Monday, December 26, 2011

July 2010 Travels in New Mexico - Part II

OK. So I wasn't electrocuted in White Sands and made the several hour trek back to the home of my friends Brian and Natasha. The next day (or technically later in the same day) we got up and headed for the Santa Fe National Forest to tour around a bit.

The drive up the mountain was fun. There was interesting geography like these red cliffs.

There was also looking down at deep ravines along the side of the road with no guard rails. You can't really see it in the pictures--just trust me that you want to stay on the road.

Our destination was one of their favorite spots in the park, part of the view from which is showing here.

After the forest tour, we headed over to Bandelier National Monument.

In Bandelier there are cavates, such as the one Natasha is inhabiting here.

Your basic 1 bedroom, no bath, cave house.

The higher-ups in Pueblo life lived higher up.

The ceilings in the cavates we got into were blackened. The Pueblo Indians liked to hang out in smoky places, apparently.

There was painting on some of the rocks.

There were also petroglyphs carved into some of them.

Once we finished up at Bandelier, we headed into Santa Fe for dinner. Afterwards we walked around Santa Fe, where among other things I saw the (outside of) the Loretto Chapel, home of the Miraculous Stairway.

The next day Brian let me borrow his wet-dry vac to clean the sand out of the rental car. I wasn't kidding when I said I was covered in sand coming out of White Sands. This is just what fell off of my backpack. Don't worry--there is still plenty of sand left at White Sands.

After I finished that, we headed up to the top of the Sandia Mountains. Behold the majestic view from the top. It was surprisingly cool at the top of the mountain. OK, maybe not surprising if one stops to think that it's 10,000 feet in the air. But still. It was the end of July in a desert. Seriously. How cold is it supposed to be?

The clouds broke long enough for me to get some glimpse of what was below.

But that didn't last long.

With not so much daylight left, we decided to walk along one of the trails.

Here's the look down from one of the trails.

Once again--no hand rails. Guard rails, hand rails--who needs 'em! We actually came upon some later on . . . we were walking along a trail on the wrong side of them. Maybe that's why they don't bother . . . .

The next day I left Brian and Natasha to go to their respective jobs and set off for Roswell, New Mexico, to resume my solo goofing off. There were some long, empty roads between Alubquerque and Roswell. But not so empty that I could just floor it with reckless abandon. People do not speed that much in New Mexico. Why, I have no idea. When I got to Roswell, I checked into my hotel and then immediately set off for Carlsbad Caverns so I could see the bats fly out of the cave. I did not manage to get any pictures of that, though, sorry. I then returned to Roswell and slept peacefully with no UFO abductions or sightings to report. I kind of goofed--I should have spent the night near Carlsbad Caverns, since that's where I was planning to start the next day. Still, there were plenty of hotel rooms in Roswell.

The next day, I headed back to Carlsbad Caverns to go down into cave while the bats were sleeping. I'm tough, so I walked down the long trail into the cave. No elevator for me. Or the toddling girl in this picture. I tend to not get up early when I am on vacation, so it was kind of a forced march down into the cave for me to make it in time for the start of the latest and last ranger-guided King's Palace tour.

There were several ponds within the cave itself. The water mostly looked clear.

The tour I was on featured the King's Palace Chamber.

Taking pictures in a dimly-lit giant hole in the ground is a bit difficult. Using the flash washes out natural colors and setting the exposure time is tricky. I think this picture safely falls in the "overexposed" category.

The exposure is about right in this picture. This is about what you would see if you were there. The lighting in the cave is great. In the center hanging down you can see a type of formation called draperies.

This type of formation is known as soda straws.

There are columns formed where stalactites met stalagmites.

Stalagmites are abundant.

A phone in the cave.

Another pond of water in the cave.

My favorite named formation, The Bashful Elephant.

A wall of the cave.

One of the giant formations in the aptly-named Hall of Giants.

Carlsbad Caverns is just a ginormous hole in the ground. It's hard to get a sense of how big in this picture, but note the handrails at the bottom of the picture.

A view down into a pit near the Top of the Cross area. Some of these pictures are overexposed to show detail.

This is an overexposed picture of the so-called Bottomless Pit. Which is not bottomless. But it is deep, like 140 feet. When you're exploring the cave with your 3 candlepower lantern, no marked trails, and you throw rocks down into a hole and they don't make a sound, you call it a bottomless pit and move on. There are deeper parts of the cave, but the public doesn't get to go into them. The King's Palace tour goes to the deepest part of the cave accessible to the public, a depth of 830 feet underground.

Still more still water in the cave; still except for the occasional ripple caused by a drip here or there.

The Doll's Theater, a tiny formation in the cave.

You can't climb back out of the cave; you have to take the elevator. I guess the rangers got tired of helping people who tired out on the way back up. Anyway, I was out and on my way back to Roswell for a little bit before heading back to Alubquerque. I stopped to take my picture here on the way out.

When I got back to Roswell, it was kind of late in the day, and the stores and museums were closed or closing soon. This store has little green alien tracks on the sidewalk leading up to its entrance.

Here a gray alien was on display.

Area 51. Kind of.

Roswell Landing, one of the bigger stores.

It was interesting to see all of the enterprising takes on the Roswell UFO theme.

What I am sure is the only spaceship McDonald's in the world.

Wal-Mart was having fun with aliens, too.

And UFOs, too.

I thought this was an interesting commentary. I also visited a Republican headquarters in downtown Roswell. I do not know if there were any Democrats around or not. Maybe they are scared of aliens.

My time in Roswell and New Mexico was drawing to a close. As the sun set I headed back to Brian and Natasha's house for one last night's stay in New Mexico before heading home.

I stopped on the way back on one of those long roads in the middle of nowhere to just get a look at the night sky. In between the rare car or truck passing by, it was very dark and I could actually see the stars in the Milky Way. I pointed my camera up at the sky and set it for the maximum exposure time. This is just one section of the picture it took. I thought it was interesting that I wound up with red, yellow, blue, and white stars in the picture. I have no idea if the camera was really picking up different star colors or if it was just an artifact of random noise in the camera's image sensor. It reminded me of a picture I had taken of some fireworks some months earlier.