Day Twelve: The campground must have been the home to local workers as numerous trucks began driving right past our campsite beginning around 2:30 in the morning and continued for the entire morning. As I was awake, I decided to do some star gazing outside of the tent. Sadly, the moon was bright enough to interfere with any great potential for star filled skies. During my tour days, I can remember seeing the night sky when there was a new moon. At any rate, the sky had more stars than what would be at home.
When I got back to the tent, I decided that making some quick edits to the last blog post would be wise since we were on the campgrounds wifi. That’s when I was under the impression that the post had been lost. I spent two hours rewriting the post only to find out it was still there. There are worse things to worry about, though. As I obnoxiously say to some of my friends, that’s a first world problem. By the time I finished, it was time to get ready for the day. I met a new friend who was near the campground showers, which were only fifty feet from our campsite. He was kind enough to pose for a photo.
We drove a little over an hour southbound back into Texas to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park. (Another new NP for me.) After filling our water bottles and getting a map at the visitor’s center, we began our 5+ mile hike to Devil’s Hall. The hike was a basic out and back trek. The first part of the hike was on a traditional trail which gained some elevation. The second part of the hike had us walking through a rocky wash and scrambling over rocks and boulders. Luckily, I had two hiking poles. We were both able to use one to help us remain steady. At the end of the way in, we approached a natural staircase which led to the trail’s namesake. We snapped several photos, ate a snack, and turned around to hike back down.
After the hike, we watched a short slide show about the park and ate lunch in the car. We then drove about 45 minutes north towards Carlsbad Caverns National Park. (Yet another new National Park for me!)
(As you can see, we have been having fun with the time lapse feature on the iPhone.)
When we arrived at Carlsbad Caverns, we showed our Park pass to get tickets for the self guided tour. I wasn’t exactly sure how different the cave would be compared to Mammoth Caves. Although there were some similarities, Carlsbad Caverns was much grander and jaw-dropping. The beginning part of the hike was walking past the amphitheater where we planned on watching the bat flight in a few hours. From there, we could see the natural opening to the cave. Birds were flying all around and diving into the cave around this point. Despite some very close calls, no cave swallows managed to successfully target us with their droppings. The cave immediately required us to descend into it using the very many switchbacks. The railings proved useful, as many parts were slippery. Honestly, the cave seemed to never end as we made our way towards the 750 foot mark that we would eventually reach. The photos below simply do not do any real justice to the magnificence of the caverns. At some points, the size of the open space was equivalent to several Madison Square Gardens combined! (No joke!) Overall, it took us nearly two hours to hike to bottom and complete the mile loop around the Big Room portion of the cave.
By the time we reached the end, we had passed many people who were hiking back out. They were clearly having a hard time breathing and functioning. Therefore, we decided that waiting the 45 minutes for the elevator ride back to the top was the wisest course of action. (Note: the elevator was installed in the 1930’s and takes 58 seconds to return to the top.)
Back in my car, we prepared our dinner. I’m getting much better at making “car guacamole” with success, after having practiced the skill at Red Rocks two years ago. The trick is to cut everything but the avocados earlier and keep the parts in separate bags.
Our National Park day concluded with us listening to a ranger speak about the Brazilian Freetailed bats who reside in the cave for several months of the year. He spoke until the bats emerged in the hundreds of thousands. There are no photos of the actual bat flight, as the electronics can have a negative effect on the bats. (An armed police officer is there to make sure everyone complies. Presumably, one will get shot if you dare to snap a photo.)
Day Thirteen: We woke up and broke down camp before making our way towards White Sands National Monument. This won out over passing through Roswell, NM. I’m so glad it did! The hour or two we spent there was fascinating. We drove along roads that were covered by the white sand, which is actually finely eroded gypsum. We climbed the dunes and saw incredible views. Janice met a spider friend who wanted to hang out in her shadow, while I met a lizard friend who was showing off his highly evolved sense of camouflage.
Day Fourteen: I made a few phone calls in the morning, then we headed back to town to explore some of the shops that were closed the night before. (For those who go to Santa Fe, be sure to check out the Design Store. It was my favorite several years ago, and still is today.) After getting a cup of coffee, we drove towards Taos.
Ever since I began researching alternative houses several years ago, I have been very aware of Earthships. Eventually, I could see myself building one of these sustainable and eco-friendly homes. If you are not aware of these homes and how they are built, I highly recommend doing so! We were able to tour the visitor center, which is a fully functioning Earthship.
We then crossed over an amazing gorge and had lunch in Taos, before driving the final leg towards Denver. The trip had us driving through a rough storm that claimed many cars in the ditches. Hopefully nobody got hurt. We arrived safely in Denver and had dinner with Jackie.
Final Thoughts: “Friends are the family you choose.” The trip out west with Janice has been just great. I am beyond excited to help Jackie in the next two weeks get her home prepared for her baby to arrive. Life is about the people you care about.