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Prickly pear cactus, Carlsbad, NM
1st May 2008
Carlsbad Caverns, the Roswell incident, mesa and deserts of New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns is a network of 30 miles of caves in the mountains of New Mexico.  I visited today and spend several hours underground, first as part of a guided tour and then wandering around the safe areas solo.  The caves contain huge chambers, the biggest in the western hemisphere - the largest was 110m from highest to lowest point, and a good quarter of a mile long.

The caves are unusual in that they were not formed by erosion by an underground river, rather their roots are shared with the area's oil culture:  hydrogen sulfide from the oil combined with rainwater to create sulfuric acid, which ate the caves from the inside. They then drained, and further rainwater created the stalactites and -mites.  Most of the formations are now dry and inactive, but some are still growing.  Notable a small set of formations inside a manmade tunnel, showing that in just 75 years a noticeable deposit can be made.

I entered via the elevator at first, and then walked down the natural entrance, the one that the bats roost in.  It felt like entering the bowels of the earth, and due to 40' of bat crap on the floor, it smelled like it too.  Once inside the huge rooms it was possible to see all kinds of different formations - stalagmites and stalactites as mentioned, columns (where the two meet), soda straws (hollow stalactites), popcorn (small baubles), veils (long wide curtain-like formations) and lillypads.


After lunch I went to Roswell, NM.  There is a Roswell in almost every state, including Georgia, yet this is probably the most famous.  In the late 1940s there were various controversial incidents that may or may not have been caused by weather balloons, advanced military experiments, aliens, or over-active imaginations.   I visited the UFO Museum, which was the worst, most partial exposition I've ever seen.  It was as if the producers of the Jerry Springer show had decided to make a museum in the back of an old shop.  Still, it was part of Roswell. 


Then in the late afternoon I drove to Albuquerque.  I was floored with the scenery on the journey.   Despite being nothing but desert and rock, it was just stunning.  I had no expectations of NM and have been very impressed. I saw the sun set over the mountains, only then to drive through the mountains and see the light again on the other side.

My drive certainly sucked up the gas as I was driving into a headwind for most of it.  The wind was so strong that I had to use both hand to open the car door at each of the many photo pauses.  The wind and the elevation (up to 6000') made the weather cold.  I had been used to 90 degrees and air con, and then up on this plateau it was freezing and I needed the heating.  The remoteness of the plateau was shown by being unable to get a real phone carrier and being able to get just one radio station on the entire band - I would tell the radio scan through and it would just return to the same station.  Pretty remote at times.


I am couch surfing tonight.  I picked up my new friend from her art studio and drove us to her place in the burbs.   Very nice.


Gas was $3.65 for most of NM, but I saw highs of $3.99 and lows of $3.45 today.

Next: Day in Albuquerque, petroglyphs, Uni of NM
Previous: 'Dallas' soap; drive to Carlsbad, New Mexico

Diary Photos

Prickly pear cactus, Carlsbad, NM

Stalactites, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Stalactites, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Stalactites, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Column in the making, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Active stalacmite, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Mouth of the cave, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Whale`s Mouth, Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Desert, New Mexico

Desert, New Mexico

Desert, New Mexico

Desert, New Mexico (detail)

Desert, New Mexico

UFO museum, Roswell, NM

UFO museum, Roswell, NM

UFO streetlamp, Roswell, NM

Desert road, NM

Mesa, desert road, NM

Sun over the 7000` mountain, Desert road, NM

Sunset over the mountains near Albuquerque, NM

Codie`s artwork, Albuquerque, NM

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