We left around 4 AM and headed up I75 to I10 and headed west. A long day saw us pulling to a small town west of Fort Worth for a little rest and a cheap motel and then up and going again early the next day , driving though West Texas oil country, flat arid desert with old oil pumps and tanks dotting the landscape to Carlsbad NM. Some of the wells looked old and in disuse, but most were pumping, apparently enjoying resurgence in production due to fracking technology. The land is flat and arid, with scrub and dry grass dotting the landscape. Describing it sounds bland but it has a stark beauty that is difficult to describe. We were here to see the Carlsbad Caverns National park.
The next day we were up early to get to the park as the rangers were restricting entry because of the pandemic and apparently tickets sell out very early. We were the first there and watched the sun rise from the crest of the butte at the cavern’s entrance. Driving into the park, we passed a series of rocky buttes, made even more spectacular in the rising light, because of the starkness of the surrounding desert. The drive climbs up to the top and the entrance to the cave is at the crest.
Using my senior pass to get in saved us $30, and we were in the first group walking down the entrance to the cave.
The walk in is about a mile and a quarter, and it gets more amazing as you go. Areas of the cave that are subject to water seeping in are covered and filled with innumerable flowing sculptures of minerals deposited over thousands of years, each one unique.
Other parts of the cave which were dry were more stark and what you would expect a cave to look like.
One cannot conceptualize the size of the place. Once completely down into the cave, we entered what is known as the Big Room.
At more than 600,000 square feet it is certainly big. It is also filled with a veritable museum of nature’s sculptures that are beyond description and even though seem amazing in the photographs, must be experienced in person to really appreciate them.
The next day we were up early again for a drive north through Roswell (of UFO fame) and to the Petrified Forest. We saw deer, coyotes, and antelope but no Extraterrestrials. The drive took use north though New Mexico across more arid desert where when cresting a small rise you could see the road stretching seemingly to infinity straight ahead, We hit I40 and headed west passing into more upland terrain interspersed with red rock buttes and mesas. Very interesting landscape.
We pulled into the Petrified Forest National Park and a stop at the visitor’s center got us oriented and we picked up maps and info.
In the Jurassic period this area was at the equator, as a part of the original continent, Pangaea. During that time it was covered with huge trees and filled with life. Many of those trees, when they fell, became covered with sediment and rather than decomposing, they became calcified as fossils and now dot the landscape around here.
This park is filled with their beautiful remains and also remnants of civilizations that inhabited the place prehistory.
It is also adjacent to the Painted Desert, a collage of colored sediments exposed by erosion yielding a palate of wondrous beauty.
For the night we stayed in Holbrook, at Brad’s Desert Inn, a throughback place dedicated to Route 66 and filled with memorabilia. Then, the next day we returned to the Park to check out Blue Mesa, notable for its blue layers of sediments.
Then we were off to the Grand Canyon. Check out the Gallery for more pictures