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Posts tagged ‘History’

National WASP WWII Museum

From Carlsbad, I drove east several hours to the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas. This museum tells the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program. In 1943 during World War II, the US Army took over Sweetwater Municipal Airport and made it the largest all-female training facility for pilots.

The women served a crucial homefront role, including the ferrying of aircraft, towing of gunnery targets, and transporting materiel.

The museum opened in 2005 and was expanded in 2021. I highly recommend a visit, even if it’s a bit out of your way.

Click any image to enlarge.

There are two hangars. The first contains several displays with information about the WASP program and a lot of personal memorabilia from women who served. A few years ago, I heard Dorothy Lucas (mother of a friend of mine) tell her story before she passed away in 2022 at the age of 99.

The second hangar contains four airworthy planes that represent the types of planes the WASP trained on during the war. This hangar also contains information about the everyday life as a WASP.

Ah yes, the photo below reminds me that I had a 30 mph tailwind on my drive from Carlsbad. I drove through some small dust storms, and had to dodge hundreds of tumbleweeds along the highway. (I couldn’t avoid them all!)

The photo below shows the airport with the general aviation facilities in the distance. A west Texas storm is on its way.

Avenger Field, Sweetwater Texas, with a storm approaching from the west

Valley of Fires and Fort Stanton, New Mexico

After some dawn photography at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, I drove east to start the drive back to Texas. One stop I often make is at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area. This is part of the Malpais Lava Flow. It’s a nice place to get out and stretch during the long drive.

Click any image to enlarge.

Detail of Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico, showing plants such as Sotol growing amid hardened lava rock.
Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico

The lava flow happened about 5000 years ago. In the photo below, you can a small cone on the horizon. This is Little Black Peak, the source of the lava flow. It’s about 7 miles north of the visitors center. There’s a 1 mile paved footpath through the lava flow that you can see in the photo below as well.

Overview of Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico, from the visitor center rim. Little Black Peak, the source of the lava flow, is visible in the distance.
Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico

One common plant you see in all of these photos is Sotol (Dasylirion Wheeleri). They have a tall flowering stalk.

Detail of a stalk of Dasylirion Wheeleri (Common Sotol)
Sotol stalk, at Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico
Dasylirion Wheeleri (Common Sotol) flower stalk

After walking the loop trail at Valley of Fires, I continued driving east. Going this direction takes me past Capitan (where I often stop to pay my respects at the grave of Smokey Bear). Nearby, there’s a road to the south that goes to Ruidoso. This time I stopped to see Fort Stanton, a historic site that started as a military outpost in the mid-19th century. In the 20th century it was used as a US Merchant Marine Tuberculosis Hospital, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, a German POW internment camp, and a state hospital, among other things.

Officers’ Quarters, Fort Stanton, New Mexico
Chapel, Fort Stanton, New Mexico

Up the road about a mile is the Fort Stanton Merchant Marine Military Cemetery and State Veterans Cemetery, with a large obelisk memorializing the Merchant Marine.

Fort Stanton Merchant Marine Military Cemetery
Fort Stanton Merchant Marine Military Cemetery

From there I kept on driving through Roswell and down to Carlsbad, where I stayed for the night.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument and Pecos National Historical Park

One day during my time in New Mexico, I drove north to find the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex. After exiting I-25, I took a wrong turn and missed the entrance to the Waterfowl Complex. But I saw a sign for Salinas Pueblo Missions and kept on driving east about 30 miles.

The Salinas Pueblo Missions were built as part of the Spanish influence of the 16th and 17th centuries. I visited these missions on my first trip to Bosque in 2005. There are three sets of ruins, along with a visitors center in the town of Mountainair. The area is part of the Salinas Valley, named for salt flats (Las Salinas) a few miles to the east of Mountainair. The salt was a valuable commodity for trade.

The first site I came to is is Abó.

Click any image to enlarge.

Ruins of the Mission of San Gregorio de Abó
Ruins of the Mission of San Gregorio de Abó

Another ten miles east is the town of Mountainair, where I visited the Visitors Center for the National Monument, and ate lunch at a small hotel nearby. Then I drove north to Quarai, another site of the National Monument.

Ruins of the church and convento of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Quarai
Ruins of the church and convento of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Quarai

On this trip, I did not visit the third site, Gran Quivira, which was about 25 miles south of Mountainair. But I did visit that site in 2005. Here are scans of a couple of photos I took on film on that visit.

On the way back from Salinas Pueblo Missions, I did find the correct road that took me to the Ladd S. Gordon Waterflow Complex. See my earlier post for photos from the refuge.

This reminds me that I never wrote about a trip I made to Pecos National Historical Park in 2021, so let me briefly write about it here.

Pecos National Historical Park is east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, along the historic Santa Fe Trail, a vital trade route between Missouri and New Mexico. The park encompasses historic pueblo ruins as well as a US Civil War battlefield. Pecos Pueblo was inhabited from the 14th to 19th centuries.

Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico
Reconstructed kiva at Pecos National Historical Park

A few miles west of the pueblo is Glorieta Pass, the site of the westernmost battle of the US Civil War. It was fought mostly between Union infantry and cavalry from New Mexico and Colorado Territories and Confederate troops from Texas.

The battlefield itself is not particularly photogenic, though the mountainous area is beautiful. There’s a 2+ mile loop around the site with signage to help you imagine how the battle unfolded.

Glorieta Mesa, New Mexico