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On Walkabout On: New Mexico’s Highway 82

Here are some pictures from a route that I often take to drive up into the beautiful Sacramento Mountains in southern New Mexico.  This route is Highway 82 that runs between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft.  The first part of the highway that ascends up the Sacramento Escarpment from Alamogordo offers some incredibly beautiful high desert scenery:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

There are a few lookouts along the route up the mountains that offers some great opportunities to take pictures:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Here is the view from one of these lookouts looking east towards the tunnel that Highway 82 passes through:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Here is a view of this tunnel from the lookout just before the tunnel’s western entrance:

Picture from New Mexico's Highway 82

Here is a view down the rugged canyon that does have permanent flowing water and even a small waterfall at its bottom:

Picture from New Mexico's Highway 82

Picture from New Mexico's Highway 82

This permanent water source along with Dog Canyon further south are the only two permanent water sources along the Sacramento Escarpment.  Right across from the lookout was some rugged cliffs from the Sacramento Escarpment that was once home to some early Native-American settlers that were attracted to this location due to the nearby permanent water source:

Picture from New Mexico's Highway 82

This camp is known as the Fresnal Shelter and was occupied by hunter gatherers that frequented the area between 6000-500BC which was estimated by using radiocarbon dating of charcoal found in the shelter.  Some artifacts found at the shelter was stone tools and basket fabrics, but there was no evidence of pottery found.  It wasn’t until around 1000AD that the Mogollon culture was found to be developing pottery in the area.

About halfway up the highway and just past the cave Highway 82 begins to enter into the pinon pine forests found at about the 5,000-6000 foot altitude level.  It is here that there is a number of small communities with a variety of shops for travelers to stop and check out.  The place that my wife and I always stop to check out is the Old Apple Barn that cannot be missed right along the highway:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

The Old Apple Barn has a number of local products such as fruits and honey.  It is also has a number of items from local artists and other various nicknacks.  If visiting I highly recommend trying some of the elk sausage and local cider they sell.  Make sure to save some room after eating the elk sausage to try out either some of their home made fudge that is just outstanding.   From the Old Apple Barn the highway continues to ascend up the Sacramento Mountains and into the lush ponderosa pine forests found in the higher elevations of these mountains:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

Just before Highway 82 reaches the small and scenic tourist town of Cloudcroft there is a lookout that provides an iconic view of the Sacramento Mountains which is the historic Mexican Canyon Trestle:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

In the 1890’s the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad completed a rail line to the newly established city of Alamogordo.  Soon after the line was completed survey crews were already trying to see if it was possible to construct a spur line into the Sacramento Mountains in order to harvest wood from the thick forests up there.  It was determined that the line could be made up the mountains and this trestle was part of that railway line that was completed in 1900.

Since we were visiting in the early spring there was still some snow lying on the ground:

Picture from Highway 82 In New Mexico

From the Mexican Canyon Trestle it was just a short drive up to Cloudcroft:

Picture from Cloudcroft, New Mexico

With the construction of the railway line it was also determined that a village of some sort would need to be constructed to support the timber and railway industries being developed in the mountains.  Additionally it was believed that the mountains would make for a great tourism area considering its incredible views at it’s 9,000 feet of altitude.  Thus a catchy name for this new village was needed and so that is how the name Cloudcroft, (pasture of the clouds) came to be:

Picture from Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Today the town is still a regional tourist attraction that proudly shows its Old West character:

Picture from Cloudcroft, New Mexico

My wife and I use drive up here to check out the various shops and over at the Burro Street Exchange building there is a small cafe and sandwich shop that my wife and I stop at to get a cappuccino and lunch:

Picture from Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Picture from Cloudcroft, New Mexico

All in all a trip up Highway 82 to Cloudcroft is a really nice day trip and one my wife and I usually make one every couple months just to escape the desert that surrounds El Paso.  When up in Cloudcroft the there is a noticeable change in air quality and temperature which has caused this little village to be a tourist destination for many decades now and probably for many more to come.

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