07-Jun-2004 -- I am particularly fond of the 33rd parallel since it runs just 2 miles south of my house. When my friend Ralph invited me to help celebrate his mother’s 95th birthday in El Paso, Texas, I began planning a visit to this confluence, which hadn’t been visited for over 4 years.
The site is located about 8 miles NNW of Alamogordo, New Mexico off of US Highway 54/70. This area has several attractions worth mentioning. The most interesting is White Sands National Monument (see www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm), just visible from the confluence to the SW (photo #2). The spectacular sand dunes there are actually gypsum (calcium sulfate), the same stuff used in drywall. The monument is completely surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, home to the Trinity Site, where the first atomic explosion took place in July, 1945, and a unique “missile garden” you can visit (see www.wsmr-history.org). The Museum of Space History is in Alamogordo (see www.spacefame.org) and Holloman Air Force Base, the home of the F-117A Stealth Fighter, is also SW of town.
We left US 54/70 and drove west on an unnamed dirt road to a point about .3 miles from site and walked the rest of the way. The vicinity is sandy and generally flat with occasional abrupt gullies that feed into Laborcita Arroyo. The predominant vegetation is the creosote bush (photo #1); a very common plant both here in the Chihuahuan Desert and in the other North American deserts (Sonoran, Great Basin and Mojave). By one measure, creosote bushes are the oldest living things on earth (see muirmaid.home.sprynet.com/creosote.htm). During our visit, the confluence turned out to be IN a creosote bush and Ralph built a small rock cairn to mark it. We got all zeros, shot the cardinal views (photos 3-7), explored a bit and returned to the car.
If you want to visit this site, it would be easier to come in from the west like the first visitors did. From Hwy 54/70, turn west at the light on La Luz Gate Rd and after about .5 miles go north on Riata Rd. for about 2 miles. Park, hop the Southern Pacific tracks and you’ll be there.
The birthday party was a memorable event with over 60 people attending. When I spoke with Burnice about her remarkable longevity, she gave this advice: watch what you eat and drink, pray frequently and KEEP MOVING.
Well, I thought, confluence hunting certainly satisfies that last one!