Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico

In about 1949 Dick and his brother Guy were given for Christmas a View-Master set with several slides with it. One of the slides was from Carlsbad Caverns. Dick would look at the pictures of the caverns over and over again and dream about being there some day.

Well, this week was the time, after 60 +/- years, he finally arrived. We moved from Texas back into New Mexico and on Saturday we went to the caverns. It's just about impossible to put into words what we saw. We love caves, and thought we had seen some magnificent ones. But all of them are put to shame by Carlsbad Caverns. After spending about 1 hour getting down to the bottom we took the elevator up 750', had lunch and took the elevator back down to take a guided tour of another area of the cavern. On Monday we went back earlier in the day and it took us 2 hours to walk to the bottom this time, Dick having brought the tripod so he could get better pictures. We took the elevator back up to have a picnic lunch that Jackie prepared and then back down on the elevator where we took the self guided tour of the "Big Room". It took us 2 1/2 hours to do the 1-hour tour.

To give you an idea of the size of this room, it's 14 football fields long, some 250' high and covers an expanse of six acres. The trail runs about 1 mile inside the room and is the star of Carlsbad Cavern.

The sign as you enter the park and it's still another 14 mile drive up to the top where the entrance is.

After paying our fee (oh it's free for us), we walked over to look down into the Natural Entrance of the cavern. We thought that's pretty steep and has a few switch-backs. We had to travel a little over a mile to drop 750' in elevation, so there were a lot of switch-backs.

The shiny things that you see in this picture that looks down are the stainless steel handrails at each switch-back. Gives you an idea of how steep it really was. And to top it off, it had very subdued lighting but we had our flashlights and Dick's trusty camera.

The first trip down Dick used the flash where he could, but because of the size of the room the flash would not travel far enough to get any good pictures. So he settled for areas where the shot was closer.

Every turn was something new and spectacular. It was all shades of brown with lots of translucence in it.

In the Big Room the second day all the pictures are time exposed from 3 to 30 seconds and the bright spots are where there is indirect lighting to highlight an area.

The pictures don't do justice to what we saw unless you click on them and blow them up to get a better feeling of what is down there.

It was hard to guess at exactly what exposure time was needed on each picture so some are a little under and some a little over exposed, but you will get the idea. This one was taken looking straight up at the ceiling about 175' over us.
The handrail gives you some idea of size.

The room went on and on and on, more and more incredible stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, etc.

I estimate this stalagmite to be over 50'tall. There is not any green in the cavern; Dick's camera needed a filter to filter out the green caused by the type of lighting used. It does add some interest to the photos.

What can we say, please just enjoy the remaining pictures.

Do you see the 3 other people in the picture? While taking this 25 second exposure, Jackie stood real still and 3 people walked through, but because they never stopped they did not show up on the picture.

If you enjoyed these, we sure would like to hear from you. Next stop is to see the "little green men".

To be continued...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hueco Tanks State Historic Site El Paso Texas

We have made a change to our blog. From now on the picture captions will be under the phote instead of before.

Guess what, we have moved again. This time we are in Texas, about 35 miles east of El Paso in a State Historical Park called Hueco Tanks. Very interesting and historical area. About 2/3 of the park is closed to any access except with a park guide as there are over 3000 paintings that depict religious masks, caricature faces, complex geometric designs, dancing figures, people with elaborate headdresses, birds, jaguars, deer and symbols that date back to 8000 BC.

This is the main entrance into the park and just a small portion of the rock formation out in the middle of nothing but flat lands. The rocks are full of caves and places to get in out of the weather. It's more like huge rocks piled on top one another with spaces to crawl into a larger open area. Or just huge overhangs that was used as camps.

Some of these areas have very large cracks in the rocks that will fill with rain water and could be used for months. It is assumed that some of them have never gone dry.

After setting up our home it was off to hike some of the trails that we could travel on. We did run across lots of graffiti dating back to 1849. They had to close off most of the areas to prevent further damage to the Pictographs and Petroglyphs.

We never miss a chance to got some pictures of the wild cactus. Spring is just starting down here also and the leaves are starting out on the trees.

And some of the beauty of the desert is starting to show itself.

We went for a guided tour of part of the park, with Park Ranger Charlie. Most of what we saw we had seen yesterday. He told us some of the history of the area. Wow, what a job to get up to this location.

Late in the walk he took us to Comanche Cave which included quite a bit of climbing on the rock. Jackie didn't make it as far as the cave, but Dick did. This is one of the areas that has a very large area that holds water and it can still be used. You have to crawl way back into a tight space with a bucket to get too it. Someone had written on the ceiling in large letters back in the 1800s "Watter Hear". I guess he was trying to tell the next person who found this place that there was water here.

The Ranger offered to show us and another couple where "Cave Kiva" was. It is very difficult to get to and if you look close you can see the arrow where it is at. Except you have to go a long way around to get to it. He took us all the way up there and then had to get back to work.

You can just see Jackie crawling under the rock to get into the cavern.

And inside there are 8 pictographs that range is size from about 4" to 16", and as you can see they are in two or three colors.

We didn't post all the pictures but this will give you an idea of what we found.

And another very faint, but the digital flash brings it out better than you can see with the naked eye.

Our new friends took this as we slid out of the cave. It was a pretty tight fit but once you got inside you could stand in a few spots.

Because our trek back was across the rocks without a path, Jackie was able to lead us down safely. It took us a little longer to get down than it did to get up. We went down a couple of times when we needed to go up first but she did a good job.

On the way down we had to be careful not to be eaten by the alligator, so we gave it a wide birth.

This one I think you will have to click on to see the arrow of the truck where we started this climb. We had a great hike and a good day and it was nice to meet Kent & Sharon Hoover. We wish them safe travels and hope to meet up with them at our next stop, Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico.

Today is Thursday and we spent most of the day in El Paso running errands and it's a good thing because the wind is bad today, with gusts up to 50 mph. The other problem when we leave on Friday is there is snow forecast at the caverns, but by Sunday it's should be in the 80s.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two great people

We had the pleasure of meeting two special people after Church last Sunday. We were staying at Pancho Villa State Park (New Mexico) in Columbus, on the Mexico boarder, so we could get some dental work done and again learn some of the history of the area.

Before we talk more about the wonderful couple we met, you need a little history about our 5th wheel RV.

Our 5th wheel is a Big Sky Montana and below is a picture of the graphics on the front and side.

We are rather proud of our rig, so while staying in St. David, Arizona we made a trip to Tucson and had a clear view graphic made and installed on the back window of our pickup to match the graphics on the RV. Most people look at it and ask why we have Washington plates on the truck and a Montana graphic on the back window. We have to explain what it means.

Back to the original story.

We drove 30 miles north to Deming to go to church. After church we had just started the truck when a couple came up and asked if we had a Big Sky, after seeing the graphic in the back window. Of course our response was positive. We talked to them for a few minutes and learned that they also have a Montana, but are looking to sell it as they don't camp any more. Dick made a couple of suggestions on how to sell it.

Before they headed home, they mentioned that there was a music jam session in the afternoon and if we liked Country music we might want to go. Being we love Country music we decided to go and maybe dance a little. During a break in the music, our new friend was talking to some other people at our table and mentioned that they have a Platinum membership to 1000 Trails, a camping club, which they would like to give to someone who could use it. Before we left, Dick mentioned that we would like to get some more details about the membership, and they invited us to follow them home to check out the details.

They took us home and we looked over the program. They said if we are interested we could have it free of charge. We know that they paid thousands of dollars for this and used it well while traveling back and forth across the country as Bud showed us the map of the US and it sure had a lot of lines drawn on it. Of course we're interested!

Monday they had 1000 Trails fax them the transfer papers. We drove back to Deming and went over the papers with them, signing where necessary. As soon as we get our membership cards, we can start staying at any of Thousand Trails' resorts free for 21 days and then can move to another park and stay for another 21 days. And we just had to pay the transfer fee and yearly dues--what a deal!

A huge thank you goes out to two great people that we met on a whim and we will remember for a lifetime. Every time we make reservations or stay at a park, we will be thinking of and thanking you.

Again a big thanks to Bud and Marlene, two very special people.

Just an FYI: we are now in Texas.

To be continued...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gila Cliff Dwellings New Mexico..

Over 700 years ago the Mogollon (pronounced Muggy-own) people wandered up a narrow valley and found some caves up on the face of the canyon wall. They built ladders and narrow trails up to this area and started to carve out more of the caves and build over 40 rooms in 6 adjacent caves. Then after about one generation (about 1300) the Gila Cliff Dwellers had moved on. Archeologists believe that part of the reason for abandoning the caves is there was a 30-year drought in the area.

It was rather exciting to walk and sit where they had. The round trip hike was up a very narrow trail with lots of rocks that followed a small stream. On the trail you could look about straight up and see the some of the dwellings.

Here you can see the size of the openings and some of the walls built to partially close them off.

A closer view: you can see at least 2 stories and the unusual shape window that was made in the wall. The wood sticking out was once part of a roof that was inside.

Another view looking the other way. One wonders how many died in the building of the dwellings and the constant up and down the walls to get water and tend their crops at the bottom of the cliff.

We were able to wander around inside one of the caves and see a lot of the rooms that they built. This is a view not too far inside the cave. It went back another 50' or more. The Mogollon may not have been able to explain how the rock lip around the cave's opening formed to block out the summer sun and keep in the warmth of winter fires, but they certainly took advantage of this temperature regulation.

The ceiling is still black from all the smoke from cooking and heating.

Looking across one of the caves you can see the remains of some of the rooms. Remember it was built over 700 years ago by very primitive means.

More of the same. Very, very interesting.

Back outside on the cliff edge for another view looking into one of the caves.

Down the ladder so we could head back down and the 3 hour trip home.

One last parting shot. It was an incredible day, stepping back in time.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tombstone Arizona

Tombstone Arizona is known as the town that would not die, and it's trying to maintain that example today. The main street for about 3 blocks and some other spots in town are clinging to the history to try and keep the town from finally dieing.

The Courthouse is a good place to start and they have turned it into a very well done museum. The town reached its pinnacle of riches and then faded, all within the short span of eight years. In 1877 silver was found and it brought over 12,000 people to the area. Over 37 million dollars worth of silver had been taken from the mines before they closed in 1886.

The courthouse stood empty from about 1931 until 1955 when it was restored and turned into a museum. It is a beautiful structure today and well maintained.

The courtroom on the second floor is completely redone and if you sit for a long time with your eyes closed you can hear the ghosts of some of the past trials.

The main street has been covered with dirt and you can still get a stagecoach ride around town and be able to listen to a taped explanation of what you are seeing.

Looking down the street where some of the good and bad guys have walked before us like Wyatt Earp, "Doc" Holliday, and John Slaughter.

The stores are well laid out trying to maintain a similarity of that period of time. You can pay your few dollars and go into the OK corral and see a re-creation of the big shoot out, which lasted all of 30 seconds. There is a very well-done description of the shoot-out at the OK Corral in the Courthouse Museum.

The Bird Cage Theatre I think is one of the few original buildings that date back to the 1800s. Most of the others have been lost over the years by fire. A lot of the original history is still intact inside this building.

Some of the people have been around for a long time also.

An interesting town, glad we got to see it.
To be continued...