White Sands, Alamogordo, the Organ Mountains, Mesilla & the Rio Grande Valley

Here we come to know about some of America's most remote places, and incredible things that go on there. 

Most of this region is highly restricted: White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, Stallion and Trinity Sites, even North Oscura peak are highly secret, frequent advisories caution stepping across an often-invisible line in the sand.

Maps of this region show few details. Building have numbers, rarely windows, always air-conditioners.

Each of the few thousand scientists, engineers, and technicians--everyone working, even the cafeteria cooks, have been through detailed personal background checks, have signed loyalty and secrecy agreements, and have little they can talk about off-base.

And it would be an understatement to say the folks inside the perimeter are daily doing fascinating experiments that are quite beyond comprehension by an educated layman.  It's precisely this cutting-edge, pushing-the-envelope science that's in America's best interest to keep quiet about.

           Organ Mountains, looking east from Las Cruces.
                                                                                        Click any photo for larger image.
The gnarly Organ Mountains rise along with stately prickly yucca, separating the college town of Las Cruces from the White Sands missile launching areas. Smoke trails ascending beyond the zenith are as common as traffic roadblocks on local highways, pending another rocket test.

In the old west days around here, smart players kept their poker hands close to the chest. That custom endures, from a southernmost boundary at the Mexican frontier, part of Fort Bliss Artillery ranges by El Paso and Juarez, north, east, and west to include more than ### sq mi of "keep out" desert and surrounding mountains.

Such is this remote place where the Rocket Science Institute was founded, in 1999. By Roswell, not far away, Goddard tested home-built rockets in the 1930s. By the early 1940s Cal Tech engineers and Los Alamos scientists found this high desert flatland where skies were almost always deep blue and clear ideal for testing captured V-2 rockets, and their new-fangled atom bombs.

By 1945 this was the birthplace of America's nascent space programs. For well over half a century, this stretch between Roswell and Las Cruces, from El Paso to Albuquerque, remains where we launch, fly, and test rockets, missiles, laser defense systems, astronomy experiments, rocket sleds, stealthy aircraft, helicopters, and other crafts you'll likely never see, or hear of.

Let's have a closer look, and see what's not totally hidden behind these invisible curtains of national security.


Encircled By Missile Test Ranges,
Welcome to White Sands National Monument

Light and Shadow, White Sands National Monument landscape photo by Jim M. Goldstein

Light and Shadow, White Sands National Monument landscape photo by Jim M. Goldstein

Organ Mountains near White Sands Missile Range NM

Founded centuries ago by early Spanish explorers and settlers,
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Quiet and coolly aside the Rio Grande and at the foot of the Sandia Mountains, this fine city has plenty of history, art, culture, heritage, and really fine food. Skiing, in winter, is minutes away. Across the street from the ancient Indian Petroglyphs are the grandiose, extensive chip factories of Intel.

Across town is both the International Airport and its "Siamese twin," Kirtland Air Force Base--home of black aircraft--itself alongside Sandia National Laboratories, alive with atomic weapons designers and engineers.

The University is but a few minutes from anywhere, and modern shopping centers match those of the best anywhere. There's a couple of fine whole foods coops, plenty of sidewalk coffee shops, along with sufficient tiendas adorned with scarlet chile ristras, spaced between tequilarias, tamale makers, turquoise jewelers working in sterling.

And one of America's oldest village is less than an hour to the north, just below the hills of Los Alamos: Santa Fe, the capitol of the state. Just north of the capitol lies Taos, galaxy-class skiing, aspen-shaded rivers, and the world of the Milagro Beanfield War, and the Magic Journey.

Before you get to Colorado, you can catch the classic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Built 126 years ago and little changed since, the 64-mile, fully operational steam railroad is jointly owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico.