We have an insane calling to be where we aren't

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Balmorhea (bal-more-ray) State Park

Western Texas can get boring while driving across the flat land. In the past we have blasted through Texas just trying to get through it to get somewhere else. This time, we had plenty of time and a Texas State Park pass and decided to make it worth the purchase. Balmorhea seemed a good place to stop since it was about the right number of miles that we like to travel. We had read on Pam Oh the Places They Go that highway 285 was in bad repair and not a good choice with all of the big trucks. We took highway 54 to I 10 and were thankful for that choice, very little traffic and a nice straight highway. This gave us plenty of time to imagine how life must have been for the Apaches living here years ago.
Balmorhea is a long ways from anywhere. We found a nice little Mexican restaurant with some good food as we drove though the town of 479 people. We sat and listened to the locals discussing the oil fields they work in and the pump capacity for water and oil. They sounded pretty knowledgeable discussing pressures etc.
The state park is not very big at 45 acres but has the San Solomon Spring with year round groundwater. In the 1930s the CCC made a swimming pool which blocked the water flow to the marshlands. This was causing harm to endangered animals and fish until the marsh flow was restored. Now it is home to several endangered animals.

Red eared slider

Strange looking soft tailed turtle

The pool was natural with catfish and puffer fish in it. People would bring their snorkel equipment with them and snorkel in the pool.

After the situations Mike has suffered with his accident and other things, I decided I needed to step up and learn the ins and outs of this rig of ours. I backed the trailer into the site just fine. It wasn't even angled which made me proud. I had to figure out a way to get the plug into the surge protector since it took a bit more strength but I got it together. I did let him bat the wasps away. Now I have done everything except the black tank tube but hopefully, that won't happen. If it does, I will figure it out.
Once again, we were in a very dark place at night. People were pulling out their huge telescopes. Then we sat back and looked at the Milky Way and satellites passing through the sky. There is so much to learn about. As the old saying goes, "The more I learn, the less I know." This is a strange but interesting life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Amazing Carlsbad Caverns

Driving through El Paso can be trying at best for us. This time, the 395 bypass was open and we flew right by along the north of the town. We arrived a day earlier than we had reservations in Carlsbad but they put us in a tent area with water for the night. Saturday on Spring Break takes some planning.
The Natural Entrance route is a self-guided tour available to visitors with plenty of time. This 1.25-mile tour follows the traditional explorer’s route, entering the cavern through the large historic natural entrance. The Natural Entrance route descends more than 750 feet into the earth following steep and narrow trails.
We opted for the audio tour and enjoyed the stories as we passed though the cave. It seemed that the decent would never end. The story of the cave's discovery was when Jim White saw what he thought was smoke from the side of the mountain. When he climbed up closer, he realized it was bats coming from the cave. That's a lot of Mexican bats.
Carlsbad Caverns is a place we have wanted to visit for quite a while but never seemed to be on our way. This time we made more of an effort and were glad we did.

Fortunately, the elevators were working. After several hours in the cave, I preferred the easy way our instead of the hike back up unlike Raven and Chickadee who toured the cave when the elevator was down for maintenance.

 The land that forms Carlsbad Caverns was once part of an ancient underwater reef called Capitan Reef. Marine fossils have been found in the rock.
  In the 1880s, people didn’t go into the caves to admire them. Instead, they were there to mine for bat poop! Apparently, guano is a powerful fertilizer.
 Before 1925, guests who visited the park were lowered into the caves in a big guano bucket.

It was difficult getting good pictures but it was quite a sight.


This ladder was used by the National Geographic team that originally explored the cave. I hope it was in better shape then.

The basic tour through the Cavern was one-mile through the largest room in the cave, the Big Room. Taking approximately 1.5 hours, this circular route passes many large and famous features including Bottomless Pit, Giant Dome, Rock of Ages, and Painted Grotto. It was more beautiful around each corner.

This was a very good stop for us. On to Texas...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chiricahua National Monument

Interstate 10 seems to have a high wind warning in place every time we drive across southern Arizona and New Mexico. Fortunately, this time the wind was to our back. A huge dust storm from the south welcomed us as we arrived in Willcox and got settled before the highway was closed for a few hours due to the blowing dust. It seemed like the perfect day to stay inside and read.
The next day, we got up early for our hike. The temp was 46 degrees and windy. We had to adjust our layers of clothes a few times until it was just right. Good thing we keep plenty of clothes in the backseat of the truck for "just in case". We added gloves and headed down the trail. We were the only people on the trail for quite a while. I guess the other people waited until it warmed up before starting.

I am leery of trails that start with a steep downhill. You know when you are returning and tired that you must go up.

 The most noticeable natural features in the monument are the rock pinnacles that the monument was created to protect. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base, seemingly ready to topple over at any time. The Civilian Conservation Corps, during their occupation here in the 1930s, named many of the rock formations that can be seen today.

The Apaches considered this to be the land of the Standing Up Rocks. The formation of these rocks started with a volcanic eruption 27 million years ago. Cooling and uplifting created cracks and joints in the rocks. Ice and water erosion continues to enlarge the cracks as weaker material is washed away.

The hike was a great 6 miles out and back.

More rocks

We continually noticed the hard work of the CCC to protect the land and provide good trails as we walked.

We were inspired as we turned around to go have our picnic.
We met a fun couple from Juneau, Alaska as we hiked. They are on the road for four months while their house is rented by legislative delegates while at Alaska's capitol.

Crocodile Rock?

I must say that once we returned that Subway sandwich tasted so good as we sat in the sunshine on a warm rock! It warmed up to 59 degrees. Perfect hiking weather.

I just missed this guy as I stepped over a rock!
 We had to drive from the highway for 35 miles to get to the park but it was well worth the effort. The Chiricahua campground was tight and no reservations were available. The  campground in the town of Willcox worked out just fine. This was a quick stop for us but a good one.