stop. The light is green! We pass near the big city of El Paso, situated directly on the Mexican border. While the sun is offering us a magnificent sunset on the city, we drive North until we reach New Mexico. We camp on the heights of Las Cruces.
Monday, November 7th
Winter time is definitely not a good thing. Not only do we have to cook before 5 pm if we don't want to eat in the dark, but we are also woken up by the sun at 7 am! Well, at least the day starts earlier. After taking a great shower for 1 $, we go to the library where we spend most of the day. At the end of the day (meaning at 4:30 pm...), we go back to the same camp as yesterday to sleep. At 5 pm, we cook pizzas but it's already dark when we start eating! Do we need to eat even earlier? Winter, what an idea!
It's been three nights we are at war. Against a mouse. In the evening and at night, we can hear it walk on the roof. Tic tic tic. One day. Two days. Three days. Now we have to admit it: we have a stowaway. This time, Rémi goes out. In shorts and t-shirt, shoes quickly put on without socks, with his flash light and a hiking stick, he is ready to fight. He comes back ten minutes later, empty-handed. He saw the mouse, but it disappeared. Let's hope it had a fright and it's gone!
Tuesday, November 8th
We don't see much of Las Cruces but it seems to be a much more welcoming city than Albuquerque. There are huge villas near the road and we drive in the rich districts taking photographs. We love the style of New Mexico's houses. We wonder who can live in such immense houses? Maybe drug barons? 😅
Interstate 10 is a straight road through southern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. There are lot of trucks and lot of trash. The Mexican border is a few miles south and we pass two checkpoints. All vehicles must stop, trucks on one side and cars on the other. The light is green, we may continue. After three hours, we are back in Arizona and we drive accross mountainous, green and wooded landscapes. We settle camp in a dark and humid wood. We quickly cook a soup in the dark and we go inside the Jeep to sleep. Until... Tic tic tic. The mouse! This time, we both go out. We search but we only see a big skunk 😂 It's cold and dark so we go back inside the Jeep... Cric, cric, cric. What the heck?! I am seating on the passenger seat and I say to Rémi: "Looks like it's just behind me, munching on something". Inside the Jeep, no way! And then he opens the back door and there it is! Inside the Jeep! Awful! 😱 Remi manages to throw it outside. He then wants to leave straight away, because he thinks the mouse has a nest somewhere in the Jeep and that it will come back once the commotion has died down. It's 8 pm. We drive a few meters in the dark until we find a new place to sleep. Now we hope that the mouse will not find us here!
30 minutes later, we hear scratching behind the passenger seat again. Let's make a plan. We have to get her back to the back of the Jeep, to get her out, once and for all. I am in charge of slamming the rear doors and making as much noise as possible. Remi is waiting in the back with the Carlsbad Caverns National Park leaflet, the ultimate weapon. It's cold, dark and silent in the woods and I slam the doors noisily. "Keep going, I see it!" The leaflet of the National Park slams against the Jeep. "Did you get it out?" I ask as I rush to the back. Remi saw the mouse, but it slipped behind the rear bumper of the Jeep...
This evening is definitely filled with events! At 10 pm, we see two eyes shining in the dark. Is it a cat? A lynx? We will learn the next day at the park's service center that it was two ringtail cats. While we observe them quietly moving away from the light beam, a javelina, small species of wild boar, passes in front of the car! Intrigued by all this wild life taking place quietly, we observe the woods lit by the full moon. We will only see another skunk!
What about our mouse? We heard it walking on the roof all night... Well at least it's outside now!
Wednesday, November 9th
To reach Chiricahua National Monument, we take a trail that winds through the mountains. In the distance, we can see the flat desert plains of Arizona. It's early and we see many deer.
Chiricahua National Monument was totally unknown to us, so we had no expectations about it. Maybe that's why we liked it so much! The Chiricahua Apaches who occupied the area before the settlers called this place "the land of standing rocks". They have been sculpted by the forces of nature over millions of years. Geologists have yet to discover the secret of these rock formations, but they believe that violent volcanic eruptions from Turkey Creek volcano discharged thick layers of burning ash about 27 million years ago. As they cooled, they formed layers of volcanic rock called rhyolite. Water, wind, and ice then sculpted the rock into the same fascinating rock formations we see today.
We go for a 15 kilometers hike through the rock forests. We are fascinated by these high formations and boulders that seem to be in precarious balance. It looks like a giant Tetris!
The hike leads to Hearth of Rocks, where the rock formations are the most impressive. Some of the rocks even have been named: we can see Duck Rock, Kissing Rocks, Balanced rock and even a rock that looks strangely like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy 😀
Again, we spend the evening in the woods. We cook at 4 pm to enjoy the daylight. Then we go inside the Jeep to sleep, hoping to see some animals like yesterday evening. This evening however we only see some deer... and always the mouse which walks on the roof of the Jeep during the night.
Thursday, November 10th
Back to the park, where we take a copious breakfast in the sun. We then walk on the short hiking trail around Massai Viewpoint, where we can admire the rock formations of the park, which seem to defy any gravity.
We loved Chiricahua Monument. It's not very famous or popular and yet it's worth a visit! In the afternoon, we briefly stop in the small town of Lowell. In the 1950's, the town had a strong development due to the exploitation of a copper mine, now closed. In the main street, there are many vintage cars and old stores.
We stop in a hardware store to buy a mousetrap. We cannot get rid of it and we are afraid that it nibbles cables, because we hear it sometimes in the hood. We spend the evening near the city of Tombstone, in a riverbed. And for the first time since five days, we don't hear the mouse, neither in the evening, nor in the night! In the morning, the cheese is still in the trap, intact. Maybe the mouse felt the danger and disappeared just in time? We hope so!