For most of this trip, I could have gone any time of the year I wanted. Fall is generally cooler, and kids are back in school in September and October, so it’s nice not to have to compete with that, but the whole trip was really timed around this Saturday morning.
The Trinity Site is the location where mankind tested the first atomic weapon in July 1945. What happened at that site almost 20 miles from the northern access road to White Sands Missile Range is truly where the Atomic Age began and I wanted to see it. The Army allows access 2 days a year, the first Saturday in April and the first in October. It was unfortunate that due to COVID-19 the site had not been opened in 2 years, so this was the first viewing opportunity since the 75th anniversary had past.
A beautiful sunrise and a few cows greeted me on the way in from Socorro. I lined up behind about 60 other cars before the gates opened at 8 AM. From there it’s a 17 mile drive in the White Sands Missile Range to the site.
It was amazing to see both the site itself, marked by a lava rock oblisk but the people attending. It was expected to draw more than 5,000 on that day, I counted hundreds just walking around, and I was there early in the day. Cars were still coming in as I was leaving.
The visit to the Nuclear Museum on Thursday put this in a lot of context. Only by visiting though do you get some of the perspective. The closest person to the blast were the scientists 10,000 feet away. The nuclear test was preceded by a TNT test for “calibration” of the equipment. The mushroom cloud you see doesn’t form for 10-15 seconds. The sand, bomb fragments and remains of the tower have turned into a material called trinitite. The bomb that was tested was the relative size of the “Fat Man” device that was dropped on Nagasaki. The “Little Boy” version was used on Hiroshima.
Here’s an interesting fact about the double edged sword that is scientific exploration. Yes, the United States is the only country that has landed humans on the moon. It’s also the only country that has unleashed a nuclear bomb on citizens of its home planet. It’s an amazing duality in my mind. The whole thing left me unusually speechless.
Before I left, I had an inadvertent chore to take care of. To get on to the range I had to show my drivers license. In my excitement, I jammed it in my pants pocket once I was through the gate. In my later excitement, I dropped it on the ground while pulling out that camera phone. So, I wrapped up that visit by finding my lost drivers license at the information desk, thanks to the MP’s who found it after it fell out of my pocket and turned it in. Whew!
Saw a few protesters on the way out from the range and headed back to Socorro to pick up a forgotten item, then down to Truth or Consequences to charge and prove that the city really exists. Mark Arum on WSB had been surprised a few weeks earlier to hear of T or C being named for a radio game show, so I thought he would like a short video.
In my original plan at this point I was going to go to Spaceport America but it’s locked down to tours only and those were sold out so I set my sites on Alamogordo, NM. On the way, I had a chance to stop at White Sands National Monument which was very interesting to learn about. The wind blows material off the mountains and it accumulates into this old sea bed with a water table that doesn’t drain to the sea so it keeps it in these beautiful dunes.
Alamogordo has a space museum too, but unfortunately I was 20 minutes too late to see that. I did get to see one of my best friends military bricks, which made the whole visit to the area extra special for me.
On from there to Demming NM for an overnight.
Google Photos: Trinity Site Photos
Fine Art America – Trip Photos Available for Purchase: 2021 ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip