After our day of rest, it was time to get out and explore the area around Alamogordo – the White Sands to the West, Cloudcroft to the East, and the Space above.
Lying to the West of Alamogordo is the Tularosa Basin which is this really flat, arid area. The house we were staying in was pretty much on the edge of town. Beyond the house was just the flat plains, but in the distance you could see white sand. This was part of White Sands National Park, a body of white hills of gypsum.
We drove out to the National Park to take a look. It was $20 to get our car in. There is a road you can take in to the park. It generally takes about an hour to go in, look around and then come back out, but we went on a couple of walks as well. It was so incredible to see this unique area. White Sands looks like God accidentally spilt some white sand amidst a very red and arid desert.
There are signs warning you to be careful otherwise you might get lost in all the white sand, and they are not wrong. We only went on a short walk through the dunes and thought we knew our way back. When it came to finding our way back to the car, we were in a completely different location. We eventually made our way back but it must be even harder if you went for a long hike.
After a morning of fun in this giant sand pit, it was time to go in hunt of something to eat.
Cloudcroft and Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue
We’d been told about an incredible barbecue place in Cloudcroft so naturally, that’s where we went. Cloudcroft is in the mountains above Alamogordo. It takes about 20-30 minutes to drive up there. From the sandy desert of the morning, I wasn’t prepared for what we’d find up top. From Alamogordo, the mountains look arid, but around Cloudcroft, there are forests, and snow on the ground. The temperature was completely different.
We made our way to Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue. It was every bit as delicious as we had been told. We got the brisket and pork ribs. Though we ordered a fair bit of meat, we nearly ate it all, it was just that good. Probably the best barbecue I have ever had. We even got to meet Mad Jack who started this place. He told us his story.
Mad Jack’s Story
This is Mad Jack He has owned Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue in Cloudcroft for over 4 years. His father owned a car dealership in Texas where he worked. On the weekends Jack had started a BBQ food truck. It performed so well that the local government wanted him to install bathrooms and drainage on the property which just was not viable for a Saturday side hustle. He had seen this building in Cloudcroft and knew he wanted to buy it but didn’t have the money.
Jack’s dad always told him, “whatever you do, don’t sell the 1971 Mercury Montego from the lot.” His father had been skeptical of banks and had always been thrifty so Jack had his suspicions.
When his dad passed away, Jack’s brother asked what they should do with all the cars. Jack suggested that they divide up the vehicles one by one and that his brother should go first because he was the oldest. Feeling flattered, Jack’s brother chose the brand new Dodge Ram, then Jack going second chose the Mercury. His brother couldn’t figure out why he wanted that old bomb of a car so Jack told him his suspicion that their father had been using the vehicle as a bank all these years.
They both hunted for the keys and popped the trunk to find it filled with cash. This gave Jack all the money he needed to pay cash for Mountaintop Barbecue!
The food is every bit as delicious as the story, their brisket and ribs just melt in your mouth full of flavor. Make sure you pay them a visit!
After lunch we had a bit of a look around Cloudcroft, seeing this little mountain village in the snow.
I went for a quick walk and saw some animal footprints which reminded me that a mountain lion can probably run faster than me in the snow, so I turned back to the car.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History
We headed back down the mountain to Alamogordo to the New Mexico Museum of Space History. I’m a bit of a space fan, and have been to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida a couple of times so I was pretty excited about this.
This area of New Mexico actually predates Cape Kennedy as far as Space history goes. Unfortunately the museum focussed more on general space history rather than local stuff. We also missed the planetarium as we got there late in the day.
There was still plenty to learn around this museum. We even saw the little capsule that was used to send the first chimp to space.
We ended the day watching the sunset over Alamogordo and the Tularosa Basin from Plateau Espresso.
When we first planned our trip to Alamogordo, I thought we would be in the middle of nowhere but we had seen so many incredible things in just one day. What is your favorite thing to do in Alamogordo?