Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Going "Parking" in Western Texas

Mark and I flew out to El Paso on Saturday to visit Jenn and Michael before they move to Hawaii. I haven't seen Jenn since the spring and Michael since January, so it was really nice to see their smiling faces at the airport to pick us up! They took us home and showed us their very nice home and we got to love on the "granddogs" for awhile too. Then it was time to grab the passports and get underway to the National Parks.The first place we went was Chamizal National Monument which Jenn and Meghann had visited together in the spring. It commemerates the changing and moving border of the Rio Grande river which marks the border with Mexico.We filled up with gas and snacks and then headed to White Sands National Monument which is in the middle of the desert. This is a very unusual place, there are huge dunes of white gypsum that looks like sand. We got out and climbed and hiked some of the dunes, though it was very hot out, the sand wasn't hot at all. There were people there that were tubing and boarding down the dunes. There is also a beautiful loop of road made on the sands that takes you right into the middle of the white dunes. It was a neat day capped off by a delicious dinner with the kids.The next morning we got up and after a delicious breakfast that Jenn made, we were underway again. This time we visited the Guadalupe Mountains National Park which contains the famous "El Capitan" mountain. It is a beautiful place made up of peaks left behind from when the area whas actually underwater and a reef. There were a lot of hiking trails but it was over 100 degrees and we also wanted to get to the caves the same day too so we didn't hike.The next stop was Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. It was a nice respite from the heat to get into the cave and enjoy the formations and the naturally air conditioned air! We went into the Natural Entrance and did about a 4 mile hike through the cave including the "big room" which has some of the most spectacular formations of all. This is Michael on the winding path down into the cave entrance. We'd been to several other caves before, we'd seen Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, Cave of the Winds in Colorado, and Luray Caverns in Virginia, but I will have to say that this was probably the most impressive cave in terms of cave formations and sheer beauty and size.
We did a self guided tour with audio recordings and it was really nice. It took us several hours to enjoy the tour. We were going to go into Carlsbad for dinner and then come back to see the bats fly out of the cave at sunset (Jenn and Michael adopted a bat and we wanted to see her) but the weather was dark and threatening thunderstorms so we headed back in the direction of El Paso. The bats won't fly if it is thunderstorming anyway and we didn't want to have to drive back in the weather...actually Jenn and Michael did all of the driving, it was really unusual for Mark and me to sit in the back seat and be driven around!

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