Saturday, April 7, 2018

CA-AZ-(NM-AZ)-CA

Eric and I were at Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center a little before 8:00,  ready to buy a ticket to walk 750 feet below Earth's surface.  At 8:30, on the dot, we began the descent into the cave. 

The elevator is temporarily broken, but I cannot imagine not walking as it gives perspective as to the size of the cave.  Not to mention that the cave features get progressively more amazing the further in you get.

We were the first ones down and had the place totally to ourselves for at least 30 minutes.  You could hear water dripping onto stalagmites.

The Carlsbad Caverns are just as incredible as I imagined.  I have wanted to come here ever since my fifth grade state report on New Mexico.

It was this exact place where Eric proposed, and I said yes!

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️




It took us 20 minutes to hike out of the cave, and then seven hours to drive to Bisbee, AZ, a mining town until 1975.

Bisbee was founded in 1877 because of the presence of metals in the earth.  These metals proved very fruitful as Bisbee became known as one of the richest mineral sites in the world.



The town has done a fabulous job maintaining its historic architecture.  

We couldn't get over what a strange place Bisbee is.  The mix of artists, old miners, and a flourishing LGBTQ community is an interesting mix.

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
What an unforgettable day with my fiancee!  


Friday, April 6, 2018

CA-AZ-(NM)-AZ-CA

A few times a month White Sands National Park is closed because of military missile testing, and it just so happened that the one day that we were planning on going was a missile test day!  
It wasn't closed for the entire day so waiting was the only option.  

We arrived at the visitor center just before 10:00 and they were already opened.  As soon as they get word from base that all is clear they let in the masses.  

We opted to hike Alkali Flats Trail, a five mile loop. 

The white sand dunes are made from weathered and eroded gypsum, deposited here when this area was covered by a sea, 250 million years ago.
It is amazing that plants can grow in this kind of environment.  



Bleached earless lizards are incredible, and only found in the White Sands area.
They are not deaf, they just don't have an external ear openening.   
I have never seen a white lizard!

They can be found scurrying around anywhere there is green.





These are ant tunnels.
It is amazing the life you can find in the desert if you really look.






There are pluses and minuses to desert hiking, for sure.



Our three hour drive to Carlsbad included a quick stop off the highway to checkout this old trestle.

Built in the 1890s the train that went from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft (6,000 feet change in elevation) became known as the Cloud Climbing Railroad.  Before the train the only way to get to Cloudcroft was by mule, but after a highway was built in the 1950's the train didn't seem as convenient.  

We made it to Carlsbad and then continued on to the National Park, just in time for the bat flight talk.

Mule deer.

Brazilian free-tailed bats.  
Wouldn't it be cool if this is what we saw?
But we didn't...

First of all, there are much less bats during this time of year.  Their peak is in summer.  So what we saw was a few flying out at a time, maybe a hundred or two over a period of 45 minutes.
Second, I couldn't take any pictures because there are no cameras allowed, and it is strictly enforced.  Before you get to the mouth of the cave there is a ranger who tells you there is no photography.  Then when you are in the amphitheater, where the mouth of the cave is located, there is a ranger presenting who is watching for cameras, as well as two rangers at the top of the amphitheater doing the same.  
I am not sure what they would do exactly (kick you out of the park maybe?) but there was no opportunity to do it incognito so I didn't try.  I just followed the rules like everyone else.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

CA-(AZ-NM)-AZ-CA

First stop, Saguaro National Park, established in 1933 by President Hoover as a National Monument and then transferred to the National Parks that same year by President Roosevelt.  


We drove the eight mile loop, stopping at all informational placards and unique street signs.













Then we drove an hour southwest to the Titan Missile Museum, per my friend Denise's suggestion.
It was awesome.
This was the location of the the largest nuclear weapon in the United States, used to deter a nuclear war during the Cold War.  "Peace Through Deterrence" was their motto.  If the Soviets knew that we could blow them up they wouldn't blow us up.

We noticed this broadband discone antenna from the parking lot, as well as the ham radio operators attached, so we went over to chat with them.  Apparently, if you are an amateur radio operator you can borrow the key from the museum and hook up to this military grade antenna. The group that we were talking with were listening to Morse code between a Bulgarian and a Spaniard.  
(Don't worry, Phil, Eric already has plans to take you here for your birthday.)

Due to demand they were running the hour long tours on the half hour. 
We are about to go into the underground silo...

These four foot walls protected the military on duty, and the nuclear weapon, from a nuclear attack.

The only place in the entire silo that you could be by yourself was the kitchen. 

Don't be alarmed, I am just at the control center about to turn the key to launch a nine megaton thermonuclear warhead.  
Kidding.  It wasn't that easy.  The two people in the control center had to have received a message to go into the safe, opened the safe with a secret code, entered that into a number lock and then turn the key.  As you can see, there is just one of me and this was a two person job.  And, the bomb has since been removed... Russia actually insisted that the museum be opened to be sure that it isn't really an active nuclear bomb site.   
The bomb was programmed for three different undisclosed locations.  The people charged with turning the key, would have no clue where the bomb was destined to land thirty minutes later.  They just new it was going to location one, two or three.

This is the nuclear warhead replica.  This military site was active for two decades.  The monthly electric bill for enough air conditioning to keep the liquid propellant for the missile cool enough in the desert was one million dollars.

If you are taller than six foot you had to wear special safety gear. 
I wish I was a little bit taller...


We made it to New Mexico!  
My first time!

At a rest stop just before the Rio Grande we found this great roadrunner statue made entirely out of garbage.

You just never know what you are going to find!