Sunday, October 22, 2023

Visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park

!Me by the sign
Entrance to the Visitor Center

This is one of my bucket-list stops, and it was great!  It’s pretty amazing going down the stairs at the entrance to think about how the guy who discovered the caverns would have experienced it.  Imagine that as soon as he was the bottom of the entrance, there would have been almost no ambient light and he continued exploring even deeper with only the light he could  bring with him.  Along the way he  would have been navigating through loose rock and boulders.  Today, of course, the caverns are lit well enough and the path is paved with a guard rail to keep visitors from straying off.

Cave Boobie
Cave Boob

The trip through the cave is about 1 1/4 miles and with a steep descent that works out to be about 79 stories.  It’s pretty easy to do though, and there is an elevator at the bottom that I rode up back to the visitor center.  I think my favorite formation was the Cave Boob (my name for it).  There are other formations that are more visually interesting, but this one made me giggle like a fifteen year old.

Cave Formation-02 Cave Formation-29 Cave Formation-30
Cave Formation-03 Cave Formation-05 Cave Formation-06

Old Wooden Staircase
Old Wooden Staircase

At one point in the cave, they have left an old wooden staircase that was used by visitors to the cave long before the paved trail was put in.  (Maybe before it was made part of the national park system).

Cave Formation-09 Cave Formation-10 Cave Formation-12
Cave Formation-24 Cave Formation-25 Cave Formation-28 Mirror Lake
Cave Formation-31 Placard Cave Formation-31 Cave Formation-29 Placard
Cavern Entrace-2 Cavern Entrance-1 Entrance Placard

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Camping at Davis Mountains State Park

Campsite at Davis Mountains State Park

Mitre PeakDriving towards Fort Davis from Alpine, there was a mountain that really stood apart from the others because of its shape.  The name of the mountain is Mitre Peak, and it’s really hard to miss because it is nearly a perfect cone.  I later learned that this mountain was formed by lava nearing the surface from below, but never actually erupting as a volcano.  The lave cooled and hardened and the rest of the softer sedimentary rock around it eroded over time leaving this conical formation behind.

CCC Lookout View-01

I arrived at Davis Mountains about mid afternoon, and didn’t have any special plans for my stay other than to get some laundry done in town and do a little grocery shopping.  The campsite that I stayed at had a tree shading a picnic table, which turned out to be a good spot edit some photos and update my journal.  There was no internet access at the campsite (there is good access at the top of Skyline Drive, so communicating with the outside world is still possible).  There also wasn’t any broadcast TV and there was only one radio station (NPR) in the campground.  This is a perfect spot to really disconnect from everything.

Skyline Drive

The trail to the top of Skyline Drive was closed while I was here, but the drive itself was pretty nice, and the views from the summit are amazing.  It overlooks the Fort Davis National Historical Site that I visited last year, as well as the town of Fort Davis.

CCC Lookout Placard-01 CCC Lookout Placard-02 CCC Shelter Placard
Overlook Placard-01 Overlook Placard-02 CCC Lookout View-02
CCC Shelter View-01 CCC Shelter View-02 CCC Shelter View-03
CCC Shelter View-04 CCC Shelter View-05 CCC Shelter
CCC Lookout Overlook-Looking South Overlook-Looking West

Friday, September 08, 2023

Camping at Seminole Canyon SP

Campground Selfie

I was really looking forward to my stay at this campground, mainly for the guided tour of the pictographs in the canyon.  This spot didn’t let me down.  I had a great stay here.  This spot is right next to the Rio Grande, and the nearest town is Comstock, with a population of under 200 people.  I didn’t get any radio reception, and only a few channels on the TV that came in from Mexico.  I did have good internet access though, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Stone Oven bakery for early railroad workers

After checking in at the visitor center, I drove towards my campsite to get set up for my stay.  Along the way I noticed what looked like an old pizza oven about a hundred feet off the road.  This is actually an old bread oven that was probably used by bakers who sold bread to the railroad workers who put in a section of a railroad that spanned between El Paso and San Antonio.

View from bird blindOn the day that I arrived there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Since it was too late to start one of the longer hikes I had planned for my visit, I went to look at the bird blind set up near the center of the campground.  It’s a nice shaded spot that overlooks a fountain set up to attract birds that might want to cool off from the desert heat.

UFO at campsiteMy first full-day started off with the pictograph tour in the morning, followed by a hike on the Rio Grande trail in the afternoon.  It was another sunny day, and the temperature during the morning tour was great.  The afternoon was nice too, but it got pretty hot. It was still a good time; there’s something about solitude on the trail that just can’t be beat.

Northern LightsOn my second day, I hiked the trail to the La Presa Overlook.  This day was a little overcast and it sprinkled a little bit while I was on the trail.  It was just enough to cool things off, so desert heat wasn’t a concern.  The weather conditions during the day, though, foretold a rough evening ahead.

Sunset from Campsite3During the evening a storm moved in with winds in the 60 mph range.  Sitting in the trailer, it was honestly a little scary.  I ended up getting ready to make a dash for the bath house if things got any worse.  Luckily the worst of the storm only lasted about a half hour.  I was sitting in the trailer watching the flashing lights of emergency vehicles going back and forth along the highway a few miles away, with the wind blown rain falling sideways. When the storm finally passed, all was well, but I felt bad for the folks who were tent-camping on the other side of the campground.  That had to be even more scary for them.

All in all though, I had a great time here.  If I’m in the area again, I wouldn’t mind spending a few more days  here to explore the rest of the trails and visit some of the other nearby historic sites.

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Sunset from Campsite View Towards Visitor Center White Flowers