By Patty Wilber
Disclaimer: This is a mostly horseless blog.
All the adults in my family are vaccinated and so my mom, dad and sister came to visit, reinstating the annual 4th of July NM trip!
Wow, what a blast!
We hung around the first day while Jim was up roasting (117F) in Chelan WA with his sisters, and then we went on a patented Three Day Wilber Whirlwind Vacation.
Valley of Fires! Amazing 5000 year old lava flow! Nature hike!
International UFO Museum and Research Center. We drove back and forth across the road in Lincoln, NM to read the historical signs about the Lincoln County Wars, from the truck, in order to get the alien museum before it closed. We made it!
The museum WAS entertaining and it is fun to speculate about and look at evidence of UFOs. Unfortunately, all the hard data for the Roswell Incident has gone missing, but the eyewitness accounts were fun to read. There were also exhibits on movies, crop circles, the Mayans and other mysterious and fascinating oddities! Given that the US government just released the “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” report (which I have not read) on June 25th, our timing was pretty good.
Carlsbad, NM. We got in around 7pm on Monday night and checked into our motel (Post Time Inn) and we just wanted to get a some food. So, turns out, everything is NOT back to normal and it was hard to find a place to eat, but we finally found El Jimador! Good food! The servers were nice even though we came in late (after all the wandering in search of food)!
Carlsbad Caverns. Yeah. Amazing. We got reservations online a few weeks ago, then purchased our actual tickets to enter Caverns there (and got the audio tour hand held thingie, too). The ticket guy looked at Mom and Dad a little bit skeptically, but, ha! My parents are Super Parents and despite the fact they are 80 and 83, they can still handle a hike or two. We did the 1.25 mile hike that descends 750 feet. Then we did the Big Room loop. We took the elevator back up, though!
The Caverns are completely worth seeing. I took those pics with my phone!
There is an amazing “decoration” around every turn. The Big Room “is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at its highest point. The Big Room is the largest chamber in North America and the thirty-first largest in the world.” When tours of the restricted areas are reopened, I’d be up for that! I would NOT be up for real cave exploration though. Crawling though dark uncharted tiny spaces, uh, no.
My sister, Jim and I also took advantage of the unseasonably cool weather (mid 80’s!) to hike the old Bat Guano Trail. It has been raining and flooding in the area so the desert plants are going green! I have never seen ocotillo so completely covered in deep green leaves! I did not get a picture of that, but I did get these: Lechuguilla agave flowers and the desert millipede. Those millipedes were all over the place!
Then we stayed for the bat flight. Apparently it was more spectacular in the past before bat numbers began to decline, and is also more dramatic in August and September when the juvenile bats start to fly. It was still really fun to see. We did not get back to Carlsbad until after 10:30, so we got Wendy’s. Because they have good salads. And are open at all hours.
The last day:
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park: More natural history! We spent way more time there than we had planned! We did the whole walk.
Our last destination was White Sands National Park. It used to be a National Monument but not sure why it was changed to a Park. I had always wanted to horseback ride there, but most trails and roads are closed to horses (though there is a horse trailer parking area). After doing a little hiking, getting lost out there would be so easy to do. And then, apparently, you die. Not kidding. So, before riding there, I would need to find out more about where one would ride. Also, definitely NOT in summer.
I did not find any stats on deaths or rescues, but a guy died last week. We were again fortunate to have weather in the mid 80’s, so we were not heat stressed, but there is not much shade out there.
The sand is very soft, though, and I went barefoot on our hikes!
We hiked part of the Alkali Flats trail and a nature trail and by that time we were ready to get some food in Alamogordo and head home! We played words games for three hours to keep Jim awake and we laughed and laughed. Feeling pretty grateful to have such a great family!