the missile range

9. the Missile range

Highway 70 carries one through the Tularosa from Alamogordo to Las Cruces. The White sands National monument lies somewhere between. The Missile Range is closed to public access. It's 4,000 square-mile grounds surround the National Park of the previous post. Highway 70 closes for a few hours twice a week to accommodate weapons testing.

Within the range is the Trinity Site--the historic spot of the 1st atomic bomb drop of July 16th 1945. The Pamphlet from the museum, Trinity Site, July 16 1945 proclaims: “The 19-kiloton explosion not only lead to a quick end to the war in the Pacific but also ushered the world into the atomic age. All life on Earth has been touched by the event, which took place here.” Apparently visitors can see ground zero and the battered footings of the “vaporized” 100’ steel tower where the bomb sat before detonation.

We rolled west on 70 toward the military base/town and museum. A short drive off 70 took us to the gate. Yellow and black Oryx-crossing signs lined the roadside on the way in. The Oryx is a large African antelope imported for game hunting by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in the 1970’s. The spiral horned creature fits comfortably in the New Mexico habitat, and without any natural predation it has flourished. I didn't luck into any oryx sightings so I grabbed an image online for reference:

We needed a pass to drive through the guarded gate, but they allowed us to park outside and walk on in. I had my camera hanging over my shoulder, “no photographs unless your lens points towards these mountains,” the guard pointed toward the jagged forms of the San Andreas range, “no pictures toward the missile range,” he pointed in the opposite direction of the mountains. 50 walking yards on, I snapped a photo straight ahead. “Hey,” the guard yelled and summoned me back to the gate, “You’ve gotta delete that, only towards the mountains!” I deleted the photo, he watched the digital-trash-can-button snap shut and say “erased.” I apologized and we walked to the museum.

The museum had an outdoor display of 50+ rockets and missiles once tested in the basin. An indoor building played videos of presidential visits and launchings. It displayed actual missiles / memorabilia, native animal photographs, taxidermy specimens, and had a little on the Native American history, petroglyphs, and artifacts found in the area. A small set of bleachers sat on the ridge overlooking the testing range. I could only take my pic toward the San Andreas'.

From White Sands and Las Cruses, we rolled I-10 west, peeked at a ghost town near the border and crossed over into southeastern Arizona.

state stats:
New Mexico holds 121,593 square miles. The Population stands 1,819,046 humans. New Mexico has the 36th largest Population of the U.S. & the state saying is: “Land of Enchantment.”