Wednesday, 4/14/21: Cloudcroft

Our new campsite for 3 days at the Oliver Lee Memorial State Campground. It is named after Oliver Milton Lee, a local rancher, deputy US Marshall, state legislator, gunslinger, and even an outlaw. He was what you call, “a character”.

Google Maps kept avoiding the route I wanted to take to our next destination, Oliver Lee Memorial State Campground. It wanted to take me through El Paso. Yes, it was four lane all the way, but it was a lot longer. Apple Maps, although it warned me that my route was very curvy, was willing to at least listen to me. We went with Apple.

We quickly reached Artesia, a desert oil town complete with one of those refineries with a maze of pipes twisting around in every direction. It was there that we caught highway 82, the road Google disapproved of. Immediately, we saw a sign that graphically pointed out the extreme elevation change from Cloudcroft to Alamogordo. It was nearly 5,000’ with Cloudcroft in the clouds and Alamogordo on the desert floor looking up. That meant mountain driving and mountain scenery.

Highway 82 was flat and straight for the first 80 miles. It transversed through some bleak sand country before emerging into a lush forest as we closed in on tiny Cloudcroft. Here were the first trees we have seen in weeks.

The Cloudcroft vicinity caters to tourists like Minocqua does back in northern Wisconsin. Instead of an abundance of lakes like in Wisconsin, Cloudcroft has forested mountains and cool temperatures.

The 16 miles from lofty Cloudcroft to our campground, just outside of Alamogordo, brought us back to the sandy desert. The lapse rate, that is the amount the temperature cools for each 1000’ of elevation, is something like 3.3º. This held true for us as it was 18º warmer in Alamogordo, in just 16 miles.

The campground is great. It is nestled in the foothills below the Sacramento Mountains. The sites are rather small, but well spaced. We have 3 nights booked.

The canyon and road leading down to Alamogordo.

At 1 pm we were backtracking to Cloudcroft and the surrounding forest. Cloudcroft’s motif is old west. The downtown’s store fronts are all wooden 1800s style. We stopped in at a bakery and downed, what I swear, was the finest slice of pie I have ever had. It was a plump apple caramel walnut pie with a generous helping of chocolate syrup on top. We should have purchased the whole pie.

A must drive is the 18 mile Sunspot Scenic Byway from Cloudcroft to Sunspot. The road weaves up and down and all around forested canyon walls. At 8,700’, the air was crisp. We even saw patches of snow.

This section of the Sacramento Mountains are part of another chunk of the Lincoln National Forest. Here the word “forest” is deserved. Being a National Forest, we searched out dispersed camping sites. We found some, but goodness sakes, I’d never force V-Jer to bounce over those rocks and boulders.

The Cloudcroft area is home to miles of hiking trails and a vast network of ATV trails. We are debating whether to stay a bit longer to do some forest hiking. We’ll see.

Our progress so far.

Dave and Wanda

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