May 2016 - Caverns and Mountains

Ralph's Blog

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Having learned our lesson about leaving Austin before the snow stops coming, we put off our departure until May. It worked, the only snow we saw was on the top of the mountains, not on the road. Our first stop was the Caverns of Sonora. The caverns include a very reasonably priced campground with 50A hookups so we could run the air conditioner - a necessity while we were there. It was truly hot!

Right outside the campground there was a huge array of birdhouses, so we had entertainment even when we weren't underground.

The types of rocks are varied and present markedly different environments.

This is a pool of water so clear the camera can't see it. The green came from pennies tossed in the pool.

The family friendly name is applesauce falls

This cavern is warm and humid and very much alive and growing. It contains some of the most unusual features of any cave on earth.

A fishtail

Helictites - the water pressure in the walls is so great the stalactites curve and bend as they grow, defying gravity.

Bacon formation. Each strip took 30,000 years to form. The fringe is very unusual, the hole was caused by someone who wasn't careful with a broom.

The Caverns of Sonora are a truly magical place.

* * *

Our next destination was supposed to be Carlsbad Caverns, the natural entrance is the picture at the top of the page. However, when we got there we found out the elevator was not working so we would have to walk in and walk out again. That's a 1 ΒΌ mile walk with an 800 foot drop. I'm a fat old man with only one working lung - shall we say it was a challenge? I won't say anything more than Judy was a bit smug after her winter exercising at the gym.

Really I won't...

Since we were only going to make the descent once,(actually I was more worried about the ascent!) we decided to do it on Monday, when the weekend crowds weren't present. We looked in the Internet and found some interesting places to visit in the area. We visited the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and did a bit of hiking and sightseeing.

There is a restored ranch house in the park that was sited on a free flowing spring that enabled the family to have an orchard and an extensive garden. We came just as their artist in residence was giving a class on watercolors, and Judy painted a watercolor of the mountain you could see out of the window. Pretty good for a first effort, I know I couldn't have done it.

Sadly, as we left the park we could see the smoke from a wildfire rising over the mountain, which eventually burned 14,000 qcres of the park. On our way home we stopped at White City, a unabashed tourist trap and I got to meet a couple of the locals while Judy went wild in the gift shop.

* * *

Would you believe there is a waterfall in the middle of the desert? Sitting Bull Falls is a genuine desert oasis.

The water was cool and refreshing, so we sat there and watched our fellow tourists splashing around and having a wonderful time, including yet another unknown cure kid.

* * *

So, Monday finally arrived and we filled our backpack with sandwiches, water and munchies, boarded Shira at Carlsbad's on-site kennel and started the trek downward. Since we were here last year they have replaced the lighting with LEDs and the improvement is dramatic. Whoever designed it really knew their stuff. The walk downward was no worse than it was last year, when we knew there was an elevator waiting, but Judy enjoyed it much more as she wasn't getting sick this time. This time we both got to walk completely around the main cavern, an overwhelming experience. The pictures just don't convey the grandeur of the place, but take a look at some of them.

ladder into a pit left by and expidition form the 1920s

Just as the pictures don't convey the full experience, I doubt I can describe the walk up again adequately without sounding like I'm whining. Maybe that's because I'm wining. I took it slow and easy and with a couple of Naproxen. Of course Judy left me in the dust, but I was too miserable to care. I have to say the rangers were kind and encouraging to an old fart toiling his way heavenward, and even stopped to chat as I recovered my breath a couple of times. Definitely worth the effort, but I hope the elevators are working the next time we visit!

* * *

On the way to the High desert we made a stop in Albuquerque to visit a small part of the Petroglyph National Monument. It was hot and getting late, but we walked around the sandy trail that the ranger recommended as having a lot of petroglyphs.

It was odd to be standing on a ridge above a suburb looking at ancient stone drawings. The monument is surrounded by typical housing. I don't know how they've managed to control vandalism, but it looked much like it must have thousands of years ago when the drawings were made. I can just picture some bored dude sick of getting smoke in his eyes around the campfire wandering off to do a little graffiti work before the sun set.

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