Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Sands of Time

After the wedding celebration we spent a cool night in Cloudcroft, then headed down the mountain to Alamogordo well-stocked with generous gifts of apples and apple cider. On our way down the mountain, we saw this magnificent vista to the west. Unfortunately, it was a windy day and the dust obscured part of the view.

We camped in Boot Hill RV Park in Alamogordo, which had very nice facilities, and got the dogs' vote because it had a spacious run with plenty of room for playing ball, sniffing and dog tussles.   Monday afternoon we toured the New Mexico Museum of Space History which focuses on the part New Mexico has played in the US space program. In addition to a flight simulator, there were excellent displays of satellites, rockets, etc. We highly recommend it.

On Tuesday, we came back to the Museum to see the IMAX production of "Hubble." Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the seventh in the series for the IMAX Space Team. The production puts you up close and personal with the astronauts as they experience the launch and engage in space walks to repair the mammoth telescope. The views of galaxies near and far are breathtaking, and for the first time I realized just what this incredible piece of equipment brings to our understanding of our world. Please check out your local IMAX and don't miss it.

Alamogordo is famous not only for its proximity to White Sands Missile Range, but as the location of the White Sands National Monument. Consisting of white gypsum, the dunes are spectacular at any time of the day, but especially at morning and evening. This is one of only three occurrences of any size in the world of gypsum dunes. The Monument encompasses over 275 square miles of dunes, and dwarfs the other two locations (in New Mexico and Texas) which cover less than ten square miles each.  Formed millions of years ago, the basin has created a National treasure in the form of the magnificent snow-white dunes.

I was fortunate to be the first person to take the one-mile nature loop on Tuesday morning, so I had wonderful views of the dunes unmarred by footprints, except for these little prints, possibly made by the tiny kit fox that lives here.

On Tuesday evening, we returned for a one-hour ranger-guided walk into the dunes. Though there were footprints by this time, the soft evening light was beautiful, causing the sand and the surrounding mountains to glow in shades of peach, orange and magenta.

We learned that the gypsum dunes occur in this area because of the Tularosa Basin.  A basin, unlike a valley, has no outlet for runoff water.  Since gypsum is water-soluble, it rarely forms crystals.  However, in this instance the water carrying the dissolved gypsum, having no outlet from the basin, simply flows into the dunes area and evaporates, leaving behind selenium crystals collected on its way.  These break down into smaller particles and form the dunes.

The dunes "migrate" due to wind currents, and the base can move up to ten feet in a year. As they move, the dunes cover some forms of vegetation, and uncover others. When a dune moves away from a plant, if its roots are well-entrenched in the groundwater layer that lies three feet or so below the dunes, the plant holds the sand and forms a "pedestal," like the one in the photo above.  If the plant is healthy, its pedestal can be quite large.  However, eventually the dune moves away and the plant collapses because it has no support.

Good fortune for the area, in the form of a two-inch rain the week before, was not to our advantage.  The road into the dunes is only paved for 3.5 of its 8-mile length.  Because the rain dissolved the hard-packed gypsum of the road into the heart of the dunes, the last 4.5 miles  of the road was closed to traffic.  We were unable, therefore, to see the "heart" of the park, where the large dunes are devoid of vegetation.  We'll have a good excuse to return another day!


Monday, November 1, 2010

I Do! I Do!

Brian and Debi were blessed with a truly beautiful wedding day. After cold (by Texas standards), blustery weather on Friday and Saturday (and before cloudy, cold and windy conditions on Monday), Sunday, October 24, 2010, dawned clear, crisp and beautiful, with only a light wind. Several of us spent the morning and early afternoon picking and sorting apples, while Brad, Justine and John slaved over a hot grill to have ribs, pork tenderloin, pinto beans, salad and the wedding cake ready for the celebratory feast.
What can I say...the bride was stunning! The groom was handsome! The children were happy, and the parents and guests were delighted!

Gage, Brian, Myles, Debi and Mallory
The New Mexico sunset provided an appropriate backdrop for the wedding ceremony,

Brian's Grandmother Audrey Wann, Michal and John, Barbara Hawn and Trenton Wann, and Debi's Mom, Eleene and her husband, Waymon Upchurch

...and the minister even entertained us with songs after pronouncing Brian and Debi Husband and Wife!

Toasts and good wishes followed, including very special words from Mallory, Myles and Gage.  Brian's Grandmother, Audrey Wann, read this lovely blessing which I believe comes from the Apache tradition:

Now you will feel no rain
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now each of you will feel no cold
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no loneliness for you
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons
But there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

I can't imagine a more perfect day.  We hope that Brian and Debi's life together will be filled with love, commitment, and happiness. Please enjoy these photos from their special day and join us in wishing them God's blessings for a lifetime of love and laughter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Apple A Day

Wednesday night found us in Roswell, NM, at the Red Barn RV Park. This is a small, family-owned park and most of the spaces are occupied by "permanent" residents. They did have a couple of pull-through spots, though, and we just fit in one of them. The owners were very accommodating, and the laundry is convenient and on the "honor system." We enjoyed our short stay there and moved on to Cloudcroft on Thursday to get ready for the wedding of my son, Brian Wann and his fiancee' Debi Hoskins.

Sugar Pines RV Park is similar to the Red Barn in that it's small and family-owned. It's more expensive, though...$40 per night for full hookups and no other amenities. However, it's convenient, just 8 miles or so from Cider Mill Farms where Brian and Debi were married. The farm is owned by Brian's dad, Trenton Wann, and his wife, Barbara. They have their home, and an apple orchard and truck farm on ten lovely acres between Cloudcroft and Alamogordo. We, as well as a gaggle of other family and friends, spent time there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, helping with the apple harvest and preparing for the wedding.


The house has a magnificent view of the farm and White Sands Monument

It's a great place for dogs, too!

During the day the group picked apples, manned the sorter, and boxed the apples for shipment.  Picking must be done very carefully to avoid damaging the apples or the trees.  However, there is always time for sampling some of the fruit. 

Myles and Mallory pick the best ones

Gage samples a Staymon Winesap

Myles is a great chauffeur
Lucky Dog enjoys an apple snack

The sorter is a real workhorse

The venerable apple sorter dates back to the 1930s, and has been rebuilt to handle some 40,000 - 60,000 pounds of apples per season. Each box holds a bushel of apples, and weighs 40 pounds. 

I don't know how many pounds per hour the sorter can handle, but it kept the sorting crew very busy! 
Brian and Debi load the apples

Sorting the apples is a team effort!

Boxes and Boxes of Apples!
All those hard workers get hungry.   On Saturday night, some of the apples which were not "grocery-store perfect" were pressed to make cider. Saturday night, Brian's step-brother, Brad Hlista, made an enormous pot of green chili stew for the group who had worked on picking and sorting apples, and helping with the cider-pressing.   John assembled a new gas grill to help with the cooking, and everyone pitched in to get ready.

Michal, Justine and Audrey shell beans from the garden.

Brad, Brian and Justine collaborate in the kitchen.

John assembled the gas grill

Kids and rejected apples wound up on the compost pile!

Trent adds apples to the cider press

Pressing the cider was quite a production as well.  Each forty-pound box of apples had to be lifted up and poured into the press.  The machine ground up the apples, which were then encased in heavy porous cloth, placed between slatted trays, and stacked in layers to be pressed. 

Then hydraulic pressure was applied, and out came all that wonderful cider!  What a treat!

Gage and Trent inspect the press.

And finally....out comes all that wonderful cider!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And On We Go

We said goodbye to our HDT friends and left Hutchinson on Sunday, October 17. The trip south and west through Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle was uneventful. The corn and maize harvest is still going on. Most of the grain was going into the big silos, but in some instances there was more than they could hold. A couple of time we passed large piles like these beside the road, waiting until there was room for them, I suppose.

On Monday night, we stopped at Beaver Dunes State Park. It's an unusual place; right in the middle of the Oklahoma Panhandle it looks like the beach! There was no ocean in sight, though, just miles and miles of beautiful, soft sand, and this lovely, small pond.

This area is a destination for four-wheelers, and we met several people who had come to ride in the dunes. As you can see, they are covered with dense vegetation, and the only way to see them is to follow the "roads" cut through them by off-road vehicles. I tried walking some of the roads, but the sand is so deep and so soft that it's very difficult going. It's beautiful, though, especially at sunrise.

On Tuesday, we continued south and west across the Texas Panhandle. When we stopped for lunch, we were amazed to find ourselves on the rim of a canyon with amazing vistas in all directions. At the bottom of the wide canyon was the Canadian River. At this time of year, in this particular spot, the stream flow is minimal. However, the canyon it has carved is testimony to its power in times past.

Dogs at Play

In case anyone is wondering how Dakota is fitting in, I just wanted you to know that Nickie is teaching here the fine art of dog tussling. As you can see, Kota is an apt pupil! Such nonsense is beneath Lucky Dog. She watches from the sidelines and only intervenes if she thinks the play is getting too rough. Life is good for the Bagley Pack.