Looks Like I’m Going to the Desert Again…

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that an annular eclipse, where the sun turns into a “ring of fire” as the moon moves across it (when it’s too small to completely cover the sun), is coming to the United States on October 14…which is just 10 days away. Which means it’s now within reach of long-range weather forecasts. And as I suspected might be the case, my original plan to go to Padre Island outside Corpus Christi, on Texas’s Gulf coast, isn’t looking too good. Accuweather has consistently predicted heavy cloud cover over that area, and The Weather Channel too currently predicts “partly cloudy”. In addition, the weather, especially in terms of fog, mist, haze, and cloud cover, tends to be unpredictable along coastlines, raising the chance there will be stray cloudbanks obscuring my view of the “ring of fire”.

No, it looks like my best bet to see the annular eclipse will be deeper into the interior…much deeper. Roswell, New Mexico has consistently had a sunny forecast in the Accuweather outlooks (day after day it says 0% cloud cover), and The Weather Channel’s website agrees. All sources predict cloud-free skies dominated by bright sunshine on October 14 in Roswell, and across the broad expanse of plains of eastern New Mexico.

West of the Great Divide, the forecast has been much more iffy; the Four Corners as well as the desert regions of southern Utah in the eclipse’s path have occasionally had zero cloud cover predicted, but for most of the past week I’ve been tracking it cloud cover has ranged from 40% to 70% in the forecast, far higher than in eastern New Mexico. From where I live the part of the track west of the continental divide is much further away, and it doesn’t make sense to drive a longer distance for worse weather.

No, unless the forecast seriously changes in the next 10 days (which it might!), it looks like I’m going to New Mexico to see the eclipse. Plot twist: for the third time in just the last nine months I’m driving to the American West. Woo!

On the Corpus Christi track I was thinking of just going there, seeing the beach, and calling it a day, but in the Southwest there are considerably more points of interest. Might I swing by after the eclipse on a side excursion and see some of them?

I plotted out some destinations, but it turns out eastern New Mexico is a weirdly frustrating location to drive anywhere else from as a side trip!

I loved southern Utah’s landscapes when I visited last February, but all I was able to really see was Zion National Park. Bryce Canyon? Canyonlands? Capitol Reef? Arches? Moab? All would make fantastic destinations, but Moab is a rather studly 561 miles from Roswell. Bryce? 740 miles. 💀 

Grand Canyon? Same scenario. 608 miles. Northward into the more desert-y parts of Colorado, I wondered: Telluride? I’ve never been too interested in the place, but if it was close…well, turns out, no, it’s nowhere close. 517 miles.

There is a still more distant yet even more compelling destination: the Pacific Ocean. San Diego, the closest point of coast to Roswell, is 872 miles. Realistically 2 more days of driving each way, but could I resist once I got out into that scrubland? I’ve got some dance stuff going on back home later that week, but if I drove like I was crazed I could probably squeeze it in… 🤫 

But why push myself like that? Really, eastern New Mexico and west Texas is an enormous area, and Roswell is not too far from the center of it, so I’ve been considering destinations within New Mexico for a side excursion from Roswell. I’m doing some leaf-peeping over Halloween in New England, so that got me thinking…would the forested mountains of New Mexico have brilliant fall foliage to see? Turns out, they probably do in mid-October! The nearer sections of the Sierra Blanca are only 75 miles from Roswell! Due to their southerly location the leaves might not be quite as spectacular as they will be in late October (at least climatologically; not sure about this year in particular), but it might be worth a visit, especially considering that only a few hours of extra driving would be required.

More ambitiously, Taos has always stood out to be as a location I wanted to visit. It’s 257 miles from Roswell, a much longer drive than the Sierra Blanca, but the scenery is considerably more spectacular, the autumn leaves should be near peak overall by mid-October (it’s considerably further north than the Sierra Blanca), and the towns should be a lot more interesting.

It would be relatively easy to work in a visit to Santa Fe as well on this track. I’ve seen the place before, weirdly enough also during the autumn, in my mad dash southbound on Interstate 25 in 2021 (yes, I do weird things like that on road trips), but I might be inclined to pay it a visit again. The only thing that gives me pause is that Santa Fe was one of my aunt’s favorite places to visit, and she went there all the time on mad dashes when she was short on time; I’m turning into my aunt! Help! 🤪

In terms of routings Taos is relatively awkward for me to get back home from compared to Roswell or even the Sierra Blanca, but it wouldn’t be too much trouble if I really wanted to do it. We’ll see. In any case, I’m going to see that moon pass over that sun…

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