City of Rocks NM State Park

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After the long journey to Gila Cliff Dwellings we skipped the City of Rocks State Park which is half way between Deming and Silver City.  But after a glowing review from Anne and Ron we went the next day, and are very glad we did.  Amazing rock formations in the middle of the desert.

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This NM State Park is a one square mile area of large sculptured rock columns or pinnacles some raising up to 40 ft.  These rocks were created about 35 million years ago when a very large volcano erupted.  Erosion over the next 35 million years slowly created the formations seen today.

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The park includes some of the coolest camp sites and hiking trails wander through the pinnacles.  We looked into staying here, but they were full which is understandable, looks like a wonderful place to stay.  Hope these pictures bring back cherished memories or A & R.

Of course we named some of the formations, pac man, balanced rock and lots of balanced rocks.

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You are also able to drive or hike up a nearby hill for an eagle’s eye view of the park.  Note that the surrounding area is mostly flat Chihuahuan desert void of any other rocks of this nature.  Beautiful park in a beautiful part of the country…

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Peace Love and Justice for all.

 

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Gila National Forest and Cave Dwellings, NM

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From El Paso we moved to Deming, NM.  Not a long move but different scenery for sure.  Big city vs. desert valleys dotted with mountains in every direction.  We landed in a senior only park, really can’t get used to be considered a senior.  “Male” only park as in the Spanish Senor??  Haha oh well life is good and I would not give up a single day of getting to this age.

North of Deming is Silver City which made over $7 million in gold, silver and ore mining many years ago.  We did not venture into Silver City because we were aiming for the Gila Cliff Dwellings which were down a 41 mile dead end road that google said would take 1.5 hours, and that doesn’t include stopping for viewing and lunch.

The forest and surrounding mountains were beautiful.  Snow in the high elevations and hoodoos on the lower elevations.  Makes a couple of hours pass quickly.

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The Gila cliff dwellings are very different from the Bandelier cliff dwellings we had seen before.  Refer to October 2017 for Bandelier posts near Santa Fe.  Anyway, these dwellings were built around 1280 ad and were abandoned about 30 years later…  They are able to date the structures via the wooden roof supports, but how they were able to date the abandonment who knows.  Not really sure how the dating of things happens, but I believe in science.

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In Bandelier they used some natural caves, but mostly built structures attached to the cliffs at the base of the mountains.  Where here they used natural caves 180 feet up a cliff and built rooms inside of them. The roofs are no longer here, but the walls, tiny doors and basic structure is there.

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There were what appeared to be windows, but I couldn’t pick out the doors, so I asked the ranger.  What I thought were windows are actually the doors.  She said that the inhabitants were probably less than 5 ft, much smaller than we are today.  The small opening in the below picture was probably the front door.

P1180509 (2) The walls from lower levels kind of blend into the cliff face??  From what we read the Mogollon Indians who settled here left within 30 years.  Speculation is that the severe droughts in that area may have driven them out, but Randy says the caves became to dangerous as people fell out so they moved.

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Anyway, way cool 750 year old cliff dwellings with modern stairs and paved paths so we all can visit without risking our lives.  Take care of and support our park systems local, state and national.

Amazing that the landscape can change so many times in 100 miles and even crazier that 100 miles each way trip isn’t a big deal.  I can not emphasize enough that things are a long distance apart around here.   It is so nice to have a comfortable car to get around in, jeeps are great and can go some more places than we can, but with the long day trips comfort is appreciated.

Peace and Love

El Paso

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Of course, I had to include the obligatory “wall” picture while we are on boarder patrol…  This is the notorious El Paso fence south of town.  Not sure what else to say in proper company, so… on to chasing horizons.

Back on the road again, will bore you with life on the road and delays at another time.  Luckily, we have not had many delays.  But nice also that we don’t plan ahead so if we are delayed the question is delayed from what???

Hobbs, NM to El Paso was an uneventful journey passing beautiful landscapes in Guadalupe National Park and 130 miles without services, meaning there is really nothing for 130 miles.  That is a long way and half way thru when we saw school bus stop ahead signs and land for sale – 10 acre lots, made us wonder who lives 75 miles from gas food etc and how far are school buses required to go from a school to pick up.  We believe in national education free for all, but really??  I thought my bus ride from Yaupon to BSL was long.

Pretty daring of us to take that deserted path after our “delay”, but out here there are not many choices in routes without going 100+ miles out of your way.  So, you pick a point and go they way the maps tell you (within reason).

Anyway, free things to do in El Paso when you have one full day.  Pack a picnic and drive up the scenic drive on Franklin Mountain.  Nice 2 mile scenic drive with elevated views of El Paso and neighboring Mexico.  Built in the 1920s with overlooks and its free.  We actually stumbled upon it.

Rainmakers  = Interesting story from the Franklin Mt scenic drive.

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The 375 Bypass and “trans mountain” highway is also well worth the drive.  The Franklin mountains are surrounded by El Paso and it is the largest state park wholly contained within a city limits.  The bypass gives a nice view of the mountain range and large military facility on the eastern side.  Sorry no pictures, I was driving.  But here’s Franklin Mt.

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Then on to the Mission Trail.  Missionaries have a large history in settling the west.  Their main mission was to civilize the heathens??  Not sure how that turned out???  And will leave that question to other more scholarly people.

El Paso has three remaining missions that are still active.  These are not the original buildings, as most were destroyed by fire or flood or both at one time or another.

Ysleta Mission is the oldest continuously active “parish” in the US.  This according to a lady in gift store.  She noted that St. Augustine FL has the oldest church, but that during its history there were several breaks in active services.  The first Mass was held in Ysleta on October 12, 1660 and they have continued ever since.  Notice the saints shrouded in purple for lent.

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Socorro Mission first held mass in 1680, but has not been continuously active.  This mission was destroyed by flooding of the Rio Grande at least twice.  That was before the river was “tamed.” As previously discussed in prior posts, it is currently not much of a river.

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And finally, The Presidio Chapel in San Elizario mission.  This is the newest of the three missions built in 1789, still pretty old in my book.  All three missions are southeast of El Paso proper and hug the Rio Grande as water was of vital importance for any settlement in the 1600 and 1700s.

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And there you have our one day El Paso experience.  Peace Love and Justice for all!!!

 

Guadalupe NP and Lincoln NF

Near Carlsbad, and out here near is very relative, there is not much.  We stayed north of Carlsbad and south of Artesia New Mexico.  About 25 miles either north or south to a town of any size.  And although the landscape is mostly desert it has a certain charm and some hidden gems.  We took an adventure thru the Lincoln National Forest to the north (most remote) entrance to Guadalupe National Park – Dog Canyon and stopped by Sitting Bull Falls as a bonus on the way.

This was about a 60 mile trip down a dead end road, but well worth the time with exceptional views.  We were not sure if the route would be paved, but it was and was in reasonably good shape.  Might be careful of flash flooding in the rainy season.

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With this desert landscape it was surprising to find a nice little waterfall (They are one of my favorites) at Sitting Bull Falls.  It is quite a beautiful oasis in the mist of this dry desert.  Again I say dry desert but above shows that rain and flash floods must be a real danger.  Not sure I want to be here in the rainy season???

Further down the “highway” is the northern entrance to Guadalupe NP at Dog Canyon.  These mountains are simply amazing…  Still complete desert landscape with no real trees.  The trees are the biggest (besides sheer size) difference in this area and the east coast.  That and many other things, but I kept wondering why you can see sooooooo far here and not over there and I really think the main thing is lack of trees.  You can see for miles around here!!!  At home I couldn’t see the next street over.

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The southern edge of the Guadalupe’s is much more dramatic than the northern entrance.   A very stunning mountain range, thankful for National Park Service protecting our nations treasures!!!

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On the picture below, El Capitan on the southern (left) edge and Guadalupe Peak at 8,750 – the highest peak in TX to the right.

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WOW just WOW… But no we did not hike to the top…

Peace, Love and Justice for all!!!

Carlsbad Caverns the Decorations

Our previous post tried to explain the creation and discovery of the caverns, now I will try to explain the decorations.  Collectively these decorations are called speleothems and are created when water drips and as it evaporates it leaves behind dissolved minerals such as calcite.  Over thousands of years as this calcite builds up formations are created.

As a raindrop falls to the ground and percolates downward, it absorbs carbon dioxide gas from the air and soil, and a weak acid was formed.  As it continued to move down the drop dissolved a little limestone, absorbing some of the calcite.  Once the drip finally emerges in the cave the carbon dioxide escaped into the air and it is no longer able to hold the calcite.  This tiny crystal is left either hanging from the ceiling or deposited on the floor.

They say that over 95% of the formations are no longer growing.  Above the caverns is now an arid desert not the cooler rainier climate of a million years ago.  But there is still water dripping all around so some must still be growing.  This one particular was pointed out as still growing, the bright white small stalagmite on the right.

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Water is also evident in the many small lakes.

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The most well-known formations are the stalactites and stalagmites.  Stalactites hang from the ceiling and stalagmites grow up from the floor of the caves.  To help remember which is which they say that stalactites hold tightly to the ceilings and stalagmites stand mightily on the ground.

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Some stalagmites grow quite tall and skinny like this totem pole.

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While others are fat and stubby.

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Stalactites sometimes grow into thin hollow “soda straws.”

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Other times the stalactites and stalagmites connect and become columns.

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These thin draperies were created as water ran down a slanted ceiling building up layer upon layer of calcite resulting in almost transparent veils.

Another decoration that is harder to imagine how it was formed is popcorn.  This is formed when water evaporates and leaves behind aragonite.  Aragonite is a mineral chemically identical to calcite but with a different crystal structure.  They tend to be smaller and delicate.  You will notice a lot of popcorn attached to other formations too.

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And these helictites appear to grow without regard to gravity.  They are twisted and irregularly shaped, look closely.

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Of course, many of the formations have names – the bashful elephant.

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Totem pole and chandelier.

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The bulls tail.

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Fairy land.

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The bone yard where no formations grew.  Must have stayed pretty dry.

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And there are many more. Randy and I decided that these decorations on many stalagmites look like trees.  Layers of forests.

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Anyway, enough of all that now just enjoy the beauty!!!  Peace and Love!!!

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Carlsbad Caverns, NM

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Caverns and underground scenery a lot different than many of the National Parks we have visited.  The only other caverns we visited are Luray in Virginia which is privately owned and not as extensive as Carlsbad.  I understand that Carlsbad itself has over 30 miles of caverns and they are discovering other caverns in the area all the time.  First, we have to look at the surroundings.

These are the mountains surrounding the area and the caverns are below these very crumbly hills.  The “Big Room” is actually 750 feet below theses mountains, directly under the visitor center.

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On the other side is the edge of the Guadalupe Mountain range and a vast flat desert.

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So the story of Carlsbad caverns begins over 250 million years ago.  This was when the area was covered by a large sea and a 400 mile u shaped reef formed.  This reef was not of corral as they are now it was mostly sponge, algae and seashells.  As time went on the remains of this reef uplifted, the sea evaporated and the Guadalupe Mountains were created.

As all this commotion was going on cracks developed in the reef/rock and as the water table dropped erosion on the outside and inside of the mountains began.  You have to remember that was from a few million to 500,000 years ago, this was evolving  from a sea to a tropical, rain forestry like place – not the arid desert it is now!!!

So as I understand it the water seeping in the cracks in the mountains from surface rain etc.,  mixed with sulfide rich water migrating upward from vast oil and gas fields below and the mixtures acid properties along with normal erosion created the large voids in Carlsbad.  These voids filled with gypsum which is easily eroded by water.  There are still large gypsum boulders being eroded with every drop to this day.  So that is how these large rooms were built

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The decorations came later, but still a very long time ago over 500,000 years ago.  I have to admit that these time frames are really incomprehensible to me!!!  500 years is unimaginable, but millions and hundreds of thousands huh…  So glad we are able to enjoy all these thousand years of creation and another 100 years of discovery and improving accessibility of the caverns.  Thank you!!!

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Before pictures we have to imagine first why anyone would even consider exploring into a dark cave much less exploring miles in and several hundred feet down.  Without electricity or even flashlights it would be difficult to get in much less find your way out.  Legend is that a local cowboy saw bats leaving the cave at sunset and thought it was smoke so went to investigate.  He spent many years exploring, passing the word of his discoveries and promoting the caves.

Guano was the first money making activity in the caves.  Guano is literally bat shit and was used as fertilizer making the California citrus crops so prosperous and popular.  Early tours in the caverns started with a approximately 200 ft drop from the surface in a guano mining bucket…  Today there are either elevators or the natural entrance trail.  This trail is 1.25 miles and pretty steep all downhill.   We did both.  The elevators were pretty surreal, like Disney just opened another ride, but the natural entrance took and additional 2 hours and was pretty steep.  At least it is paved and has railings for most of the decent.  Just the beginning of the switchbacks.

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From here the adventures began!!!  Peace, Love and Justice!!!