Water in the desert – Oliver Lee State Park, NM
With time to spare on the second day of my drive to Truth or Consequences – having made it all the way to Alamogordo on the first night – I decided to spend the morning taking in some sights in the vicinity, with only a hour’s drive or so remaining to my destination.
I was leaning toward a visit to the Museum of Space History, but a study of the map during breakfast got me excited about the prospects of a nature walk in nearby Oliver Lee State Park.
A quick visit to the park’s website sparked my interest further, given the occurrence of a perennial stream flowing through the arroyo near park headquarters – a rare thing in this rocky Chihuahuan Desert terrain.
I arrived at the visitor center and trailhead about an hour ahead of the facility’s opening, and so ambled unhurriedly down to the streambed on the looping 1/2 mile trail. The morning breeze made it chilly enough to keep my sweater on, and my hands in its pockets when not operating camera controls.
Having completed the nature walk I turned my attention to the visitor center (now open), paying my $5 day use fee and jawing with the ranger for a few minutes.
I examined the map of the Dog Canyon National Recreation Trail with mixed emotions – knowing that I did not have time (or legs!) to complete the 11 mile round trip journey that day. (The trail climbs steeply 3,100 ft. up to the rim on the Sacramento Mountains.) Still, I had a few more hours to spare, the sun was just beginning to warm things up, and I was just getting my legs stretched out.
So I laced up my boots, strapped on a backpack (containing water and a nutrition bar) and started up the switchbacks above the visitor center, planning to turn around after reaching the first bench about a mile up the canyon.
The second bench – where I ended up quitting – was marked at about 2.4 miles up the trail. By that time my legs were getting rubbery and I knew from experience that the downhill stretches were going to be at least as tiring on the muscles as the uphill had been. (Less strenuous aerobically, but nonetheless wearying to the legs.)
My motivational ace in the hole on the downward journey: the knowledge that a private hot springs soak awaited me at the Fire Water Lodge in T or C.