Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Backroads & Birding

ItalicLeaving Alamogordo, we had a short drive to the little town of San Antonio, NM, located at the crossroads of US 380 and Interstate 25. We spent five days here, at the Birdwatchers RV Park, primarily because it's the closest park to Bosque Del Apache, one of the premier National Wildlife Refuges. The refuge is large (over 57,000 acres) with a number of lakes and marshes along the Rio Grande River. During the winter, thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, and other migratory waterfowl call this area home, but unfortunately our timing was off, and except for lots of ducks and some ibis and egrets, the refuge was quiet. It was still a beautiful area to visit, and one evening we sat on the edge of a pond next to an egret rookery and listened to the sound of egrets and red-winged blackbirds singing. On the way to the refuge, we saw a sign for Fort Craig National Historic Site, a place we'd never heard about but one that turned out to be very interesting. It surprised us that Fort Craig was one of the largest forts in the west, and we were even more surprised to learn of the Civil War battle that was fought here. Leaving I-25, it was a five-mile drive down into the Rio Grande valley and the visitor center. Just north of the fort is the site where in February 1862, 2,500 Confederate soldiers forded the river from the east and were met by 4,000 Union troops. Although the Confederate forces are generally considered to have won the battle, they were not capable of laying seige to the fort and moved northward to Santa Fe, where after another battle the remaining troops retreated to Texas. You can read about the battle here. Taking the self-guided tour through the ruins, we were able to use old photographs to get a mental picture of what the fort looked like in it's prime. Although not much is left, it's still evident that this was once a huge facility with a large population.
Just up the road from the RV park was the town of Socorro, an interesting town along the interstate. Driving through the main business route doesn't do the town justice; once off the main highway, we found a beautiful university (New Mexico Tech) with tree-lined streets and upscale housing areas. We found a truly outstanding place to eat, the Socorro Springs Brewery, and even made a trip up the road to see the Very Large Array, one of our favorite spots to visit. We also took a side trip on the Quebradas Scenic Byway, a BLM-maintained dirt road through the hills above the Rio Grande Valley. It was a nice day for a drive in the boonies, and while the byway had some nice views, it wasn't anything we'd recommend to others.
We're off to Albuquerque and "The Rally", the largest RV rally of the year - it should be fun; come back and see!

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