Las Cruces: Swimming, White Sands National Park and Ice Skating in Cloudcroft

One of the best parts of this trip is seeing parts of the country that we would never see, like this little corner of NM. While we never fell in love with Las Cruces as a town, we had a blast swimming in the backyard pool and exploring the surrounding area.

White Sands National Park

White Sands, 275 square miles of pure-gypsum dunes, sparkles like an oasis in the middle of the tan, military missile testing, desert.

After waxing down the sleds from our Airbnb, we hiked up the dense sand dune and spent the rest of the day pretending we were on snowy hills – except here sand and not cold snow filled our boots.

Windy! It made the day feel colder than it actually was.

We learned the geological history of the area – once an ancient sea, plates shifting, mountains rising, ice melting leaving behind gypsum – and that in modern times White Sands is used by Hollywood as a stand-in for the Sahara desert or a dystopian future – or a place for Puff Daddy. Puff Daddy, he sure was everywhere in the 90’s.

The park is small and approachable. We packed a lunch and the kids had a blast. As any parent knows, kids love a sledding day.

Cloudcroft, NM

Ninety minutes outside Las Cruces, in the Lincoln National Forest, is the mountain town of Cloudcroft – a pioneer village with a population of less than 700 and an elevation of 9,000 feet. Like many western towns, Cloudcroft has the railroad to thank for bringing it to life.

Strolling down the one downtown street, we picked up good coffee at Black Bear Coffee and ate unexpectedly good pizza at Cloudcroft Brewing.

We planned to hike the area next to the train trestle, but we drove past an outdoor ice rink and pivoted plans. If you’re keeping score, you may have noticed this is how things often go. We make plans but allow for change. As a day goes on, we let what we encounter and how we feel shape what follows.

Driving back to Las Cruces, we stopped at White Sands once more, this time to catch the neopolitan ice cream sunset.


While I don’t think we’ll ever be back to this part of NM, I feel fortunate that we were able to experience what this part of our vast and magnificent country has to offer.

Extras:

My morning runs were through a desert that has an unusually large population of doves. So many doves. They coo as they scuttle under desert brush.

Brooke and the girls hiked Dripping Springs in Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.

Mmm, Custard at Caliche’s Frozen Custard

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