Corona (no, not the pandemic), New Mexico

Okay, I think it's time I caught up on where I am on my virtual walk from Tucson to NYC.

When last I checked in on my journey, I had made it to Victorio Peak in the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.  A long time ago in a life far far away, I remember waking up at o' dark thirty one morning during grad school to help out on an urban raptor study, and seeing an ethereal blur in the sky to the east as I biked to campus.

Was this what I saw?!  (Photo credit:

It turns out it was some sort of rocket that was launched and subsequently shot down over the Missile Range, which happened before the time of the interwebs and so record of it is difficult to find (although the above photo seems like it might be the one), but suffice to say that White Sands Missile Range has forever been embedded in my "news of the weird" memory.

So where was I?

Well, before I begin, I'd like to once again acknowledge the Native peoples' whose lands I've crossed on this virtual journey.  There's still so much for me to learn about the people who inhabited these places before I started this pandemic excursion.

Technically I've now made it to Corona, New Mexico.

Sure, if I'd walked non-stop since May 20 it would have taken 6 days and 3 hours...

Corona?  Really?!  When I Googled this location, it was actually hard to find the link to the town since it's been drowned out by the status of the pandemic in New Mexico right now...sigh...

So where were we?

After descending Victorio Peak, I passed White Sands Space Harbor off to the east.  Apparently this is a spaceport that was formerly used as a Space Shuttle runway, a test site for rocket research, and the primary training area used by NASA for Space Shuttle pilots practicing approaches and landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft and T-38 Talon aircraft. With its runways, navigational aids, runway lighting, and control facilities, it also served as a backup Shuttle landing site.

Well, chalk that up to another place I'll be visiting when it's safe to travel again!

Thanks for the image, Wikipedia!

In other news of the weird, as I exited White Sands Missile Range and approached Oscuro, New Mexico, apparently I passed the Oscura Army Airfield, the date of construction and purpose of which isn't entirely known.  And not only that, but the town of Oscuro, New Mexico, seems to have some interesting history, too.  Really, New Mexico?!  The weirdness within your borders just leaves me thinking I need to spend more time exploring you.

So after leaving Oscuro, I then "walked" through Carrizozo, New Mexico, the county seat of Lincoln County, with a population of 996 at the 2010 census.

Carrizozo, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia:

The location of Carrizozo was selected as the site for a station on the El Paso and Northeastern Railway (EP&NE) main line in 1899, which brought businesses, growing population, and increased importance to the town of Carrizozo.  The population reached around 2,000 by 1920.

The town is about 35 miles east of the Trinity Site, where the first nuclear bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945.  Residents reported tremors like an earthquake and, as the first major downwind settlement, the town received a significant part of the remnants of the mushroom cloud (resulting in some radioactive contamination of the area, which faded quickly and does not persist today).

Recently, the town has seen increasing focus on tourism, and cherry cider produced in the town is known nationally.

Hmm...the weirdness of New Mexico continues...

About 3 miles north of Carrizozo, apparently I reached the turn-off to the "ghost town" of White Oaks, one of Billy the Kid's favorite places.  According to its website, White Oaks is more "cowboy/frontier than adobe Disneyland.  There were no Conquistadores bringing the word of God to the native population. It was a frontier wild west cattle community right up until gold was discovered... an almost pure vein going down into Baxter Mountain; then everything changed."

People of White Oaks (Photo credit:

At the time of its heyday, White Oaks was the second largest city in New Mexico, surpassed only by Santa Fe. The town died when the local fathers tried to sell the right of way to the expanding railroad (a big "no, thank you," apparently) and the gold was mined out.

Today, visitors can explore several historic buildings, the Cedarvale cemetery, and the historic No Scum Allowed Saloon, recently named one of American Cowboy Magazine's "Best Cowboy Bars in the West."

Yep, your attractive weirdness knows no bounds, New Mexico...

After White Oaks, apparently another ghost town I passed by is Ancho, New Mexico.  According to its website, the town is located about 23 miles north of Carrizozo and is a former railroad and ranching community. It was established at the turn of the 20th century when families began to settle the fertile valley, followed by a number of homesteaders who became the area’s first sheep and cattle ranchers. Miners also roamed the area of gypsum hills in search of precious metals.

The Ancho Depot (Photo credit:

Ancho seemed to be doing well through 1906, when it was busy shipping plaster and brick to San Franciso after the earthquake and fire suffered by that city the same year.  Beginning in 1917, however, things took a turn for the worse, and when U.S. Highway 54 was paved in 1954 and the railroad discontinued the depot in 1959, the post office subsequently closed several years later and the town was left with only a few people.

Sorry Ancho.  The chiles of your same name are some of my favorites, though.

I've now made it to Corona, New Mexico.  I'm guessing they're tired of pandemic jokes at this point.

Corona, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia, Corona is the closest populated community to a purported UFO crash in 1947 about 30 miles to the southeast. The rancher who found the crash first came to Corona to report it to a few residents before going to Roswell to tell officials there.

As I mentioned when I passed through Hatch, New Mexico, I'm a huge fan of roadside attractions.  This of course extends to ghost towns, UFOs, and aliens in any way, shape, or form.  So when this damned pandemic is finally under control in the U.S. (no promises on when that will be), I'm definitely looking forward to making the trip through New Mexico to visit all of these sites.  They're really not all that far from Tucson, but it's hard to express how much even that small amount of travel would mean right now.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.