A variety of natural forces.

4 Apr

As I was writing the last time we were experiencing our first wind and dust storm. Little did I realise that all my hard work cleaning and making haRVey spick and span would be for nothing when the dust settled the next day! Around 5.30pm the power went out taking with it the internet and TV connections. We were pleased to be on our way next morning in the hope we would leave behind the wind.

Before we left the Alamogordo area completely however we visited the White Sand national Monument where the gypsum white sands were gleaming in the P1120128sunshine. We stopped of at the inter dunes area and took the short board walk and nature trail giving us an insight to the extent and height of the sand. 

P1120132The road was quite bumpy and sandy after this point, presumable after the previous days winds carried the sand a little further south west on its journey. It  was however a little too rough for us and we returned to the main road to continue our journey into the hills.

The twisty route to Cloudcroft did not disappoint, the tiny village at the top of the mountains still had plenty of snow and a few hardy souls out snow boarding. In the hills to the side of the road were some lovely cabin homes, presumably winter week end retreats for some, for others I imagine it could be their permanent base. I spotted more than one vehicle half submerged in snow, overcome at some point by the winter weather and now beginning to thaw out.

Our next chosen stop was another New Mexico State Park at Brantley LakeP1120154 where a dam forces the Pecos River to expand into an expanse of water for pleasure of the visitors. The camping sites were once again well spaced and we stayed two nights enjoying the sun and solitude.

P1120161Oh yes – and the children’s playground, well, there were no other interested visitors!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                         

There was one last thing we wished to see before we left southern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns. We arrived at White’s City, named for Jim White, who was not the first to enter the caves, however from 16 years of age he was the boy and man who promoted them to the wider world until his dream that as many as possible would know of their splendour became a reality. We were greeted by an official, due to construction on the 7miles of road up to the caves and at the visitor centre itself parking was limited, so larger vehicles were being asked P1120170to park, the occupants then shuttled, free of charge the rest of the way. Our National Park pass once again paid for our entry and after a veggie burger for lunch in the cafe we set out to walk into the cave rather than take the lift down.

Original visitors to the cave were lowered through the ‘hole’ in a bucket, later wooden stairs were constructed, then eventually the CCC constructed the zig zag pathway into the dark depths of the caves which we were to walk on. P1120175Believe me it was steep, I may have made fun of the sign at the top but by the end of the trek my knees were wobbly just as it warned! What you see in this picture is only the beginning, we could not believe how it kept going down and down.

At the bottom of this first section and to its right is the bat cave, where a nursery of Mexican Free Tail Bats ‘hang’ out for the summer and produce their next generation. An amphitheatre of seats above this opening gives a viewing area for the evening display later in the year when the bats emerge to feed. The bats P1120196 flight was the thing which drew Jim Whites attention to the area as a 16 year old in the early 1900’s and led him into the caves. We carried on down into the 57 degrees of darkness, very little artificial light is provided in this area and while we could see to walk we wished we had a flashlight to enable us to better view the speleotherms all around us.

It took around an hour and a half for us to walk through the first chamber and arrive at the central area where the lifts arrive bringing other visitors theP1120211 alternative way dawn to the Cathedral chamber. Here a cafeteria and gift shop along with restrooms are provided for the convenience of those visitors who need refreshments part way through their visit, a far cry from Jims first exploration with his pack of sandwiches and kerosene lamp. Another hour later we had toured the grand main chamber, our previous cave visits had educated us to be able to identify and name the various types of features we could see but these caverns were so vast they bore no comparison to what had gone before. Less clinical than Kartchner with its daily de-fluffing and constant misting of visitors, much more extensive than Lewis and Clarke, more of a tourist destination than either of them, however a grandeur and uniqueness not to be missed. 

We emerged via the lift to the book store and began to browse when the fire alarm went off. We assumed it was a drill or false alarm however as it turned out it was for real. A transformer  on one of the lifts had burnt out…… thankfully stranding no one mid flight (it could so easily have been us) .

Back at the campground that evening we found it rather warm but decided that as we had been at a constant 57 degrees all day we were just not acclimatised, what we did not realise was we were on the verge of a few days of record temperatures for the area.

Next day we took our leave of New Mexico and crossed the border intoP1120215 Texas travelling through Kermit, Robert wanted to see if he could spot the frog – we did, on the door of the fire depot. The immediate area is part of a vast oil field, in every direction ‘nodding donkey’ oil pumps and their associated storage tanks fill the fields

The thermometer reached 93 degrees and we arrived at the Monahan Sand hills State Park, we really felt like this was desert as we all think of it, dunes P1120229 of golden sand and blistering hot sunshine. We stayed indoors with our air conditioning on until the evening grew cooler, then just before sunset we took a walk onto the dunes to enjoy playing in the sand and watch the sun go down. The picture was taken by Drew who with his wife Kathy we met on our walk, they were also taking in the last sun,we later enjoyed an evening with them in their trailer swapping travel notes and campground info.

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