White Sands National Monument and The Gila Wilderness

This week has been one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I had the pleasure to have my friend Tyson (from drivetofive) come with his friend Chris to New Mexico for some sight seeing. He had been through this area before, but I believe it was just a flyby on his way home to Arizona from another trip. He and his friend Chris rolled into my place late Friday night and we racked up the miles the following day. It was tons fun! His total mileage for the trip was about 900+ miles for this route:


There were two things Tyson wanted most to visit in addition to what I was thinking in terms of places to see: The World’s Largest Chile and The White Sands National Monument. Without the constraints of time, we would have gladly gone as far east as Roswell and several other little areas all over the southern part of New Mexico. However, what we were able to cram into one day was great!

We started out early Saturday morning. It was a beautiful, calm morning that only lasted a short while before the massive spring winds would join us. Gusts up to 35mph were expected. No problem…it didn’t deter us from going where we wanted to go. Here we are leaving my place. (me, Tyson and Chris)

Me, Tyson and Chris

We stopped at the local Starbucks (closest to my house) to get some sugar, caffeine, and cream in our systems before setting off.


Then for some gas. Despite having an appetite for premium fuel, the ILX gets pretty good milage from what I’ve read on Tyson’s blog. This is the first time I’ve seen Tyson’s ILX (or any ILX close up for that matter). It’s one slick looking car. The ILX was first on sale in late 2012 as a 2013 model. It’s based on the Civic platform, but Acura did their magic to transform this chassis into something that would work nicely as their entry level model. Tyson’s particular ILX is the 201HP 6-speed model— one I’m sure won’t be sold in great numbers due to our country’s desire for automatic transmissions. To find out more how Tyson acquired his ILX, check out his blog. (drivetofive)


Then we headed down Picachao Ave westward to the World’s Largest Chile. This massive 47ft long, 2.5 ton concrete sculpture was made as a tourist attraction by two local hotel owners.


After that, we headed east on US 70 toward Aguirre Springs Recreational area where we would take a few photos, and so Tyson could see what the backside of the Organ Mountains looked like. There was just enough cloud cover to add some depth to the sky with the mountains.




Then we headed east on US 70 towards our destination. Thanks to Tyson/Chris for some of the photos I borrowed.


Before arriving at White Sands, we had to pass through the US Boarder Patrol to confirm our citizenship. This is a practice I’m used to since I live so close to the Mexican boarder. We actually passed through the Boarder Patrol in two different locations in the same day here in New Mexico. First, being here on US 70 and second, on our way on Interstate 25 northbound to Hatch.


After this brief stop, then it was on toward’s the piéce de résistance. . .White Sands National Monument! This is a massive 275 square mile wonder in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. The sand dunes are actually made of gypsum, and it is rarely in the form of sand. (since gypsum often dissolves in water) Cool fact I learned this weekend—this is the largest gypsum dune field in the world!



I let Tyson take the lead so he could pull over at any spots he’d see fitting for photoshoots. The winds that day actually made for some interesting backdrops and it blew sand all over the road.

Soon, the pavement ended and we were riding on a dirt road with a top layer of white sand.


This remote loop we took made for some great backdrops for our silver cars. My Satin Silver Metallic next to Tyson’s Silver Moon Metallic look quite similar.


One of my favorites…


A solo shot of Tyson’s ILX which I thought looked pretty cool.





Here are Tyson and Chris getting the full “feet on” experience by kicking off their shoes and digging into the sand with their bare feet. It deosn’t matter if it’s winter, spring or summer, it always feels refreshing. Think of it as clean beach sand without the moisture.


While we were enjoying the area, the wind was busy blowing the sand away from where the tires contact the ground. It soon looked as though our cars were floating! I wonder how long would it be before they were buried?


Tyson let me take a spin in the ILX for the first time. I was hoping for this opportunity and it was a treat. Just in the short distance I drove it, I was able to say with some confidence that this is a fun, stoutly built little car. Has some characteristics of my RSX I used to own. The 2.4L engine was as smooth as butter, and the gearbox and clutch were effortless to use. This was the first car that I could jump in for the first time and could execute smooth shifts. The ride was taught and I could see that maybe it wouldn’t be for everyone. However, I like knowing what sort of relationship the tires have with the road. Interior looked well assembled. The dashboard was carefully sculpted with a swoopy design. A characteristic of newer Acura’s I’ve come to really like.


After the fun at the ‘Sands, we headed back to Las Cruces where we would catch Interstate 25 north toward Hatch, NM. (Remember my last post about Hatch?)


Hot Damm Chile. Hmmm…this sign looks familiar.


It was time for lunch and I thought, what would be better than a good old Sparky’s “World Famous” green chile cheeseburger? We all agreed that it lived up to its name.



Practically every item on the menu had a green chile option. Green chile lemonade, green chile corn and green chile ice cream were just to name a few.


The atmosphere was different and interesting. Several different little humorous signs and artifacts were hung everywhere.



Here we are anxiously awaiting three orders of the “World Famous” burger!


This was very satisfying. I was here a while back and had the same thing, but I didn’t remember it being this good! The best I’ve ever had? I think I’d venture to say, “yes.”


After lunch, Tyson and Chris decided that it would be a good point to start their journey back to Pheonix. (about a six hour drive from Hatch). They took Hwy 26 south toward Deming and then would catch Interstate 10 from there.

I was enjoying being behind the wheel so much that I decided to keep heading north to the former ghost towns of Hillsboro/Kingston and then east into an arm of the Gila National Forest called the Black Range. It’s a great scenic drive which I take from time to time to just soak up the fresh air of the forest and have fun on the winding roads.

The ride starts at Interstate 25 northbound to NM 152 east, and then US 180 south to Deming. US 180 has the option to go all the way to Silver City.

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 9.13.48 PM

There aren’t many pictures to show along the way since my camera’s battery was quite low. But here are some from the Emery Pass of 8,200 ft. With the winds and much cooler temps, it was cold! Several times I encountered snow on bits of the road which required careful execution in the corners.





The best part of this drive are the numerous curvy bends which can test the limits of your car’s suspension—assuming there’s no snow. This photo is just a shot of the more mild curves on the west side of the pass.


I will post more detail about this route next time I’m in the area and when it isn’t so cold! Next time Tyson is in NM, we plan to cover this area as well.

And last pic of the day, my return view to Las Cruces around 6:30pm.


6 thoughts on “White Sands National Monument and The Gila Wilderness

  1. Great post, Jason! I enjoyed seeing all your pics – you definitely captured a few that I’ll be saving. That road through the Gila Wilderness looks like a lot of fun. If Chris and I didn’t have a 6+ hour return drive ahead of us, we probably would’ve stuck around to scamper around the NM hills a bit longer. Love that evening sunset picture overlooking Las Cruces.

  2. Thanks, Tyson! If you want any pix in higher resolution, let me know. I always enjoy going through the Gila and yes, next time you’re out in the area we’ll plan it. Too bad for the 6+ hr drive you and Chris had, but getting back home to relax I bet hit the spot. I know it would me.

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