TIJERAS and CARLSBAD, NEW MEXICO
Trip Start Jun 02, 2002
43Trip End Apr 01, 2003
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Our campsite in Tijeras was located in the foothills just east of Albuquerque. Similar to Denver, Albuquerque is a mile high city except it is surrounded by arid plains and red rock cliffs. New Mexico is the poorest of the fifty states, but it is wealthy in the areas of culture, geology, and secrets. For example, we visited thousand year old pueblos still being lived in today, one of the largest caves in the world, and Roswell whose claim to fame was a flying saucer visit. All of this and the honor of our friend John's second visit to our little house on the blacktop provided for some exciting times in New Mexico.
Wednesday - Today we went to a museum called the National Atomic Museum. We learned all about the history of the atom and its uses
Thursday - We went to an IMAX theater and saw "Explore Amazing Caves." We watched these two women explore new caves in the Grand Canyon, caves in frozen Greenland, and caves underwater in the Yucatan. It was funny when one of them told the camera man that she promised her family that she would never explore underwater caves because it is the most dangerous of the three types of caves to enter. This movie planted a seed in my brain that bloomed later in the Carlsbad portion of our visit to New Mexico
Sunday - Today we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center because a group of Indians from the Taos Pueblo were scheduled to perform some of their ritual dances here. The lead Indian started off the program when he played a traditional song on his wooden flute. This was followed by dances performed by young kids, teenagers, and older women. Each dance required its own costume that matched the message of the song. For example, when they danced the eagle dance they wore eagle feathers that ran the length of their arms and they danced as if they were eagles swooping through the sky.
Monday - We jumped on the highway and headed north to the state capital, Santa Fe. We took a guided walking tour of the city which I have to say is one of the neatest cities I have seen. It is also the third largest art center after New York City and San Francisco. All of the buildings are built with adobe style architecture and some of the buildings still in use were constructed prior to 1900. In front of one of these very old buildings was a row of Indian merchants with their crafts and jewelry spread out across a cloth blanket to sell to the tourists. They were friendly when we walked by or when we asked them something.
Thursday - I picked John up at the Albuquerque airport and gave him a quick tour of the downtown area. Let the good times begin.
Friday - We started the day at Old Town in Albuquerque where there are many shops selling local artisan crafts as well as a row of Indians sitting outside selling their own crafts and jewelry. Next, we drove up to Santa Fe and walked inside many more craft and jewelry shops. John ended up with a very nice bracelet he bought from a local Indian who had his own kiosk. Afterwards, we went back to Albuquerque to visit one more place which we had coupons for our choice of a free dream catcher or piece of pottery.
Saturday - Today we drove up past Santa Fe to the city of Taos. We stopped off at the Taos Pueblo where its native people continue to perform their sacred rites and welcome visitors as they have for over 1,000 years. It felt like we stepped back in time as we walked around the city and entered into some of their houses. The front room of their house was converted into a storefront where their crafts and jewelry were on display. The people who lived there were very friendly and seemed to take pride in their lifestyle.
We had a little time to kill so we walked around the downtown Taos area. Many people who have been there have said many nice things about Taos, but we did not find it all that interesting and felt that Santa Fe was better. Taos did have a lot of art galleries, but it did not have that friendly down-to-earth vibe I felt in Santa Fe. We got bored, so we jumped back into our truck and headed further north into the Taos Ski Valley.
The last time John came to visit we rented four-wheel ATV's. Well, that was in the fall and now it was winter and so John, Jenn, and I rented snowmobiles. We booked a 2 hour sunset tour and we each got to drive our own snowmobile. This was exciting because none of us had ever ridden one before. Our guide led us up a mountain pass in single file line towards the top of the mountain. We took a ten minute rest halfway to the top and John could not resist throwing me into the snow. Meanwhile, Jenn did not try to save me because she was busy laughing and capturing the moment with our camera. We arrived at the top just as the sun began to set in the Taos valley and turn the sky into a painter's palette of blues, pinks, and oranges. It was dark when we began our way back and it was cool to drive with the headlight on.
Jenn likes to tell this next story because I had no idea it happened until she told me as well. You see, I was somewhere like third in line and Jenn and John were at the end of the line. Our guide taught us how to lean into the turns and move our butts to avoid falling off. In the very beginning, Jenn and the kid in front of her were focused more on the driving and less on the beautiful scenery, because if you took a turn too fast there wasn't a guardrail to catch you and you'll go straight down the mountain.
The kid in front of Jenn turned around once to show Jenn how much fun he was having. The second time he turned around, his face had a more concerned look on it and he looked how Jenn felt at the time. Just then, they saw me up front lean my body towards the slope, extend my left hand, and brush off some of the snow with my fingers. The kid, Jenn and John were then playing Follow-The-Dave and put their worries at ease. Afterwards, they would slow up so they would have to catch up to the group at full throttle and then come to a sliding stop when they got too close. We all had a great time zooming up and down the mountain on these snowmobiles with the sunset as icing on the cake.
Our snowmobile guide mentioned The Old Blinking Light as a great place for dinner and he was not wrong. The food was good, but the interesting part of this story took place after dinner right outside the front door. There was a fire burning and a ring of chairs placed around the fire. We took our seats under the stars, close to the warm flames, and we sat with other friendly tourists like ourselves. John was the best because he is the kind of person who could start a conversation with anyone; we laughed and laughed late into the night with our new friends.
Sunday - Before I dropped John off at the airport, we returned to Old Town in Albuquerque to do some last minute shopping now that we knew more about prices. John picked up a few items, but he also got a great deal on a carved wooden Indian statue that went well with his other Indian relics. It was sad to see John leave, but the weekend was over and there was not a single thing that we could have done better.
Tuesday - We slid our slide out in, pulled up the stairs, hitched up our house, and left the town of Tijeras. However, we were not ready to leave New Mexico; instead, we were on our way to Carlsbad in the southern part of the state. Along the way we passed through Roswell which became famous in 1947 when a UFO crashed into the side of a mountain and the US Army tried to cover it up by calling it a weather balloon. Who knows, another could return?
Wednesday - We began our Carlsbad experience when we visited a place called The Living Desert. Many people think that a desert is just a bunch of sand; well, this place will proved to us that the desert is filled with an abundance of different types of fauna and flora. It was like a desert zoo and it was neat because we saw a Mexican wolf, buffalo, deer, bobcat, black bear, and a pair of male elk still banging their antlers together. When we peered inside the glass to get a look at the Diamondback rattlesnake, he curled himself up and shook his rattle at us until we walked away. The sign next to one of the cages told us that a roadrunner, the state bird, was inside but we could not see anything. Later we learned from one of the park rangers that they only found pile of feathers one day and they suspected a desert animal from the weasel family slipped in between the bars and had a little snack. I guess the roadrunner did not get away this time. Beep!Beep!
Thursday - Carlsbad is known for its Carlsbad Caverns which is one of the largest caves in the world. During the summer at dusk, you can buy a seat at the entrance to the cave and watch thousands of bats fly out of it as they hunt for insects all night long. They say you can fit 14 football fields inside it. So, we took a two hour self-guided tour where we entered the cave via an elevator that took us down to the main room 755 feet below the surface. This cave replaced the Lehman Caves in Nevada as the best cave we have ever seen. The structures were enormous.
Saturday - We returned to Carlsbad Caverns to explore it again because you can not see everything in one day. Jenn took the other two hour self-guided tour that began at the cave's natural entrance. She walked in where the bats fly out from and descended a steep and winding path 750 feet down in to the belly of the cave. At times, she found herself in awe at the sight of some of the natural features. It takes one year for the water at the surface to make its way through the ground and into the cave.
Meanwhile, I took a four hour ranger-guided tour to visit the Hall of the White Giant. This was the cave's most strenuous tour and it required elbow and knee pads, gloves, and a miner's helmet. Our guide led us into the cave through the same entrance Jenn went through. We stopped at one point, stepped over the guard rail, and climbed up to a small hole in the wall of the cave. One by one we crawled through the hole and around an upward spiral on our hands and knees. Soon the path opened up to a room just big enough to hold the eight of us plus our two ranger guides. The guides then asked us how we felt about what we just experienced and that if we did not like it, now was the time to bail out because it was going to get tougher from this point on.
The path towards the Hall of the White Giant became tighter and tighter until mother earth actually hugged me as I wiggled on my belly to get through the tunnel. Actually, it turned out not to be a tunnel at all. Since I am not a large person, I was able to roll over on my back and shine the head lamp upwards and discovered I was at the bottom of a very large crevice deep inside the earth. I then suddenly felt like I a little ant. As we made our way along we encountered a place appropriately named "the pinch." Later, we reached a point where there were two knotted ropes we had to climb up to get to the higher level. I sure was glad that the rangers were guiding us through, because everywhere I looked there were other passage ways leading in all directions and it looked very easy to get lost forever in there.
We finally made it to the Hall of the White Giant where a giant white quartz stalagmite stood alone in a large open room. Afterwards, we all turned off our head lamps and sat in 100% darkness for a while. We turned around and made our way back the same way we came in. The rule was you waited for the person behind you to make sure they knew which way to go and not get lost. Well, some of the larger guys after me got stuck at "the pinch" and so I waited for them. The person in front of me forgot the rule and did not wait for me. Since we moved in a single file line, no one knew that I was their new leader except for the girl behind me. I managed to lead the group almost the whole way back, but I missed a left turn which someone else thankfully remembered. We all made it out OK and I have to admit that this was one of the most unique and thrilling experiences I have ever had. It reminded me of the IMAX movie we saw about cave exploring when they had to pull themselves along underwater through the tight passage ways, only I did not have to worry about running out of air.
Monday - We drove north to Roswell and visited the International UFO Museum and Research Center. At the base of a mountain on a farmer's ranch just west of Roswell, a UFO crashed and some of its inhabitants were thrown from the spaceship. This museum tries to recreate all of the events that occurred in July 1947 through timelines, written testimonies, photographs, maps, newspaper clippings, and the famous article issued by the US Army.
In this small town of Roswell, word spread quickly about the UFO crash and the possibility of little green men. Well, everyone in town began visiting the site and trying to get a sneak a peek. Well, the Army already had the area secured and they wanted to stop people from coming and trying to get close to the crash site. So, under the orders from his commanding officer, Lt. Walter G. Haut the Public Information Officer published an article telling the people not to come and visit the site of the spaceship crash. Well, the Army tried to cover up this mistake by claiming that is was a weather balloon instead. Jenn met Walter Haut and got his autograph. There were many other exhibits on this subject and we walked out of there believing we are not alone.
We were excited when John came out with us for a second time. We have been very fortunate to have friends all across the US and even more when they came out to visit. Well, the excitement did not cease in New Mexico. Our next destination was Dallas, Texas and Betty, Jenn's mom, also came out to stay with us for a second time. Who will be the next guest at the D&J RV Resort? Whoever it is I am sure they will have a memorable time.
We are not alone,
Love Dave & Jenn