Caving old style

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Oliver Lee State Park
What I did
Left Hand Tunnel in Carlsbad

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Time to see the cave like they did in the old days.

Out tour this morning was for 9:00 and was to last two hours. So we had to pack up the RV a little before we went. This was the last time we’d go up and down the mountain to Carlsbad Caverns. It is a great drive through the arroyos with lots of twists and turns. After being here for four days we felt like pros. Going down the elevator we did not even have to show our tickets since everyone knew us by now. The tour is done old-style with candle lanterns and the cave path is unpaved. Kind of like an intermitted cave tour between the easy introductory King’s Palace and the rough and tumble Lower Cave. This is called the Left Hand tour because when the first explorer, Jim White, came to this place, this particular route was on his left. Very original name. A positive of this tour was the size of the group – only 10. A family of five was suppose to come but did not – I bet they had some loud kids so it was best they stayed away. The two kids in our group were great. Never go to a cave where there are screaming kids – the cave will echo their sounds by 10. The cave we went too had no lights and the path was uneven.  Our Ranger, Mark, was very informative about the history and geology of the place. He did have a flashlight to show us some major features that you could not see by candlelight. It is hard to believe that this use to be a reef but we saw fossils of shells all over. We also saw fossils of ancient bats and their guano that are now extinct. The trail zigzagged all over. At our turn around point was a nice clear cave pool with ancient bat guano in it. On the way back we all sat down in a circle with our lanterns as Mark told more stories and answered questions from our inquisitive group. We then had our mandatory “dark out” where we blew our candles out one by one. He kept it dark for several minutes and the group was very quite this time which made it Zen like.  Soon our tour was over and now we had to move on from Carlsbad. This was our first stop of many in the Southwest. And this stop was five stars. I’d recommend Carlsbad caverns to anyone. And spend several days – not just a quick one day drive by. Go ahead and stay in White’s City (they do have a hotel there if you don’t have an RV or tent) which will save you 20 miles of driving each way. My favorite part was walking through the Natural Entrance. Incredible.
Back down the hill at the RV park, I cooked a lunch of fresh made guacamole with chicken tostadas. I’m getting pretty good at my guaca I have to say. After lunch the RV was hooked to the truck and we were out of Carlsbad. Out drive today was close to 200 miles – half boring and half crazy beautiful. The first 100 miles was boring 4 lane highway through flat desert scrub. My gas mileage sucked as we had this 25 mph headwind holding me back. Our first small town we passed trough was Artisia – nice looking place for being in the middle of nowhere with a nice downtown with cowboy statues all over the place. From here we headed west up and over the Sacramento Mountains which is part of the same chain as the Guadalupe’s – except much taller. I had to drive the RV from a 3,500 ft. elevation to close to 9,000 ft. elevation. The drive up was not bad as it was a slow and steady incline. At the top of the mountains is the Lincoln National Forest with tons of trails and other outdoor activities. Our plan was to spend a day out here hitting the highlights. However, the Southwest is currently going through a major drought and everything is extremely dry and easy to catch on fire. So the whole forest is shut down as it could go up in flames at any lighting strike or idiot throwing out a cigarette. This means we’ll only spend one night in Alamogordo. The last 20 miles of the road was crazy – almost 5,000 feet down with tons of curves and a tunnel thrown in for good measure. The road was not bad as I’m use to driving the RV over some crazy mountain roads in North Georgia. But this one was long and steep. At the bottom of the mountain, which was the town of Alamogordo, my breaks and gears were smelling, but not too bad.
We stayed in a mostly mobile home park called White Sands community. Sites were full hook-up and close together. But it had a little privacy wall in-between each site with plenty of shade trees which is much needed in a New Mexico summer. The down part is they want to charge for Wi Fi. For RV parks that is so last decade. Any private RV part worth their salt does not charge for Wi Fi. They do have free cable but I don’t watch that much TV. While Pooja took a nap I took a drive around town to get some the cheapies diesel I could and do a Wal Mart run.
After some much needed showers we went out to eat tonight to relax after that crazy drive down the mountain. I did some research on the Droid and found this hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint called La Hacienda. It was a good inexpensive no-frills place that did serve a slightly different taste than I am use to back in Atlanta. I liked it but Pooja did not. The pluses were the chips and salsa (a runny, chunky, spicy type) and my food. The drawback was the fact it took them forever to get our food out even though there were very few people there. Also, just as our food came out they started to close the place down and stack chairs all around us – even though it was only 8:45. One thing I have noticed that is different from back in Atlanta in these small towns is that they close early. So I need to keep a mental note of that anywhere I go in the SW except for the big cities.
After dinner we took Quique out for a walk. She was so excited that she started running around the RV lot like crazy taking sharp turns. Then a smaller Chihuahua came out and the both of them started to play chase for half an hour. Now for most dogs this in no problem, but Quique rarely plays with other dogs. So this was so much fun to watch. Besides playing, Quique is getting all upset over the noisy birds at the campground. It sounds like a tropical rainforest around here without the rain. After playing I finally got to sit outside with my lazy chair and read for awhile before going to sleep.
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