the high mountains have caves in them, ancient caves, because this is the spot where the valley splays out below, and on the other side, you have the high mountains, with deer and elk, and different kinds of natural things to eat on either side. the sun goes down back over the wide tularosa basin; the white sands there are hundreds of square miles and extend beyond the park and back up the valley, a shiny bright white at the sunset. the ancient caves have nothing left, probably; people have been examining them for years, but i don't know that; i'm not even sure i know exactly where they are. i think i can see one from that pullout, but i'm not sure, and it always seems to me that there are surely more caves in the area besides the two that the highway cuts right up between. but nevertheless, you have a stunning overlook there. the high mountains loom above you on all sides and beyond the tunnel; between them, you see the wide tularosa valley.
further up the mountain, you come to the ancient train trestle that crossed the mountains but went out of use maybe fifty years ago. one of those trestles was called an s-trestle, because it was in the shape of an s, and the train would curve its way around the high mountains going wherever it was going. the ruins of this trestle still sit up there in the high mountains, almost 9000 feet, with snow on them at a time like this, and make you wonder what it would be like to ride that train through the mountains, the high wide view of the tularosa valley extending off to your west.
this is part of my ride home; i leave las cruces, stop in the white sands to buy some navajo tea, and then shoot up that mountain on my way back to lubbock. from the top of the mountain, 9000 feet, you start the long way down, through the dry side of the mountains, to where it gets so hot and dry that nothing grows, in the wide open plain on the way down to artesia. beyond artesia you hit the oilfields, and then the ranchlands and the cotton fields that start around the texas border. in the small town of lovington i stopped for mexican food at a small place in a strip mall on the edge of town. it has a reasonable amount of people, almost all mexican americans, and serves good green chile enchiladas. the sun has gone way down by this time. new mexico is almost entirely behind me. my trip was based on the fact that my parents are getting very old, having trouble getting by day to day, and some wrong medicine sent mom on a spiral that took weeks to unravel. a worn out heart, trouble breathing, confusion, just general getting older. but in the course of running out there, a lot, i have found that spot high in the mountains, that four or five square miles of pines, 9000 feet, high above the tularosa valley and the penasco river watershed, the one wet place in hundreds of miles, and that place has offered me relief from what is otherwise the tough way of living in a harsh arid land, going day to day in the blazing sun with a pretty thorough lack of rain. in this one high place, 9000 feet, it rains and snows a lot, and clouds come along and sit up there, on the mountain, and everyone hangs around in the clouds watching the cars and trucks come through, and hit their high point before descending down into the dry. they talk about going through twelve eco-zones on their way down to get groceries; this is true; they get their groceries in alamogordo. they stay off the steep windy road in the bad weather, or they get four-wheel drive trucks.
nobody much really knows about this place; most of el paso, and las cruces, are happy living in the low hot desert, and don't need to get away all that much. in comparison to el paso and las cruces, lubbock is a lush green rain forest, but at least in lubbock, they've heard of the place. the highway that goes through it is a simple two-lane, but it's the road from my house to my parents', so this one high point, in the clouds, that's the place i've picked out as where i want to be.