Great Plains Loop

Day 10: Ruidoso to Tucson

Monjeau Lookout survived a massive wildfire in 2012. With the forest slowly recovering, there were a lot of birds on the summit, including this fellow who I think is a Northern Flicker.
Scottish thistles abounded in the burnt-over area. Apart from the lookout, the Ruidodo area has little to recommend it. Wildcat development runs up and down all sides of the mountain. How fortunate we are that our Sky Islands — the Catalinas, the Chiricahuas, the Santa Ritas, the Piñalenos and the Huachucas — have thus far escaped this fate!
Since the road home took us right past the White Sands National Monument, we just had to stop for a picnic and a quick walkabout.
What an unearthly environment! First of all, it's not sand, it's GYPSUM! Mountains of it! Cool to the touch even on a hot summer day, but blindingly brilliant. Why doesn't this "sand" blow away? Because water courses downhill from the Sierra Blanca, and since this basin has no outlet, it just sits there a few feet below the surface.
Here's another destination on our hit list, but in the winter, with really good eye protection! For this visit, our main accomplishment was rescuing a family from El Paso that was stuck in the heat with a dead battery. They all ran around the car and hugged us when the motor finally roared to life!
Stopping for an iced coffee in Mesilla. We'd be home by dinner time, oh so tired with more than 3000 miles behind us, but also with countless memories and new old friends to cherish!