Friday, November 6, 2009

Carlsbad NM to Guadalupe Mountains Natl Park

Thursday November 5

Temperature in the Sprinter was in 60’s with our heater coming on occasionally during the night – the outside temperature was 43. We were very comfortable and by the time we had coffee and were ready to get outside it was in the high 50’s. We left this park which was really very nice – had Wifi (weak signal), a coupon for a free movie, lots of play equipment for children, a track to race small pedal cycles, and I think I mentioned the swimming pool. We topped off the gas tank as there were no gas stations until we get back to the Interstate at Van Horn tomorrow. It was only about 20 miles to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the traffic was light. The highway was being turned into a 4 lane with Obama Stimulus money. I am sure the traffic is much heavier in the summer but right now the extra lanes seem unnecessary.

Landscape around Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The drive from the highway up to the National Park was through stark canyons with prickly pear cactus, yucca plants, and a very pretty yellow tree which we later identified as little walnut. The road wound around the canyons and climbed up to reach the crest where the visitor center was built. The area became a national park in the early 1930’s. We got the information from a ranger and selected the 1.3 mile Big Room Tour and an audio tour to accompany us. If Ben wants another tour, he will go back after lunch. There was an elevator that took us down 750 feet in a little over a minute. Then a blacktop walkway with hand rails led us the entire way. There was quite a bit of up and down walking but most was fairly level. Everything that people go underground in caves to see was here – stalagmites and stalactites as well as draperies, popcorn, columns, pools, and breakdown. The ceilings were large and vaulted in most areas. The information said one of the large rooms would hold 4 football fields. The lighting had been done very well to show off the various formations.

All Photos in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Ben (the cave explorer) was very impressed and so was Jane (the rather skeptical but willing to give it a chance participant). There were many locations where the stalagmites and stalactites joined to form columns and this is evidently not seen everywhere. We saw only a small part of the cave as there were 5 more guided tours into other areas of the upper and lower levels. We saw parts of both the upper and lower levels. Ben says there were many passages going in every way from the large rooms. We were in the cave from about 9:30 until a little before noon. We ate a picnic,and after looking out over the vistas; began our decent back down to the main road.

We drove the 55 miles south to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and toured the Visitor Center. The campground here had spots so we located a site, paid the $4 to stay and sat down in the sunshine to do absolutely nothing! Jane finished her Mary Higgins Clark book and started the Nevada Barr book written about Carlsbad Caverns. Ben took a short nap. The humidity is 20% which causes some strange feelings in the head! There are several short hikes we will take tomorrow before we leave for a 60+ mile drive back to Van Horn and the interstate. We have reservations at Indian Lodge in Fort Davis for Saturday and Sunday nights so we are not certain how far we will go Friday – also depends on how long we hike. This area is known for having the best tree color in the area and we are here at the peak. There seem to be red and yellow trees that will really stand out among the stark tans of the mountains and the green cactus and scrub plants.

Example of Walnut Color

This is a remote 40 unit campsite but is nearly full and the rangers tell us it always fills on the weekends. There are nice bathrooms but no electricity. Our generator gives us power for the refrigerator and lights but nothing else if we want coffee so – cooking on the gas stove was in order. We had a good dinner and by 6:30 it was pitch black. We will hope to go out and look at the stars in a little while.
The only attraction for this remote national park is the hiking and scenery. It seems most of the folks camping here are into hiking in a big way. One hike we will take tomorrow is to the remains of a pre-pony express station.

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