|San Miguel Mission|
This morning I made my way to the Very Large Array (heh). I exited the interstate and checked out Socorro, its gateway city, which all the way back in June of 1598, proved itself a source of aid to Spanish families traveling north from Mexico. "As the Spaniards emerged from the desert, Piro Indians of the pueblo of Teypana gave the Spaniards food and water. Therefore, the Spaniards renamed this pueblo Socorro, which means "help" or "aid." I walked around the beautiful San Miguel Mission, built in 1891 on the site of the original mission that was built in 1627. It has massive adobe walls, large carved vigas, and supporting corbel arches. Then I stopped into the visitor center before spending the afternoon blogging and uploading photos at the library, where I had a very strange feeling like I entered a former mental institution or something, especially after taking the elevator to the empty second floor to use the restroom. It just seemed eerie.
|A HUGE Christmas Tree?|
I left at 5:50pm - that's when the library closed, lol - and headed west on Highway 60 to the pleasant little eye-blink town of Magdalena, where I picked up some groceries, before heading to Bear Trap Campground in Cibola National Forest. Huh, getting there was an adventure all in it itself. About 10 miles west of Magdalena I turned onto Forest Road 549, a dirt road cutting through fields, over cattle-guards, and then into the forest, and that's where things got interesting, as the road became less maintained, narrow is spots, and it was a little stressful negotiating the large rocks I came upon. Oh, and I had no idea it was such a long drive to the campground. The ranger I spoke with over the phone, simply said it was 6 miles from Highway 60 to the forest entrance, and there I would find the campground. Well, I did eventually find the campground, a total of about 14 miles from the highway, on some pretty rough terrain up the mountain. Yes, it was a bit of a white-knuckle ride at times, but it sure was fun, singing to the blaring radio with the windows down and taking in the inspiring views, as I climbed up narrow, cliff-side mountain road to Bear Trap, where there was only one other set of people, who I maybe saw for a total of 5 minutes my entire stay, as they kept cozy in their truck camper. I was able to set up my tent just before nightfall, and before the rain really set in. I sat there in my tent with a beer, and oysters in bbq sauce, and couldn't believe how tired I was! I was out like a light.
|One of 27 Gigantic Radio Dishes at VLA|
I saw lots of cows as I passed through the fields this morning, on my to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array, "one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories, consisting of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 22 miles across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 meters (422 feet) in diameter!" Since its inception in 1980, it has made startling discoveries and countless "investigations of many astronomical objects, including radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, supernova remnants, gamma ray bursts, radio-emitting stars, the sun and planets, astrophysical masers, black holes, and the hydrogen gas that constitutes a large portion of the Milky Way galaxy as well as external galaxies. In 1989 the VLA was used to receive radio communications from the Voyager 2 spacecraft as it flew by Neptune. It is not, despite depictions in popular culture, used to assist in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)."
At the visitor center I browsed exhibits explaining radio astronomy and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, stepped into the small auditorium to watch the nine minute comprehensive film, "A Journey of Discovery," took a quarter mile walking tour around the VLA to the base of a working antenna (cool!), and drove to the Antenna Assembly Building to see an antenna inside the building or on the master pad and one of the orange antenna transporters.
Heading back on Highway 60, I stopped in Magdalena for a little drive around the tiny town, and to check out the little library, located inside the old Santa Fe Railroad Station.
From Magdalena, I continued on Highway 60 back onto Insterstate 25, into Las Cruces (see next post).