Road Trip to White Sands and Ruidoso, New Mexico (Part 2 of 2)

After an unusually time-consuming drive from El Paso to Ruidoso by virtue of numerous stops along the way, we finally reached our destination in the cool pines of Ruidoso’s upper canyon. Had we taken the most direct route and made no stops, we could have made the drive in a little over two hours. However, with all of our stops — the longest being at White Sands, which was well worth it — the actual travel time ended up being closer to seven hours. Nevertheless, we finally arrived at our rental cabin, a little tired but looking forward to spending the next few days in the mountains of southern New Mexico.

Our rental cabin was named the Coyote and was located, appropriately enough, close by another unit called the Roadrunner. The accommodations were of the rustic variety with low ceilings and with one of the bedrooms having a ceiling that sloped half-way down to the floor, making it impossible to reach the far side without stooping down. Although one member of our party found the place to be a little spooky, it was clean and we settled in for our stay.

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One reason we chose to stay in the upper canyon area is because it’s heavily wooded and it’s not unusual to encounter deer and even a few black bears now and then. Although we didn’t see any bears during this particular stay, we did come across numerous dumpsters in the area that had clearly been raided by bears, with the evidence scattered all around. We did see several mule deer quite close to our cabin, including one in the photo below that surprised a guest of a nearby cabin by being bold enough to walk up to her to sniff her camera. After being startled by the deer’s close presence, she quickly retreated into her car from where she continued shooting out the window.

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Also within a short walking distance of our cabin was the Rio Ruidoso (“Noisy River”), where I captured a long-exposure image of the water spilling over some rocks.

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Later that morning, we took a drive over to the Ski Apache ski lodge area at Sierra Blanca. The ski lodge gets its name because it’s owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache tribe, which has a significant presence in the area. As we drove the winding road up the mountain, we came across wide swaths of burned forest land that extended right up to the base of the ski lodge itself. As I recall, most of the fire damage had taken place about a year earlier and I can only imagine the tremendous effort that must have been required to save the lodge.

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After arriving at the lodge, we took a hike through the forest where we came across burned and downed trees, but also wildflowers and birds.

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Later that evening, we went to the nearby Flying J Ranch for dinner and a show. There they have recreated a wild-west cowboy outpost complete with a western-style gun fight, chuck wagon dinner and western music show. The owners of the place, James and Cindy Hobbs, have been doing this for many years and they and their team are both entertaining comedians and very talented musicians. We have experienced the show there many times before and it’s always fun.

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The following day, we ventured over to the Inn of the Mountain Gods (also owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache tribe) for lunch before heading over to their stables for horseback riding. We met some friends from El Paso at the stables and the whole group ventured out on a guided ride along one of the trails winding through the mountains. Because horseback riding can be pretty bumpy, I chose to leave my camera gear behind.

After our ride, we returned to the Inn of the Mountain Gods to spend an hour doing a little paddle-boating around the lake that sits next to the Inn. Once again, I left my camera behind as I didn’t want to risk getting it wet, but I did capture a partial view of the lake as seen from the Inn in the image below.

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For our fourth and final day in Ruidoso, we went to the Ruidoso Downs race track to watch the horses race and do a little wagering on the outcomes. Although ominous clouds hovered above, the rain managed to delay itself long enough for us to enjoy an afternoon of racing and we even managed to eke out a small net gain on our wagers.

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After a few hours of racing, we decided it was time to make our retreat back to El Paso. For the return trip, we took the most direct route and refrained from making any stops and managed to get home in just a little over two hours.  And so concluded our too short but enjoyable trip to the mountains of southern New Mexico.

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