Visiting Roswell and Alamogordo was not on the top of my list of places to go but John was very interested in seeing the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo and the White Sands Missile range so we added it to our itinerary. Since we had to drive through Roswell on the way, we decided to stop at the Roswell UFO Museum. While some of the museum is kind of hokey (as I expected) there were also some very interesting personal accounts, videos and other exhibits to investigate. See The Palenque Astronaut carving below for an example. I’m glad we didn’t make a special trip there as it wasn’t as big as we expected and if you watch any shows or read any books on the Roswell crash or other alien encounters, there isn’t much new information. It’s only $5 to get in and they gave us the military discount of $3 a person when John told them he was an Air Force veteran. Not a personal highlight of this trip for me, but we can add it to our “we’ve been there” list.
After our quick stop in Roswell we were on our way to Alamogordo which was more exciting for me because I wanted to visit White Sands National Monument.
Our first excursion was the New Mexico Space History Museum which we unfortunately went to on the same day as several buses of school children making it difficult to see everything, but we did our best. It’s only $8 to get in and we thought it was worth it. They have a planetarium and theater which we couldn’t go to because the school children had every show booked. The museum has several levels and you start at the top and go down traveling through the history of space exploration. Just as with the UFO Museum, this isn’t something that I was really interested but I have to admit that I found much of this museum quite educational and enjoyable.
Above is a space suit and capsule that was used by Ham the Chimp (acronym for Holloman Aerospace Medical Center) in 1961.
I especially liked the outdoor exhibits including the Daisy Track which is an air-powered sled-track used to study the effects of acceleration, deceleration, and impact on the human body and various equipment systems. I also enjoyed the static displays of rockets, especially the 86 feet tall, Little Joe II which is the largest rocket ever launched from New Mexico.
This is an interesting museum to learn more about space and the role that New Mexico played in space history.
We had a couple days of high winds which kept us from going to White Sands National Monument but the minute the winds subsided we headed out. It seems appropriate that the Space Museum, the Missile Range and other space related things are in this area because the White Sands National Monument landscape makes you feel like you are on another planet.
I loved the tranquility and peacefulness of seeing dune after dune of pure white sand. Driving on the road felt like driving through the Colorado mountains with snow piled on the sides. The ripples and patterns in the sand were unique as snowflakes and hard to capture with a camera, but so beautiful in person.
It was fun to see the families that staked a claim in the sand with their pop-up tents, coolers, lawn chairs and sleds for sliding down the dunes. It’s like a giant beach but without the water! The foliage and flowers that thrived in the sand was a surprise to me and I sought out (and photographed) every one I saw.
Since it wasn’t very hot outside we decided to take the Dune Life Nature Trail. The trail was very well marked and was easy to follow and the markers are tall enough that as the sand dunes shifts and change in height, you can still see them and follow the trail.
Even if you only have an hour to drive through the monument, I highly recommend it. If you have more time, pack a picnic and bring a sled and enjoy a whole day there!
What else is there to do in the Alamogordo area? Well, if you know us, you know we love wine so we always try to find local wineries and we found one in Tularosa, NM about 8 miles from our RV Park. We drove up to what looked like a manufactured home and there wasn’t any signage saying there was a tasting room so I called the number on their website and asked if they were open and where the tasting room was. The guy comes outside and says “we’re right here, come on in”. Needless to say, we were the only ones there so we had a leisurely tasting of their wines. New Mexico is trying to get people in the state to like wine and therefore make them a bit sweeter than we like but we still enjoyed trying them and we purchased their Rose and Sangiovese (which didn’t taste as good when we had them later but for the price, they were fine).
Did you know that Alamogordo is known for its pistachios? We didn’t but were happy to find that out, especially since Pistachioland was right across the street from our RV Park (along with the world’s largest pistachio that’s 30 feet tall). John had some work to do so I walked across the street and sampled sweet, sour and even hot (like Hatch chilis) pistachios. They also had wine tasting, but their wines were way to sweet for me. Unfortunately I got there too late to take a tour of the pistachio farm which would have be fun!
If you like to hike, I recommend getting the All Trails app on your phone. Everywhere we go I will look at that app to see what hikes are in the area. While in Alamogordo, I found Three Rivers Petroglyph Site that was only 30 miles from our RV park and has a short hike with over 20,000 petroglyphs. There is a map that you can follow that will give you the highlights but there are so many more that aren’t even listed.
There is also another short trail that leads to the remains of a Mogollon village whose people were likely the ones who made the petroglyphs. It was occupied for approximately 400 years and when partially excavated in the 70s the foundations of three types of prehistoric buildings unearthed. We had never heard of the Mogollon people so this stop was very interesting to us. John and I both feel a connection to the native peoples of North America, John more than me, probably because he is 18% Native American.
Some people theorize that aliens and ancient petroglyphs could have some connection. There are petroglyphs that depict what people believe to be alien spacecraft and other extraterrestrial beings, so ending our Rowell/Alamogordo “Space” trip with petroglyphs was like traveling full circle.
Although Alamogordo was not one of the “oh my gosh I can’t wait to go” places on our itinerary, we found plenty of fun, interesting and educational things to do. If you’re passing through, consider stopping for a day or two.