June 20th, 2016 – Carlsbad, New Mexico to Carrizozo, NM ~ 250 miles
Finally, our first full day together on the trip. Vy was excited cause she’d finally get to see the Carlsbad Caverns – she had been waiting for this moment since 1999. So we got up early in the morning (at least for us) and headed straight to the caverns. Last November, one of the two passenger elevators stalled during a morning inspection and the park decided to suspend both elevators due to safety and logistical issues. When we were planning the trip we expected to have to walk up and down into the caverns but it turns out that the elevators had been fixed just a few days before we arrived…thanks, Obama!
I could do three entire posts of what we saw in the Caverns, but I’ll just limit it to a few photos. The road into the caverns is surprisingly enjoyable thanks to nearly 10 miles of curves – and a speed limit that varies on the time of day:
Requisite park entrance sign photo:
Inside the visitor’s center there’s a scale model that gives you an idea of what to expect, including just how far you’ll have to descend before you can enjoy the sights. It’s the second deepest limestone cave in the United States as the deepest point is 1,600 feet. So far, over 120 miles of passages have been mapped inside the cave.
I didn’t take a photo of it, but one of my personal highlights was the King’s Palace Tour – at a certain point in the tour they turn off the light so you can experience the cave au naturel. Hearing nothing but the occasional drip of water while your eyes give you no useful information was quite a treat. Pictured – the approximate view:
For hours, we stared at phallic stalactites and stalagmites…
…so I couldn’t help but take a picture when I noticed a formation that was breast-shaped. Yes, I’m immature:
There were a tremendous amount of fascinating features, so if you want to see more (and better) photos, check out the National Park Service’s official photo gallery of the caverns.
To ensure we got down to the bottom before our tour of King’s Palace started in the morning, we took the elevator down. I’m lazy and would have preferred to take the elevator back up, but Vy is one of those people who thinks walking is “good for you” or some nonsense, so we hiked up the 1.25 mile trail (79 stories of elevation) of the Natural Entrance Trail:
As Vy was gearing up, an insect landed on her riding pants. She was shocked to see it was actually actually more like one and a half insects – I believe it’s a robber fly that had killed a bee and was in the process of snacking on it:
As we rolled down the hill, the sun paralleled our movement in the sky. I started to get worried that we wouldn’t get to White Sands National Monument before sunset, so I picked up the speed a little bit. Eventually we pulled into the park, only to find out that we weren’t the only people with this idea – I was staggered with how long the line was to get in. Turns out that June 20th was a full moon, and the monument was hosting a concert by Dana Falconberry in the moonlit dunes. She’s doing a summer tour of National Parks. Cool!
Pristine white sand:
Of course, we had to bring Baby Jack along, too:
Just a few moments later, we were greeted by the moon:
Vy gets in touch with her inner child:
The GS wishes it had another motorcycle for company.
A few miles north of Alamogordo, we encountered the World’s Largest Pistachio. It was built in 2008 and then blessed by a priest in 2009. It’s 30 feet tall and was built by Tim McGinn, owner of McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch, to honor the memory of his father.
Another 50 miles north in the darkness and we arrived in Carrizozo, home of the surprisingly-pleasant-for-the-area Four Winds Motel.
Missed Day 2? After hundreds of miles in scorching heat, I finally got to El Paso, Texas and got to pick up Vy from the airport.
On to Day 4. Carrizozo, New Mexico to Albuquerque, New Mexico ~ 150 miles.