The 166 mile ride from Alamogordo to Roswell, New Mexico should have only taken a couple of hours, but you know us. It took closer to four hours. We stopped for a coffee break, a subsequent pee break and then I spotted the Billy the Kid National Byway Visitor Center and we just had to stop.
Our view of Billy the Kid had always been of a psychotic teenager run amok. Whatever would possess someone to name a scenic byway after him? According to the Billy Byway site, ‘New Mexico's Billy the Kid Trail received a National Scenic Byway designation from the Federal Highway Commission in June of 1998. Billy the Kid Trail pays tribute to the infamous "Wild West" outlaw and several other western icons, including Smokey the Bear.’ Smokey the Bear, he’s a hero in my book. Paying tribute to a ‘wild west’ outlaw who purportedly ‘killed eight men before he was shot and killed at age 21’ ...not sure I agree with the logic here. It seems a Smokey the Bear Scenic Byway through historic Lincoln County might have been more appropriate, but that’s just me.
We arrived in Roswell in mid-afternoon and instead of rushing to the museum, our primary reason for being here, we decided instead to visit the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge just outside town. One of the most significant wetlands of the Pecos River watershed, this refuge was established as a breeding and wintering ground for migratory birds. We were told by the volunteer at the desk that the sandhill cranes were just beginning to arrive. We also learned that Bitter Lake has one of the largest and most diverse dragonfly populations in North America. In fact, the Refuge celebrates with a Dragonfly Festival each year in early September. We might consider attending in the future.
Armed with a current bird list and an annotated map of the best viewing areas, we took the 6.5 mile auto tour loop in hopes of seeing lots of birds. We saw sandhill cranes and pelicans at a distance, but none close up.
We thought we’d look for more dragonflies and decided to walk along the Oxbow Trail. The trail is only 1/3 mile long, but once committed, we ended up running most of the way back, chased and bitten mercilessly by mosquitoes. Enough birds and dragonflies, we headed to our hotel, anxious to meet up with aliens rather than swatting at mosquitoes.
In case you’ve never heard of it, the Roswell Incident occurred in 1947 when a local rancher purportedly stumbled upon a crashed ‘flying saucer’ complete with an alien crew Though the government initially reported an alien spacecraft had been found, in an alleged giant cover-up, the crash site, spaceship and crew were removed and the incident was later totally denied with claims that what was found was actually a weather balloon.
The Roswell International UFO Museum & Research Center, opened in 1992, states as part of its mission statement that it “endeavors to be the leading information source in history, science and research about UFO events worldwide”.
We entered as skeptics and we left just a little less skeptical. The information presented is quite compelling. The documents, testimonies and accumulated ‘evidence’ certainly provides some food for thought. There’s more reading and documentation than there are actual exhibits, but what’s on display is pretty interesting. Take a look. You know the drill… click on the thumbnail if you want to enlarge the image.
Each year near the anniversary of the ‘crash landing’, the Annual UFO Festival is held in the ‘UFO Capital of the World’, i.e. Roswell. Concurrently, the Roswell Galacticon sponsors costume parties, celebrity guests and all things alien. Sounds like fun except for the 15,000+ people who also think it sounds like fun.
The whole town, by the way, joins in on the alien theme. The lampposts are alien heads. Alien beings can be seen in most shop windows. Alien gift shops and souvenirs abound. Even Dunkin Donuts sports an alien.
We’ve been lax in the hiking department for the last few days and we feel the need to get out and commune with nature a bit. Join us next time as we head to Guadelupe Mountains National Park. Never heard of this one? Neither had we and it really surprised us.