Friday, June 25, 2010

Trip Report: SE New Mexico

Trip report: Southeastern New Mexico - June 21-23, 2010.

While waiting for my new camper to be built, I took a short trip to visit a few of the National parks and monuments that are in my own backyard. One of the goals of my travels is to visit as many of the National Park Service's holdings as I can.

The trip started by heading down I25 to San Antonio (the boyhood home of Conrad Hilton) and then east to Lincoln. I stopped off at the Billy the Kid museum there and refreshed my memory of the events of that time. Afterwards, it was a short hop over to Roswell. My original plan was to spend the night there but it was only a little after noon so I pushed on with my schedule.

First was a visit to the UFO museum which I had never been to before. It wasn't terribly large or sophisticated since its primary purpose was to build up the conspiracy theory of the UFO crash. I managed to put my skeptical side away temporarily and look at it in a spirit of fun.

Next stop was Carlsbad (actually, I went on to White's City to spend the night, which was a mistake. There was only one motel in business and they charged a hefty price even though the place was pretty old). After checking in I decided to head on up to the Caverns to find out
schedules for the various events and to see the bat flight. On the way I passed a sign stating that the last time for entry into the natural cave entrance was 3:30 PM and it was 3:10. I hurried on up and managed to get a ticket to go in just before they closed it down.

As I walked past the ranger on duty leading into the cave, I tried to walk as normally as possible. I've been having trouble with my heel - either bursitis or perhaps a heel spur and I didn't want the ranger to turn me back. I also saw signs warning about the strenuous nature of the hike into the cave but I figured that only applied to old folks. However, after going down the steep trail through a dozen or so switchbacks, I came to the conclusion that I am one of the old folks, now. My thigh muscles were quivering with exertion and I wasn't sure if was going to make it without falling on my face. Fortunately, there is a nice handrail all the way down so I could take is slow and easy.

Looking down into the cave. There were many more switchbacks after these.

Once at the bottom I rested a bit and decided to go ahead with the walk around the Big Room. I figured it wouldn't be much up and down but I still was pretty beat when I finished it. This part is where most of the well known formations are located. Its a good thing there is an elevator back up or else I'd still be down there.

Hall of the Giants

Doll's Theater

After resting for an hour so and getting a bite to eat, I went down to the cave mouth again to watch the bats come out. It was pretty funny since I was sitting close to an older women who was deathly afraid of bats. She kept trying to shoo them away even though none were anywhere near to us. The bats didn't seem terribly numerous - probably due to the effects of pesticides
on the bugs they eat. There were still enough to see as they spiraled up.

Amphitheater for watching bats. No pictures allowed of the bats flying (too dark to get a picture, anyway.)

The following day I drove down to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park which is only about 30 miles away. This park has only been one since about the year 2000. As expected, there wasn't much to see from the visitor center - this is a hiking park. They did have a small museum that had stuffed examples of all the native wildlife. I bought my souvenir refrigerator magnet and left.

El Paso was next - I stopped for a late breakfast and then headed over to the El Paso zoo. Since I am member of the Rio Grande Zoo society they gave me half off the admission fee. It was a nice zoo, smaller than the Rio Grande zoo, and they didn't seem to have a lot of animals. Most exhibits had one or two animals where the Rio Grande zoo might have a half dozen animals in each group. Walking around the zoo was pretty tough since every muscle and joint in my legs was sore and stiff from the day before.

In the afternoon, I drove up to Alamogordo and took the turnoff into White Sands National Monument. I watched a brief movie explaining the area and then took the drive into the dunes. It was pretty interesting - I noticed that I was driving as if the road was snowpacked rather than just drifted over with sand.

I didn't dare to get too far from the truck - I wouldn't be able to find it again :)

I spent the night in Alamogordo and then visited the Space Museum the following morning. More walking :(

After the museum was the drive home. I went back north to Carrizozo, back to San Antonio, and then home.

Total miles driven: 850
MPG was 14.5 (I seem to get about 13.5 at 75 mph and close to 15 at 60 mph.)

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