Monday, May 10, 2010

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad, located in the Chihuahuan Desert, seems like a nice area and I got the sense of more going on there than other places we’ve driven through so far. We arrived mid morning on Friday, May 7th passing several small ranch-like farms and well-kept homes. There were horses everywhere. We made a stop in town at the Super Wal-Mart to stock up on groceries and adult beverages and then got back on highway 285.

We stayed at the KOA campground a few miles north of Carlsbad, just off highway 285. This is a very nice campground with modern, clean and well maintained facilities, including two good-sized fenced dog parks that are irrigated to sustain a nice carpet of grass.

There are apparently endless numbers of wild rabbits on the campground, which really got the attention of Sydney and Barley. One of our neighbors was a round tailed ground squirrel that located his burrow a couple sites away from ours -he also provided entertainment for us and aggravation for the dogs.

The only thing that could have been better at the campground was the WiFi service: it was up, it was down, it was up, it was down, and so on. Even when the service was up, the bandwidth was so restricted that we were unable to upload photos. Thankfully, however, we were able to send and receive email and post some entries to this blog. Despite the WiFi issues, I would stay at that KOA again.  Click here for some photos of the campground.

Unfortunately, the scooter was not much use to us at the KOA. The RV sites and roadways are all constructed with crushed concrete and riding the scooter on that type of surface is not pleasant. So, we hoofed it around the campground which was probably to our benefit anyway.

We scrapped our original plan to go to Carlsbad Caverns because the bats have not yet migrated back in full numbers and so the famous dusk bat flight out of the cave is not yet happening. As far as seeing the bat flight, the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns is from the end May to end of September. Anyway, Lynda felt that viewing the Caverns themselves is not a big enough draw to go to the effort renting a car (the road up to the Carlsbad Caverns Visitors Center is too windy for the Trek) and kenneling the dogs. I was fine with this because I visited Carlsbad Caverns several years ago and was fortunate to view the bat flight, when millions of bats leave the cave at dusk to hunt for insects. It’s quite a sight to behold!

We relaxed on Saturday, catching up on email and blog articles, watching hilarious “Glee” episodes, and playing with the dogs in the dog park area. On Sunday, we disconnected the RV from the hookups and drove just a few miles towards Carlsbad to visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, which we really enjoyed and highly recommend. While Sydney and Barley rested in the RV, we toured the facilities to learn more about desert flora and animals found in the Chihuahuan Desert.

As luck would have it, this was also the last day of the 24th annual Mescal Roast being hosted by the Living Desert Zoo. We witnessed the Mescal Pit Opening and then had a taste of the cooked agave heads. We both liked it - the flavor reminded me a little of boiled apple. According to the office press release, The Mescal Roast provides a better understanding of the Mescalero Apache people and the importance of protecting the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. The mescal plant, also known as agave, was a staple for the Apache who once lived in the Pecos River Valley and Guadalupe Mountains of Southeastern New Mexico. Nearly all parts of the mescal plant were used, including the leaves, flower stalks, blossoms and seeds. The leaves and stalks were traditionally roasted in large cooking pits and eaten or pounded into cakes and dried.

Click here for some photos of our visit to the Living Desert.

After our visit to the Living Desert Zoo, we ate lunch and drove to Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area , which is in the Lincoln National Forest. Although less than a 40 mile drive, it took us about an hour to get there because of the narrow and winding road. On the way, we passed what appeared to be several ranches and a handful of oil donkey pumps. The smell of petroleum was unmistakable and seemed out of place in this otherwise rugged and wild area.

When we arrived at Sitting Bull Falls, we parked in the lower parking lot and hiked about .6 miles to the Visitor Center. The trail was very stony and steep in places and the wind kept whipping up in gusts. I had to chase my hat a couple times. After catching our breath, we took the dogs on the concrete path up to the Falls area. While we enjoyed our visit and recommend it to other visitors, Sitting Bull Falls was unexpectedly crowded when we went, perhaps because it was Mother’s Day. It was a bit of a challenge keeping Sydney and Barley out of people’s way and under control. Anyway, despite the number of people, Sydney did get to swim and her antics attracted several admirers. Barley was also a big hit, particularly with a group of young guys, one of whom declared, “that is one bad dog!”

Unfortunately, we managed to take only a few photos of Sitting Bull Falls because the camera battery ran out of juice. This was my fault for taking so many photos at the Living Desert Zoo and not recharging the battery afterward. Oh well…

Once we got back from our outings, we did laundry and made some preparations to leave this morning, Monday May 10th. The plan was to head to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument but this was not in the cards… some extremely windy weather rolled in overnight, with frequent gusts exceeding 40 MPH. Driving the Trek in “normal” breezy weather is a little like driving a billboard and so it did not take much consideration to decide to play it safe and stay here one more day. And so we are hunkered down in the Trek (which is swaying from the wind gusts) napping, reading, and generally being very lazy. From time to time we emerge to take the dogs for a potty break and then scuttle back inside, away from the wind and dust.

We hope to be able to make our way to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument tomorrow… stay tuned!

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