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Trip Report: New Mexico Atomic History

NRALIFR
Explorer
Explorer
This is a trip we took in late September last year. The boss had a four-day conference in Austin, TX that the girls and I were going to join her on. We were then going on to NM and planned to spend a week or so there.

We left on a Friday morning, but since we didn’t need to be in Austin till Saturday afternoon we stopped at Wright Patman COE Lake near Texarkana.



The girls have gotten used to us dragging them away from our perfectly nice house to live in a tiny box on wheels every so often. They don’t understand why we would do such a thing, but they make the best of it.



Selina has learned how to open the cabinet doors next to the head of our bed, and typically will open both of them at least once a day. You know when she’s working on one when you hear the “bumpabumpabumpabumpa” noise from her pawing at the recessed latches. Eventually the noise stops, and everything is quiet. Like with small children, that’s when you should probably check on them.

Whatcha looking at, Dixxie? There’s nothing there. :h



Oh yes there is! :W



Another thing Selina is good at is burrowing. She is a world-class bedspread burrower, so it doesn’t stay made up looking for very long.



While in Austin, the boss would be staying at the hotel where the conference was being held, and I would take the girls to Guadalupe River SP for three nights. This was our campsite.



I was asked by a number of people what I planned to do out there for three days. My answer was always “nothing”, and I meant it. I needed a rest from being on my feet a lot, and saw this as a perfect opportunity to get it. So, I stayed at the campsite, read a few books, and enjoyed the peace and quiet.



Before leaving on this trip, I had told the boss that I hoped she didn’t have her heart set on doing a bunch of hiking, because I didn’t think my feet could take it right now. I’ve had a bunion on my left foot for 10-15 years progressively getting worse, and I think it was on this trip that I decided I was going to have to finally do something about it. I dreaded foot surgery, but those of you that have experienced bunions, you know they just continue to get worse with time, and can get quite painful and ugly. Mine’s just classified as “moderate”, but I decided I’d had enough.

I had surgery two weeks ago, and I’m mostly off my feet right now, so I have all the time in the world to mess with trip reports. :W

I’m not going to show the “before” picture, but in case you’re wondering, this is what they did. (So that’s what 3” drywall screws are good for!):



My foot’s in a boot, I’m putting weight on it now, but I have to stay on the heel. I started out on crutches, but I’m transitioning to a cane now. I’ve got about 6 more weeks before I can wear a normal shoe on that foot again. Since it’s my left foot, as soon as I’m not having to lay around with my foot elevated to keep the swelling down most of the time, I’ll even be able to drive.

So, I did a lot of this……



And this…….



And when it was time to go get the boss, the feets felt a lot better and we had a nicer trip than I was anticipating.

So….we head west on I-10, and stopped for the night at Hilltop RV near Ft. Stockton.



The next day, we drove north through the Permian Basin of west Texas. I’ve always found that area interesting to drive through. It’s an active oil patch, so not much non-oil patch related traffic on the roads, and the scenery looks like this for miles and miles. I hope this doesn’t make some of you old roustabouts homesick! :W



We stopped for lunch next to the Pecos River in Carlsbad, NM.



We decided to head north to Artesia, then west to Alamogordo, which would take us through the Lincoln NF. It’s a scenic route, especially at the higher elevations.



Between Cloudcroft and Alamogordo on US-82 is the only highway tunnel in Southern New Mexico. We saw just a trace of snow in this area.





We found a campsite at the Oliver Lee Memorial SP near Alamogordo.



Beautiful sunset.



The next day, we drove on to White Sands NP.



WSNP is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.



Gypsum sand is very easy to walk and drive on, and is cooler than silica sand. It does cake to the bottoms of your shoes and your tires, so it gets tracked everywhere. We stuck to walking, but saw several younger groups riding plastic disks down the dunes.







This was Friday, and we realized that the next day (Oct. 2) was one of only two days each year when Trinity Site at the northern end of White Sands Missile Range was open to the public. We had been there several years ago, but we both decided we wouldn’t mind seeing it again. We’d probably drive up to Los Alamos after that.

We were about 100 miles from the Valley of Fires Recreation Area (BLM), and that would make a good place to stop for the night, and put us close to the Stallion gate entrance that we would need to use.



We got the last available site!





Valley of Fires is located next to the Malpais Lava flow. At 5000 years old, it’s one of the youngest in the US. There’s a nice trail through the lava field.



Selina said “Meh, you go ahead. We’ll be fine”.



So we did!



This is inside WSMR, following the route to Trinity Site. The area had experienced some severe rain and flooding earlier in the year, and you could tell that it had damaged the already poor road surface in low areas. It looked like some areas had been buried under several feet of rocks and mud. The McDonald Ranch House was not accessible this time because of a washed out road. Trinity Site is about 15 miles inside WSMR from the Stallion gate.



We found a spot to park out on the edge of the parking area.



Walking out to ground zero.



Replica of the Fat Man bomb on display. The part of Fat Man that goes “boom” is what was tested here on July 16, 1945. This is normally on display at the WSMR museum down at the southern end of WSMR.



Ground zero.









This is what remains of “Jumbo”, the 214 ton containment vessel that was produced at great expense to the US government, then never used. It’s walls were 14” thick. It was supposed to keep the plutonium from being scattered all over the site if the chain reaction failed to occur after the TNT initiators exploded. If the chain reaction occurred, Jumbo would be vaporized. After the Trinity test, it was ordered destroyed (probably due to the millions that were spent on it), but eight 500 lb bombs only succeeded in blowing the two ends off.



Thick! There were steel bands around the outsides as well, making it even thicker.



The girls all say they’re tired, and are ready to head for the next campsite. I second that, and instruct the navigator to plot a course for the nearest available facility.



With that, I’m going to stop for now. I’ve got more pictures from this trip, but I need to take a break. I’ll bump this back to the top when I add more to it.
2001 Lance 1121 on a 2016 F450 ‘Scuse me while I whinge.
And for all you Scooby-Doo and Yosemite Sam types………..Let’s Go Brandon!!!
12 REPLIES 12

Scottiemom
Nomad
Nomad
Great narrative and pix!
Dale Pace
Widow of Terry (Teacher's Pet)

Traveling with Brendon, my Scottish Terrier

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Fulltimed for 15 years, now living in Florida

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Camper_Jeff___K
Nomad II
Nomad II
I was through all theseplaces just a few days ago before long hauling back to Quartzsite for the truck camper rally. I just missed meeting jeffe but did meet his son with the old truck, very nice. Met several others here too. Sadly, I learned the hard wat Trinity is only open two days a year. The Valley of Fires is a wonderful place. I also tried to visit the VLA, Very Large Array Radio Telescope which walso was closed even though there's an inviting sign saying Visitors Center. I did get decent pictures. At least I got to see Trinity through your pictures. Thanks for the post.

Barry_W
Explorer
Explorer
Thanks for taking the time to share your trip report. Great pictures and narratives. Love trip reports, they take me places I will probably never see. Thank you Barry
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mkletka
Explorer
Explorer
Thanks for the trip report. That was my old stomping grounds back in the late 70's. I graduated from Alamogordo HS. Made the trip many times up 82 to Cloudcroft to escape the heat.

Pete_k
Explorer
Explorer
Looking forward to making a trip to Ground o also. And if its only open Oct Second and Third. Guess that makes the time to be there easy.
As for Los Alamos. Enjoyed our few days there back in 2006. Nephew was working at the lab. Got to use his as our tour Guide around town. Plus up on the Mountain so it was perfect.
Los Alamos has a great Museum's got to see all 3. Brother in Law lived in Los Alamos 20+ years. I always kidded him, go to work, come in for lunch. Clean as he left the house.
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bigfootford
Nomad
Nomad
Great report! we love that area of the S/W...

Jim
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OkieGene
Explorer
Explorer
Nice posting, I really enjoyed it.

Next time you are in the area, go to Albuquerque to the National Atomic Museum. I've been there several times and will stop in again when I'm in Albuquerque. It's an excellent museum and you'll see and learn a lot. It's just a little south of I-40 on Eubanks.

Nuclear Museum Link

ppine
Explorer II
Explorer II
NM is an interesting place.
Did you make it to Los Alamos?

GoinThisAway
Explorer
Explorer
Enjoying the story and photos! Those girls sure know how to have fun and relax.
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tlowe43q
Explorer
Explorer
Thanks for the post, it brought back memories… I was stationed at Holloman AFB 1971-3.
Many trips in the area to White Sands Nat’l Monument, Cloudcroft, Ruidoso, Sierra Blanca, Dog Canyon, et al. Never got to Trinity Site, as I remember it being reservations only, vehicle restricted convoys a couple times a year.

Scottiemom
Nomad
Nomad
Interesting and I love the "girls."

Dale
Dale Pace
Widow of Terry (Teacher's Pet)

Traveling with Brendon, my Scottish Terrier

2022 Honda Odyssey
2011 Mazda Miata MX-5

2021 Coach House Platinum III 250DT
Fulltimed for 15 years, now living in Florida

http://www.skoolzoutforever.blogspot.com/

Lwiddis
Explorer
Explorer
THANK YOU for report and pictures of your recent travels.
Winnebago 2101DS TT & 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71, WindyNation 300 watt solar-Lossigy 200 AH Lithium battery. Prefer boondocking, USFS, COE, BLM, NPS, TVA, state camps. Bicyclist. 14 yr. Army -11B40 then 11A - (MOS 1542 & 1560) IOBC & IOAC grad