Update 14 (continued)
Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
March 11 and 14 (Location 9 on the Map)
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere in north Texas sits Guadalupe Mountains
National Park. The mountains are what remains of a 400-mile
long marine fossil reef that was formed here 260 million years ago.
of its remote location and its relative obscurity
as a National Park,
those who are already visiting Carlsbad Caverns just 50 miles up the
On our way from Big Bend to Carlsbad Caverns, we stopped at the visitor's
center long enough for Justin to excitedly (and loudly) look at the many
wildlife displays. He made it a point to say something to almost everyone
and even managed to interject himself into a couple of ongoing conversations.
The ranger whose ear he bent for awhile
said it was the most entertaining conversation she'd had all day.
A few days later, we returned to do a 4.4-mile hike out to Devil's
Hall, a rugged canyon with walls made of layers of
rocks. It almost seemed like we were walking between the brick walls
of two buildings instead of through a canyon. When the creek is running,
there are a series of small waterfalls near
there was no water during our visit, Justin had fun scrambling around
on the rocks in the creek bed.
For photos from Guadalupe
Mountains National Park, Click
Carlsbad Caverns National Park:
March 13 and 15, 2007 (Location 10 on the Map)
After touring caves at Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, Wind Cave in South
Dakota, and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, we figured we'd experienced just
about everything a cave could offer. It was with that attitude that we
Carlsbad Caverns National Park. After two days of walking below ground
in the huge caves there, we changed our minds and can say that Carlsbad
tops them all.
The fossil reef that became the Guadalupe Mountains also formed
Carlsbad Caverns. As the reef was forced up over millions of years to
form those mountains, rainwater seeped down through cracks and faults
in the limestone. The water mixed with hydrogen sulfide to form sulfuric
acid, which dissolved the limestone and left what we now call Carlsbad
We did two of the self-guiding tours while we were there. We accessed
the first tour via an elevator, and were shocked to see a restaurant
and gift shop 750 feet below the surface. (The Hatfield Law of Natural
Attraction might need a corollary to address this unfortunate phenomenon).
This tour took us through the highly-decorated and immense Big
Room, where we could see examples of stalactites, stalagmites, popcorn,
soda straws, draperies, flowstone, as well as other formations. The trail
was easy enough that Justin walked it himself.
The second tour we took started at the so-called Natural Entrance,
which is where everyone entered the cave prior to the construction of
in the 1950's. It's also where thousands of bats enter and exit nightly
in their search for food. This tour requires you to descend 750
vertical feet on foot over a mile to reach the main areas of the cave.
Due to the steep descent, I carried Justin in the carrier for this tour.
For photos from Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Click
Petrified Forest National Park:
March 19, 2007 (Location 12 on the Map)
After leaving Carlsbad, we traveled north to Santa Fe for three nights.
I hadn't ever visited Santa Fe or Taos, and wanted to take the opportunity
since they were on the way to Petrified Forest. We had lunch one
day with my friend Garrett and his fiancee Monica at a nice place that
did nothing to help us fight off the bulges we acquired during our inactivity
in Florida. It was Garrett who sparked the
idea for this trip a year-and-a-half ago. I joked that the least we could
do was pay for the $60 lunch to thank him for this great idea of his
that's costing us thousands of dollars!
We left Santa Fe and headed to Petrified Forest National Park, another
place I'd never been to. When trees fell here 225 million years ago,
streams carried them into nearby floodplains where they eventually were
covered up with silt, mud and ash. As erosion has occurred over time,
the quartz-like hardened fossils have remained as the surrounding earth
has been removed.
We could have used another day to see more, but still
got a good idea of
We took the 28-mile drive that meanders through the Painted Desert
before heading south through the rest of the park. There were numerous
to get out and stroll the short trails and overlooks. We saw endless
samples of petrified wood, plus an abandoned
pueblo and petroglyphs
It's a worthwhile
you happen to be in the area.
For photos from Petrified Forest National Park, Click