We entered New Mexico from West Texas, from the desert, and continued to drive through the desert for days. It was dry and bleak with an occasional oil well pumping and a few head of cattle occasionally visible in what looked like desert ranges. No shade anywhere and the sun shone down relentlessly from a deep blue sky. There was nothing enchanting about this.
Our first stop was at Carlsbad Caverns. We arrived in the afternoon to get our bearings but decided to visit the caverns the next morning. We did however return at 7.00 pm for the bat flight. This was not spectacular as it is early in the season and there are fewer bats in residence in the cave, but we had an interesting introduction by a ranger and we did indeed see a number of bats fly out of the entrance of the cave and chitter above our heads. Brought back memories of Bangui, where we had thousands upon thousands of bats in the trees near the Residence. These bats were considerably smaller and quieter.
The campsite near the entrance to the Carlsbad Cavern National Park was full, but they let us stay in the residential area at a reduced rate and they had a laundry and excellent internet service! Plus we were back up at the caverns by 8.30 AM the next morning when they opened the cave entrance, ready to visit. We entered on foot through the Natural Entrance descending about 800 feet over a distance of 1.25 miles. It was an amazing experience. In order to reduce moss growth, the NPS reduces the amount of lighting, only using just enough that one can continue the descent. Certain really spectacular formations are lighted but most are not. It gives one a real feeling of how it must be to explore a wild cave. Once at the base, we walked a 1.7 mile loop of the Big Room. This is a huge cavern, which is the most popular part of the caverns to be seen by tourists as it has elevator service down and up. We enjoyed our visit and the many spectacular formations of stalagmites and stalactites. They are still discovering new caves and galleries so it is an amazing complex. At the end of the visit, we wimped out and took the elevator back up!
View back towards the Natural Entrance from the first room in the cave. A bat’s eye view, if you will, as this is their flyway.
Enormous columns, over 50 feet high.
The lower levels of the cave are closed to the public. But the ladder from an old expedition is still available …
The Big Room is, well, big. Click the image for a larger view and look for the person for perspective.
We went on to visit the Living Desert Zoo and Garden, a botanical garden and animal research zoo, specializing in desert wildlife and fauna. It was an easy way of seeing everything that is native to this region. As the temperature was near 90F, we saw a lot of dozing animals – Black bears, wolves, mountain lions, elk, prairie dogs et al were sending up lots of zzz’s. It was a good visit though we might have seen more action in the morning!
Santa Fe is a lovely town with adobe architecture, amazing history, and the advantage of being much cooler! In fact, it was chilly at times. Wonderful! We camped at the Black Canyon campsite, just outside of town in the Santa Fe National Forest. It proved so pleasant that we remained a third night. After days of desert, camping among pine trees was such a pleasure, even at 8,000 feet! We visited the Plaza, including the Cathedral and also the San Miguel Mission, both wonderful old adobe churches, with statues brought from Mexico in the 1500’s. We also spent a couple of interesting hours in the Governor’s Palace and History Museum, which was excellent. We also had to support the economy of the jewelry vendors outside the museum of course!
Armies may or may not travel on their stomachs, but we are always on the lookout for a good feed. We had enjoyed our taqueria in San Antonio and we wanted to see if we could discover how New Mexican food differed from that of Texas and Mexico. Don’t know that we found the differences, but thanks to a tip from a local, we found “The Shed” half a block up the street from the Plaza. Built in an old building with a traditional enclosed patio, The Shed offered wonderful food and dogs. Lots of dogs. From a monster described as a cross between a standard poodle and a golden retriever, to a pack of labradors, all in training to be companion dogs. All in all, highly recommended, great food for man or beast. http://www.sfshed.com/home.html
Even the tourist information center is beautiful.
The baptistry in the Cathedral is modern and quite remarkable for its design and symbolism.
The statue of Maria de la Reconquista. Today, this is taken as a reaffirmation of faith; after 1680, it was a very literal reconquest.
The Governor’s Place is one of the oldest buildings in Santa Fe having survived even the Pueblo revolt of 1680, occupation by the Pueblos, and reconquest by the Spanish.
Obligatory nature/flower/animal/bird shot. (Taken in our campground at Black Canyon.)
That dog in your Santa Fe photo must be a regular there. I took a picture of him in probably the same spot back in 2005. I’d post it here for comparison if I could figure out how to attach photos to these forum replies.
Jim (jmcarp from the Tiger forum)