White Sands, Aguirre Springs, and Burrowing Owls

White Sands Travel Blog

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Hiking in the mountains near Aguirre Springs
After an early morning check of the traps (they caught 4 grasshopper mice. Poor guys, they look like dwarf hamsters with long tails), we took off for White Sands National Monument. A fairly scenic drive through the Organ Mountains and then down, down, down to White Sands. It was about a 50 mile drive, and the White Sands just kind of pop up out of the landscape. And boy are they white, caused by Gypsum evaporating, which is apparently a very rare way of having sand. This is amazing though because there is soooo much of the stuff out there, about 275 square miles worth.

Once we got to the park, we took a little nature trail that takes you through some of the dunes. We saw some birds, some pretty cool lizards, jackrabbits, and beetles. Lots of beetle tracks in the sand.

As it seemed like the right thing to do, we also began leaping off of the tops of some of the dunes and fantastically flipping over and over on the way down. This was, of course, my favorite part, as I am very much a child at heart. After getting suitably dirty, we picked up plenty of water and PowerAde and set off to the Aguirre Springs recreational area on the backside of the Organ Mountains.

We took a 4.5 mile loop trail up and through the mountains and took in some pretty spectacular views. I am fairly certain that it was not just 4.5 miles, but that may be a function of the rockiness of the trail. Eryn is new to the game of hiking and it was a difficult time for her at some points, but I love the fact she used her athleticism to overcome that and keep up with me. I secretly admit, I got tired at some points too. We saw more wildlife, including what I think was possibly a fox at one point. It was larger than a jackrabbit, furry, and fast. Sounds like a fox right?

After leaving this area, we headed back into town and met up with the Rowes. They took us to see a professor colleague of theirs who specializes in studying burrowing owls. These guys are crazy little birds who live on the ground as opposed to trees. Bright yellow eyes and at times, a surly disposition characterized them. One of the birds, named Jacques, who the professor had for the bird's whole life is used to human contact though and hopped out of his burrow to come and berate Eryn for staring at him. He walked right up to the edge of the cage and made some interesting noises before the professor entered the cage and the little guy hopped onto his knee to get some lovin'. Eryn also went into the cage but Jacques was an exceedingly rude host and just hopped on her foot as a way of saying, "Look, chic, I don't know you, get up outta my house!" She obliged him and we went on our merry way.

With very little to do that evening, we went over to see "Evan Almighty" at the Las Cruces movie theater. Good show, break dancing baboons that chug lemonade make my day.

Back to Houston in the morning. BLECH!
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Hiking in the mountains near Aguir…
Hiking in the mountains near Agui…
White Sands
photo by: mrgishi