29 September 2005

Left Las Cruces

The last day or so of our stay in Las Cruces we spent tooling around town and seeing the sites. Las Cruces isn’t a huge place, so it didn’t take very long. I did find a Chocolate shop that sells chocolate covered, sugared ginger…mmmm! It’s really good. Of course, if you’re not fond of ginger you’d probably not like it much. On Monday the 26th, we played a round of Glow Golf. They don’t allow you to take pictures, so I have none to share. It was really a lot of fun; the only lighting in the place is black light. The holes are lined with reflective material and the walls are painted with reflective paint in a jungle motif, well…a neon jungle motif. To get the ball to glow you have to pass it through a light box every so often. It was a good time, Bill beat me by 3 strokes, but we were both well over par for the course. We also saw a coffee shop called The Bean, for those of you who know us, you’ll understand why that’s kind of funny.

Tuesday the 27th we left Las Cruces, NM bound for Benson, AZ. Leaving Las Cruces was bittersweet. One the one hand, there isn't much in Las Cruces to keep ya there, but it was really peaceful and we actually had time to relax and swim in the pool almost everyday.

We arrived in Benson early afternoon and proceeded to have a crappy day of trying to set up in 95+-degree heat just to find out we were really not even a little bit level (low on one side by about 3-4 inches). Bill had to go find more leveling blocks at a local RV place, then came back and we had to rehitch, unhook, and resituate onto the leveling blocks. By the time we were done we were hot, sweaty and irritable. We took a drive just to get out of the RV and into the AC in the truck (since we had been driving for several hours the RV was hot and we had to give it a chance for the AC to catch up). We drove out to Sierra Vista for a quick driving tour of where Bill used to live and for him to see how much has changed. Sierra Vista has apparently grown a lot since he was last there about 12-13 years ago. After that we drove through Tombstone and walked really quickly through, most everything was already closed but what a cool place. We are going back today and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s wonderful how they’ve kept that part of town the way it was in the 1800’s. I’ll write more about it after we get back from there today. Although this post may not even go up until tonight..so…whatever! The first night we stayed here Bill had a rough night. There is a set of tracks that runs right next to the park we ware staying in and the first night the BNSF ran by every 20min and blew it’s horns. Bill only got about 3 hours of sleep, which made him less than fun to be around yesterday. We spent yesterday cleaning the RV, putting stuff away and washing the outside of it. Bill slept a little better last night, so here’s hoping we’ll have a good day.


26 September 2005

White Sands National Monument

Friday, September 23rd (holy crap I can’t believe it’s already the end of September), Bill and I drove out to White Sands National Monument http://www.nps.gov/whsa/home.htm. Hi’iaka had a blast in the powdery white sand. This place is amazing. The white sand is gypsum and only exists at 6 places on earth. Gypsum dissolves in water and therefore usually doesn’t survive on the surface of the earth; White Sands National Monument is the largest deposit of white gypsum sand in the world. It’s incredible to drive through this park in an AC truck, the sand looks like snow. There is even a part of the road that is covered in compacted sand and looks like snow and ice, like it should be slippery. Then you get out of the truck into 95-degree heat and remember that you’re in the desert. It was so bright that I couldn’t take my sunglasses off, I tried once and almost burnt the retinas out of my eyeballs, it was almost painful, it was SO bright. The total size of the white sand dunes (not just the monument) is 275 square miles, that’s a lot of white sand. The sand is much softer than I would have expected it to be, it’s not really abrasive, it’s far more like powder than actual sand, but larger grained than powder. The dunes aren’t stationary, they move up to 10-13 feet a year. The plants have adapted to this ‘rapid growth and movement’. Some of the plants will grow fast enough to keep their leaves above the dune, then when the dune move on the roots will hold some sand in place and build towers. It’s an incredible place; there is some wild life that has adapted to this area. Lizards that would normally be gray in color have turned white over the decades of evolution. Same with snakes, bugs, and birds. It’s truly amazing the way nature adapts and endures.


PS - my internal clock is having a hard time believing that it's already Fall...it's 95 freaking degrees here....that's NOT Fall weather!! Bill keeps telling me it's almost time to decorate for Halloween...I just look at him and say, it's 95 freaking degrees out...it's NOT Fall.

23 September 2005

City of Rocks

So we left Carlsbad, NM on the 21st and arrived in Las Cruces, NM. It was an uneventful drive, and only about 3-4 hours instead of 20-24, amazing. The park we are staying in has a wonderful view out our back window of the Organ Mountains. Bill tried to take a picture of it from our RV, but the atmosphere between our place and the mountains was a bit thick and dusty. It's been pretty warm here. The average temperature for this time of year is in the low to mid 80s, but we've been in the mid to upper 90s everyday. It's not horrible since it's so dry and there's been a nice breeze, I just have to be caregul how long I'm in the sun so I don't burn to a crisp. I've been careful, and I'm actually getting a bit of a tan. It's nice to not be blue anymore.

On Thursday the 22nd we drove out to Rock hound State Park (http://www.americansouthwest.net/new_mexico/rock_hound/state_park.html) and climbed on the hills in 95-degree blazing sun looking for rocks. We found a lot of jasper in several different colors, some black and gray perlite, and I think…maybe some peach opal, but I’m not really sure. After sweating in the hot, hot sun, avoiding the fire ants and trying not to piss off the wasps, and coming across a scorpion carcass we stopped for lunch and decided we were done rock hounding for the day. We probably would have stayed and dug around somemore if it wasn't so hot.

From there we drove to City of Rocks State Park. (http://www.gilawilderness.com/travel/cityofrocks.htm) This is an incredible place. Millions of years ago there was a volcanic eruption 1000 times larger than Mt. Saint Helens and it left a massive volcanic rock bed. Through weathering and erosion the rocks wore down to what you see today. It really does look like a city of sorts, maybe something out of a Jim Henson movie. It was particularly cool to walk over and through these rocks that have been here for millions of years, and were once inhabited by native peoples. The sky was so amazing the day we went. The blue was so blue and the clouds had such amazing depth. City of Rocks State Park is one of those places we didn’t really know about before getting here but are glad that we decided to make the drive out to it. There is a separate grouping of rocks set away (we didn’t get pics of it) from the mass of the City that they call the Suburbs…that cracked me up.

That was it for Thursday, today we went out to White Sands National Monument, but you’ll have to wait to hear about that until I download and go through the pics.


19 September 2005

Sitting Bull Falls and the Guadalupe's

Saturday the 17th, Bill and I drove out to Sitting Bull Falls in the Lincoln National Forest, NM. http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/lincoln/. It was really cool to see a waterfall in the middle of the desert. The water bubbles up from underground streams. The Falls themselves are 150 feet tall and incredibly pretty. It’s amazing to look around at the surrounding area and see desert, then you turn around and there’s a waterfall. The area that the water falls into looks like a tropical paradise with a desert twist, it’s really something. The drive out was only long because the falls are about 40 miles from the main road on a road that winds like a snake; it takes about an hour or so from the city of Carlsbad to reach the falls. They have a gorgeous picnic area that Bill and I had lunch at before trekking up to the falls (not a far walk).

Sunday I spent doing laundry and watching football, Bill worked, swam, and watched football. It was nice to have a day to catch up on a few things.

Today (Monday the 19th) we drove to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. GMNP is really pretty, but caters more to the person who enjoys a day hike in 90+ degrees, blazing desert sun…not my idea of a good time. We pretty much drove to the visitor’s center, poked around, and left. We did come across “The Pinery”, which was really interesting. http://www.guadalupe.mountains.national-park.com/info.htm#butt. It’s the path that was cut across America to get from the East to the West. Prior to this mail was sent via steamship down around South America, this station was the predecessor to the Pony Express, it was really pretty interesting, here is a pic of what’s left of the building.

After the Guadalupe Mtns National Park, we drove back to the Carlsbad Caverns and walked the Natural Entrance. The rangers tell you that if you have back, knee, or hip problems not to walk this trail, likewise if you have breathing problems or any other thing that means you’re not in good health. They call this trail ‘strenuous’. They aren’t kidding really, it’s steep, wet, and really dark. I walked it in baby steps and there were times that it was a little disorienting. It’s really dark in some places, so dark you almost can’t see your own feet, and it’s wet, and steep. It was fun and I’m glad I did it, but I really wouldn’t recommend walking the natural entrance if you have any joint issues, or any issues with the dark, or claustrophobia. For those cases, take the elevator down, walk the Big Room, and take the elevator back up. We didn’t take any pictures this time around because it was so dark, and we didn’t want to carry the cameras knowing it wasn’t going to just be a leisurely walk through the caverns. There were a couple of time I wished we had brought the cameras if for no other reason than to so how steep the walk was with the switchbacks. I actually worked up a sweat. The caverns are a constant 56 degrees (I was wrong when I posted 63) and I wasn’t cold once on the walk down, I almost had to take off my sweatshirt, I was getting so warm.

All in all we had a pretty fun day today. Started out with the Guadalupe’s in Texas and ended with the Caverns in New Mexico again…oh, and I bought a canned bat, I couldn’t help myself.


18 September 2005

Living Desert

On Friday the 16th, we drove to the north end of town and visited the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/nmparks/PAGES/PARKS/DESERT/Desert.htm It was pretty interesting, although it was really hot and most of the animals were pretty sleepy. We had a good time walking the park and seeing a bunch of lizards, they were everywhere. Probably the most amazing park of walking through the park was the snake exhibit. They had a couple of different windows with Western Diamond Back Rattle Snakes, and they were not happy to see us. The first one we came across instantly started rattling and coiled into a strike position right in front of the window. Once we got our pictures of this guy we moved on quickly, he seemed under a lot of stress and I didn’t want him to strike at the window and hurt himself. I can honestly say that I’m glad that snake was behind glass because it was NOT happy to have us stand there and watch him rattle. At least I now know what it sounds like in real life…good to know while we are in the desert. I think these guys were glad that snake was behind glass too. Aren’t they cute? Again, all through the walk we encountered lizards, and one fearless cricket/grasshopper/whatever. Bill even tapped the ground right next to this with his shoe to get him to move off the trail so he wouldn’t get squished…he didn’t even twitch, so we moved on. The Cougar was probably my favorite part, when we walked up she was back in the shade and hard to see. Almost immediately she got up and walked right over to us and made chuffing/meowing noises at me…it was great, made my day. Probably the funniest part of the walk through the zoo was through the aviary…when Bill was dive bombed by some misc bird, flew right into his head. Scared the crap out of him and had me laughing so hard I almost couldn’t walk. I’m so compassionate. All in all, it was pretty fun, and we saw a lot of lizards, and I have to post this pic of this groundhog...just because I can.


PS - Update on the weather...we had a storm come through last night with high winds, lightening and thunder, and of course...hail! Figures. The hail only lasted for a few minutes at a time, but was so loud with the wind driving it into the trailer that Bill and I had to cover our ears...it was pretty crazy. It wasn't golfball sized like in PA, but it was really loud because of the wind throwing it at us. I've never experienced hail before when it was 90+ degrees out, so that was a first for me.

17 September 2005

Carlsbad Caverns

Ok, so we arrived in Carlsbad, NM on Wednesday the 14th. We got set up, got settled, and started planning what all we wanted to do while we are here. Carlsbad the city is pretty disappointing. There really isn’t much here in the city proper. After staying in Roswell for a week, which has a really cute town feeling to it, Carlsbad is a let down. The one thing Carlsbad has going for it are the National Parks/Forests and State Parks surrounding it.

Thursday the 15th we drove to the Carlsbad Caverns (http://www.nps.gov/cave/), what an incredible place. Again, the pictures we took won’t do it justice; you have to experience it to understand. At the visitor center you have several options for tours of the caverns. We chose to take the elevator down and walk the Big Room trail because I was having problems with my knee and walking down the Natural Entrance is ‘strenuous’. The perimeter walk around the Big Room is one mile. The cavern stays at a constant temperature year-round of about 63 degrees, so my nose got pretty cold by the time we finished. It says that the tour of the Big Room only takes about an hour or so, but we were down there for better than two hours, taking our time, taking pictures. I tried to take some video, but have no clue how it turned out. Every time I turned on my camera it told me the lens cap was still on because it was dark, o-well…I tried. The caverns really are something and I wish that my knee had been feeling good enough for us to walk down the natural entrance, maybe we’ll have time to get back out there before we leave the area.

After touring through the caverns we hung around the area for a couple hours and waited for the Bat Flights. The natural entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns is home to about 400,000 Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. These bats aren’t really big, so the pictures don’t show them very well, but all the black spots are bats. We watched them for about an hour and when we left they were coming out in thicker groups, and still at a steady pace. I have no idea how long it took them all to come out. There were a couple of things that surprised me about the bats flight. One – they were so quiet, with that many wings you’d think it would be louder, with a humming sound or something, but there’s nothing. You have to strain to hear anything and put your hands to your ears before you can hear a tiny sound of beating wings. Two – the smell, they put off a smell (when you are back a ways) something like stale tortilla chips, although the closer you get the stronger and more noxious is gets. They exit the cave in a counter clockwise motion, although no one knows why, and head out to the south-ish. It was really quite amazing to see so many and they all sort of followed each other.

That’s about it for the caverns that I can think of off the top of my head, here are some more pictures from the caverns. Oh, right, it’s 750 feet underground.


16 September 2005

Final Roswell...

Tuesday the 13th, Bill and I drove out to Three Rivers, NM to go to the Petroglyph Recreation Site. http://www.desertusa.com/mag98/mar/poi/du_3rivers.html This was a great place. There was a trail you could walk down to view where they had found and reconstructed some remains of ancient dwellings and along the path were descriptions of the surrounding vegetation and what it was used for. Then there was a half-mile walking trail along a ridge to view the various petroglyphs. These carvings are from thousands of years ago, it’s really something to wander through the trail and know that these have been here for so long. One interesting thing that happened while we were there was that every few minutes for about 15-20min, a Stealth Fighters flew overhead. I thought it interesting that while we were wandering through this ancient place that some of our most advance technology was flying over us. We didn’t get pictures of the Stealth, it was too far up. It’s really impressive to see in the sky though…looks like something out of a Batman movie.

The surrounding is really pretty. The day we were there it was probably in the 90s although there was a nice breeze and it didn’t really seem all that hot. It was pretty breath taking to stand on that ridge surrounded by these ancient carving and look out at the beauty that was all around us.

Well, that wraps up Roswell. We packed up and left on Wednesday morning and arrived in Carlsbad a couple of hours later. Carlsbad as a city is not very impressive so far, there are things around here (within an hour or so drive) that make it nice, but the city itself isn’t that impressive. We went to the caverns yesterday, and I’ll be posting about that once I get through the pictures that Bill took.


15 September 2005

Roswell 2

Ok…so here are some pics from the city zoo/park that I talked about in Roswell. I think it’s very cool that the taxpayers pay this for. It was very cool to see that there is somewhere for people to take their kids, it’s open everyday during the summer than only on the weekends during the school year. By open I mean that the train runs (they have a train that goes around the park for the kids) and the Merry-go-round and concessions are open. The park itself and the animals in it are viewable all the time. It just blew Bill and I away. They even have a fishing lake (really a large pond) that they stock year round and it's free to fish in as long as you follow New Mexico’s fish and wildlife rules.

At the zoo we saw Peacocks just running around, and one that was all white. I’ve never seen an albino Peacock before, so I made Bill take a picture. They also have a pair of Bald Eagles that were injured and can’t be released back into the wild , it was especially cool that every time we walked up to the cage they ‘sang’ for us, they didn’t do that for everyone that walked up, but they did it every time we did. The park also has bears and cougars and monkeys, and all sorts of things. It’s a really neat place.

Monday the 12th we drove out to Bottomless Lakes State Park (http://www.newmexico.org/place/loc/parks/page/DB-place/place/526.html). This is a really cool place. There is water underground that has worn away at the rock, and then giant sinkholes drop down to form these lakes. Our pictures really don’t do it justice. These lakes are anywhere from a few feet at the edges up to 90 feet deep. We had a good time walking and driving all over the park; it was a beautiful day, and a beautiful place to spend the day. Here is a pic of me standing at the edge of one of the lakes, the only one with a swimming area, me and my Cherry Limeade Slushy from Sonic. I saw turtles and fish in the lake, lots of fish. It really is a gorgeous place.

Well, that’s it for that bit. I still have to post about the Petroglyphs, but that will have to wait until tomorrow…or something.