Monday, April 30, 2012

Sitting Bull Falls and a Day in Roswell

Saturday was our last day at Brantley Lakes State Park. We took a side trip to Sitting Bull Falls in the Lincoln National Forest in the afternoon. The drive entailed several miles of “open range”. The cattle have the run of the road :)P1010606

Sitting Bull Falls has been closed for an entire year due to a wild fire last April. It finally reopened Saturday and we were anxious to see it. We were disappointed. This area of NM has experienced "exceptional" drought the last 4 years. "Exceptional" is the highest rating given by the government when measuring drought conditions. The falls were "shriveled" compared to the past.  

P1010612We had hoped to hike the trail to the origin of the falls but all of the trails were roped off. I heard a ranger say that they wanted more new vegetation to take hold before opening the trails to hikers.  With our hiking plans dashed, we climbed the stairs to the falls, took a few photos and left.

This “pool” was supposed to be a large clear pool of water from the falls. In fact, it was a favorite swimming hole of the locals.

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On Sunday, we left the Carlsbad area and drove all of 70 miles to Roswell, NM. That's my kind of drive :) I spent the afternoon catching up on laundry and researching what to do with our one full day (Monday) in Roswell.

Although most of what you see and hear about Roswell centers on aliens and UFO's, Roswell is actually the home of several famous people. John Denver, Nancy Lopez (golfer), Demi Moore and Susan Graham (world renowned opera star) were all born here. Many others lived here for a time-Conrad Hilton, Lefty Frizzell, Roy Rogers, Pat Garrett (sheriff known for killing Billy the Kid), Joel McCrea, William Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) and Dan Blocker of "Bonanza" fame. Roswell is the home of the famed New Mexico Military Institute, the nation's only state-supported, co-educational college preparatory 4-year military high school and junior college. Graduates include  Roger Staubach and Sam Donaldson.

So today, we decided that no visit to Roswell would be complete without a visit to the UFO Museum  :)

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Most everyone has heard the story of the UFO crash outside of Roswell in July 1947. This entire museum is dedicated to that occurrence...or was it just a weather balloon, like the government insisted? I have to admit that after reading many of the depositions by people that were there and  reading many of the other pieces of evidence on display, I think that maybe, just maybe, it really did happen. What about you? Are you a believer? Was there a huge cover-up by the US government? Or was it much to do about nothing and imaginations gone wild?

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After leaving the UFO Museum, we headed for the Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico, just a few blocks away.

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Unfortunately, when we arrived, a school group was going through and we were asked if we could please come back in about an hour. No problem. We did a little driving around and looked for a hat or t-shirt for Rick to commemorate our visit.  He couldn't find anything that tickled his fancy so I guess he'll not be advertising for the city of Roswell :)

When our hour was up, we returned to the Historical Center. This "Prairie" style home was built in 1912 for Mr. and Mrs. James White and now houses the Historical Center. The "Praire" style was developed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900's.

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Note the extra large and wide front door. This was to allow access for a casket to get through the door. There was no mortuary in Roswell in the early 1900’s so homes needed to accommodate a casket in the event of a death.

The lower floor of the home is furnished as it was when the White's lived there.

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This kitchen was really modern. See the water heater between the sink and the stove?

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As it turned out, the volunteer that greeted us went to school with the White's granddaughter. She said she remembered coming to this house several times with her friend, after school, and jumping on the feather beds upstairs :)

The upstairs was divided into many different displays of the era.

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That about wraps up our day. There is more to see in this area of New Mexico, but it will have to wait until our next visit. We leave for Santa Fe in the morning. We’ll be there for a week. See you then.

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Friday, April 27, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We visited Carlsbad Caverns today and all I can say is WOW!

When we turned off the highway onto the National Park Road, I wasn’t expecting such a spectacular drive to the caverns.

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It’s a 7 mile trip on the park road and what a ride it was!

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Once we reached the visitor’s center, we detoured onto a 9½ mile scenic gravel loop through the park. Carlsbad Caverns is located in the Chihuahuan Desert.

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In June 2011, 30,000 acres of the park land was burned from a fire started on this scenic loop. There are charred remains of plants all over. The Caverns, visitor center and several other buildings were all evacuated and the Park was closed for 2 days while fire fighters battled to contain the blaze.

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The burned remains seem to be nourishing the soil though, and there was a lot of new growth.

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This photo shows the contrast. The land on the right was burned, the land on the left of the road was not. Very sad.

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Once we completed our outdoor tour, we headed to the visitor center. Rick has told me numerous times that I would never get him into a cave. He’s a little claustrophobic :) I think it has to do with the fact that the caves are 750 feet below the ground. He graciously agreed to accompany me. I think he was afraid I’d trip over my own feet in the dark and break my neck! He was probably right :)

We did not plan well. This is National Parks week, which means there was free admission every day this week. As we approached the parking lot, there was not 1, not 2, but 6 school buses in the lot! Plus a couple hundred cars :)

Given the unbelievable size of this place, the only time we had contact with the school kids was at the elevators, so that wasn’t too bad :)  Unfortunately, the large elevators are closed for repairs so there were only 2 small elevators in operation. We got to spend about a half hour of quality time standing in line with a bunch of elementary school kids at the completion of our tour :)

We took the self-guided tour of “The Big Room”, the largest cave. This cave is the size of 14 football fields. 14!  It was truly mind blowing. We picked up a digital audio player in the gift shop ($5 rental). There are numbers posted at various areas on the tour. You just punch in that number and the recorder tells you what you’re looking at and gives you other background information. RIck manned the player and I manned the camera and off we went.

I took 140 photos this afternoon. I don’t want to  give you “glassy eye” syndrome, so I’ve picked out a few of my favorites to share with you. (click to enlarge)

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It was absolutely incredible. If you’re ever in the Carlsbad area, this is an absolute “must see”!

We were disappointed that we couldn’t take in the evening bat flight that many of you had recommended, but that program doesn’t start until after Memorial Day. The bats don’t usually return to the Caverns until Mid-May. Guess we’ll just have to come back another time :)

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Mexico-Land of Enchantment , Internet Amplifier and Antenna

Yesterday morning, we left Fort Stockton taking US 285 through Pecos, TX. to Carlsbad, NM.  We stopped at the Flying J in Pecos to fill up with diesel and we were glad we did! Diesel was $3.99/gallon in Pecos vs $4.17/gallon further down the road in New Mexico :)

A few miles down the road we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone. I’ve never spent much time in the Mountain Time Zone, but I think I’m going to like it. I already got an extra hour of sleep this morning :)

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That happened at the same time we crossed into New Mexico.

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The official state welcome sign from US 285. We whizzed by at 65 mph, so I didn’t see all the holes in the sign until today when I downloaded the photos. Do you suppose they’re bullet holes? Or just holes from flying highway stones? The cloudy area around “Land” is windshield bug debris :)

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The terrain here was rather dull and bleak looking.

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We continued on north through Carlsbad to our destination, Brantley Lakes State Park. Brantley Lake is 12 miles north of Carlsbad.

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The campground is those little, itty, bitty things you see off in the distance through the desert.

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New Mexico State Parks have a reasonable and different fee structure. All sites start at $10/night. If it’s a primitive campsite with no hookups, that’s the whole fee. If you want electric, it’s an additional $4/night. If you want sewer, it’s another $4/night. Max is $18. There is no charge for water. There are very limited sites with sewer, but if you can get them, that’s a definite plus. If you plan to spend a lot of time in NM state parks, they make it even nicer for you by selling you an annual pass which is good for unlimited basic camping during a 12 month period. You would only have to pay your $4 or $8 for electric/sewer each time. It’s an excellent deal for NM residents, especially if you’re a senior. The pass is just $100 for a senior resident. Non-resident fees are $225 making it necessary to spend 23 nights to break even. As we will not be here that long, we passed on it but filed the info away for the future.

As you round the campground loop, you see Brantley Lake off to the right. Brantley Lake is New Mexico’s southern-most lake. The water level is very low from drought conditions, but the water is a lovely shade of blue.

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Coming around to the other side, you can see the damn with little water on this side. The other side is totally dry.

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You can see the Guadalupe Mountains in the distance.

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Lucy is parked in site 48, a small pull-through site with water and electric only. We were not one of the lucky people to score a sewer hook up :)

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Each site has a covered patio and wind break wall. I hope that wall works. It looks rather small next to Lucy. We are expecting very high winds tomorrow… sustained at 40 mph with gusts to 58 mph. We plan to batten down the hatches and ride it out :)

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It was 96° when we arrived. Today, it hit 101°!

Once we got set up, I fired up the lap top only to find we had almost no signal. Slower than dial-up and that was if you were lucky. Most attempts timed out. I don’t know why I was surprised. We are out in the middle of nowhere, in the desert!

It was time to try out our new antenna/amplifier system and see if it really worked. We had purchased it in Rockport TX over the winter, and we got some degree of improvement there but most of the problem there was over crowded towers. This would be our first test of minimal signal in the boonies. This is the interior antenna. It’s velcro-ed to the ceiling over our recliners and the wire follows the woodwork and goes out through the slide seal by the table.

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The exterior antenna is mounted on a telescoping pole outside next to the slide.

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Both antenna’s are connected to the amplifier which we have mounted behind the refrigerator panel outside. We no longer need that access panel because we now have a residential refrigerator. There is enough room back there to mount the amp and there is a electric outlet back there to power it. I forgot to take a picture of that part-sorry :) This is, by no means, a permanent mounting. It’s just something that works for us when we need it. Most places don’t require it and it stays neatly tucked away, safe and sound, under the sofa :)

Rick got all his wires run and fired it up. I was standing by to test. At first, nothing. :(  But, within 30 seconds, everything was amped up and working like a charm. Whew! I HATE to be without internet! I can do it but it’s not pretty :)

The system we have is sold by Maximum Signal and can be seen here. It’s not cheap, but, so far, it seems to work. We have had times today, when the signal fell out completely and that would last for a minute or a few minutes and then we were back in business. I guess I can live with that if I have signal the rest of the time. In the meantime, if any of you have a connection with Verizon and can talk them into building more towers out in the middle of nowhere, I’ll be your new best friend :)

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle