"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."
– T.S. Eliot
Good morning from Southeast New Mexico!
What a disappointing week we had. I haven't said that too often, so that's a good thing, but yeah, it wasn't our best week. This area of New Mexico is experiencing its ninth year of a severe drought. The desert scene we experienced in Texas at Big Bend was lush and green compared to this part of the country. Even the Brantley Lake State Park, which is based around a huge lake, is almost completely dried up. All along the main highway between Artesia and Carlsbad are signs for the sale of fresh water. There are trucks going up and down the highway all day with huge tanks of water. So, needless to say, we did not get to experience the beauty of a healthy desert. It was as brown and dry as could be. Sad!!! And when I say dry, I am talking a kind of dry that I cannot explain. My skin soaks up lotion like a sponge, my hair stands on end from the static, and our nasal passages are so dried out that it burns to breathe. Have you ever experienced that? The only thing that offsets that bit of discomfort is that we are staying in the absolute friendliest campground that we have ever visited. This is a campground that is part of the Escapees RV Club that we belong to and is a winter home for a good number of full-time travelers. Steve and I learned how to play Pokeno, we went to a Super Bowl party, and these people even helped me with the ethnographic research project that I am working on for school. Nice!
So let's get to our adventures and the other things that disappointed us this week. First, we visited the Carlsbad Caverns and had a great time. Being the adventurous sorts that we are, we began our visit by taking the natural entrance trail instead of the elevator. This trail is 1.25 miles long and goes down a 20% grade (good for the quads) into a huge hole in the ground. While we were walking the trail, however, it started to snow - - yes, snow - - and man were we not happy about that. Nonetheless, we were not going to let this dampen our enthusiasm.
The cavern itself is not the largest - - Mammoth Cave holds that distinction. It is, however, the most decorated cavern of all in the world. It has the largest number of "decorations" and the greatest variety. There are, of course, the requisite stalactites and stalagmites, but this cavern also boasts a ton of soda straws, draperies, flowstones, full-blown columns (when stalactites and stalagmites meet), cave pearls, popcorn, argonite crystals, and lily pads (which are not plants but rock formations that look like lily pads). Totally cool. There were so many of them that your eye couldn't behold it all. The trails within the cavern descend to 1,037 feet but the rooms are never so small that my claustrophobia kicked in (which is nice, because that was not the case when we visited Mammoth Cave). There are three major trails, two of which require a ranger to lead. Steve and I took the blue trail, which heads into the Big Room where the bottomless pit, the chandelier, and the really cool other decorations are located. I highly recommend this as a place to visit more than once since it took us more than 4 hours to do just the two trails that we did, and we were exhausted!
Near the Caverns is a state park called Living Desert State Park. This was a surprise and an absolute delight. The park has a greenhouse where all the varieties of cactus are housed and a good number of them were blooming. So beautiful. The remainder of the park is a zoo which houses the animals that can be found in the desert, except the elk. I am not sure elk live in the desert, but hey, who am I? Anyway, we had a nice visit there and recommend that as well.
Now on to our disappointments. First, we attempted to go see Sitting Bull Falls which is located in the Lincoln National Forest. I was excited on two accounts - - a National Forest implies trees and wildlife, right? Well, not so much here. It was barren desert just like the surrounding area. Again, the water deprivation that this region is experiencing is literally killing the desert life. Secondly, the park is only open Friday to Monday. We went there on a Thursday afternoon. So, we drove more than an hour to get someplace that we couldn't even see. UGH!!!! I hate that. It's my fault though. I checked the website and it said Friday to Monday but my brain saw that and said Monday to Friday to me. Has that ever happened to you?
Next disappointment - Roswell. Steve and I were so excited about visiting the aliens. We were expecting a town that was themed on aliens and spaceships and all things space related, but NOOOOOOOOO! There was the UFO Museum which was nothing more than laminated newspaper articles and some alien dummies. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't that. There were a couple of "Area 51" stores where you could buy t-shirts and other worthless junk, and a McDonald's that had a playground shaped like a spaceship, but that was it. Yes, the street lights have alien faces on them, but come on people, you could have done so much more here. How about a alien-themed restaurant? What about having some aliens just walking around the streets? Man were we disappointed. It is a complete waste of time. Too bad.
Okay, that's really it for this week. We are headed to the Southwestern side of New Mexico and have to cross some mountains to get there so the drive will be a challenge for Steve. We will be seeing White Sands National Monument, Las Cruses, Gila cliff dwellings and heading to Mexico so Steve can get new glasses. Hopefully I will have a better report for you next week.
Take care guys! We really do miss all of you.