Saturday, January 21, 2012

Caverns and White Sand

Yesterday, January 20th, we spent most of the day in Carlsbad Caverns.

We went in the Natural Entrance Route, a 750 foot descent that swiches back and forth for much of a mile. This route ended at a rest area in one direction or to the Big Room Route in another direction.

We stopped off at the rest area for a restroom break and a snack of a shared sandwich before going into the Big Room. The Big Room Route was was 1 1/2 miles long but was fairly level walkway. The Big Room, by far, is the most beautiful route covering over 8 acres of formations.

An elevator returned us to the above ground level. It was an enjoyable day even though we had been through the caverns several years ago.

This morning we left Carlsbad traveling north to Artesia and then east to Alamogordo to visit the White Sands National Monument. The trip started through flat country but after turning west we encountered some hills. At one point we were in a valley that had farms and a creek with real water running (in this part of the country most riverbeds are dry). We then began a gradual ascent through more hills and began seeing snow on the hillsides

When we reached the town of Cloudcroft we were over 8600 feet in elevation. The descent from Cloudcroft to Alamogordo was much greater than the ascent as it was 6% grades most of the way.

We were pleased with the way our new motorhome handled this trip. The 152 mile trip took us about 3 1/2 hours. When we got to Alamagordo we checked into Boot Hill RV Resort (Passport rate $16.71), a very nice RV park. After eating lunch we took off in the Jeep to White Sands National Monument.

                       Our first stop was at the Visitor's Center where we watched a short film.

We then drove the Dunes Drive through the park. The Dunes Drive goes 8 miles into the heart of the dunes. The dunes look like snow drifts along the sides of the road.

Kids were on the dunes with the disk type sleds sliding down the dunes like sledding in snow.

The disk sleds can be purchased at the Visitor's Center Gift Shop for $10.00 and then if returned $5.00 is refunded. We walked around some the dunes. This white gypsum sand is extremely fine almost like flour and so white.

The surrounding mountain rocks contain gypsum and it is from that source that the sand is created. This 275 square miles of gypsum sand is the worlds largest gypsum field. Like all sand dunes the dunes are constantly moving and changing with the force of the winds. Before leaving the park we took a mile hike on the Dune Life Nature Trail, a trail that had signs posted along the way about the plants and animals that are common in the dunes. A very interesting place to visit. Sand is not allowed to be taken from the park and riding over the dunes is forbidden.

We returned back to Alamogordo and ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda, which we enjoyed. As we were driving to a shopping mall to find a salon where I could get a haircut we received a call from Larry. He and Joanne are in Santa Fe, they are working their way west on I-40. He encountered some strong winds in his travels today.
I did get my hair cut and then as we returned toward the campground we stopped at a Pastachio nut shop- pastachios are grown in this area. We didn't buy any as they were more expensive than what we are able to purchase at other places, isn't that often the case?
After the walking through Carlsbad Caverns yesterday and then today the White Sand today Tom and I are suffering with soreness in our legs muscles.