"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gliding Across the Southwest

The jacks in the DRV are definitely holding now, so apart from some erratic reports from both the truck's and Ms. Subaru's dash lights, we're hauling pretty quickly (for us) to get to Zion National Park by April 11.  My son Mark has been traveling with us since we returned from our quick side trip to Illinois.  Here are some of the highlights of the past couple of weeks.

Balmorhea State Park, Texas

Balmorhea SP is home to the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool! 
22-28 million gallons of water flow through it every day.

It was too chilly for any of us to swim, but we were happy just to gaze at all that beautiful clear water in the middle of the desert. The pool is 25 ft. deep in the center.

 There are lots of little fish and turtles living in the pool. Maybe some bigger ones too.

Balmorhea also has a nice campground where we had planned to stay before we had the trouble with our pesky computerized warning lights act up. That delayed us a few days, so we just visited as we drove west toward New Mexico.

Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks

For our overnight we stopped at Mountain View RV Park in Van Horn, TX so that we could spend the next day visiting two great national parks nearby. I didn't really know too much about Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but it's one of the more remote parks in the lower 48 states.  

There are almost no services near the park. Van Horn is about an hour south on I-10. It doesn't have a lot going for it, but we were happy with the RV park that backed up to the desert and sported this nifty vintage neon sign.

The drive from Van Horn to the southern edge of the park was a gorgeous, peaceful stretch of high desert with rolling hills, mountains, rock formations and valleys. Not terribly colorful, but wide open, wild and unique. Once  at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park we realized how cold and windy it actually was. We needed ear muffs! So we opted to go on to Carlsbad Caverns and do the day's hike underground rather than in the mountains.

This was Mark's firsts time at Carlsbad Caverns, and he's a real cave guy, so it was fun to share his excitement. Rick and I had visited not long ago and posted this, so I'll only share a couple of pictures.  In the Big Room we saw a spelunking tour heading down to a lower cavern. 

Next day we travelled on to New Mexico, and made a stop at this scenic rest area for our lunch. 
(On travel days we usually pack a lunch and take a break midday.) 

El Paso, TX, La Mesilla and Las Cruces, NM

We drove right through El Paso and a bit further north on I-10 to Las Cruces and the Hacienda RV Resort. It's a very nice park, but right on I-10. This is what happens when you're trying to get somewhere fast. For dinner the second night we went to a local tourist favorite in the little historic town of La Mesilla. 

Outside, La Posta de Mesilla is a simple traditional adobe, but inside it's a regular fiesta! The place was chock full of beautiful art, crafts and decorations. The Mexican culture is so appreciative of beauty and we so rarely get to see that side of it in the US. Thank you La Posta for reminded me. 

El Paso however was not looking so beautiful. While we were there a cloud of dust (from Colorado and Kansas according to the papers) hung over the area, so we didn't get to see El Paso at its best. 

Aside from the dust, if I had to make a guess about what was going on here, based on our very short visit, I'd say El Paso is booming. It is encroaching on the Franklin Mountains on three sides, tearing the landscape all apart and building like crazy. Below is one of the more attractive views of the city, on the east side of the mountains. It's a little older and more settled than the west and south sides of the city. 

The stretch from El Paso to Las Cruces is still somewhat agricultural, with dairy farms and pecan groves.  It seems they use flood irrigation in the pecan groves, maybe just in the spring.  This one was close to our RV park. 

Rusty's RV Resort, Rodeo, NM

A two night stop here was definitely a high point of our forced march westward. Rusty's is in a less-than-small dot on the map of southeast New Mexico, right on the Arizona border, in the eastern foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains. What an incredible spot!

We took a day to explore by driving a scenic loop through Portal, AZ and into the mountains. We took a few short hikes to look for the elegant trogon (no luck) and take in the spectacular scenery. 

It was something like Zion National Park, but with more vegetation in the valley, and no people! The rocks are not as red as in Zion, but rather are colored yellow in many places by lichen. 

Ms. Subaru met the challenge of fording several streams.

After all that hard work, we ended the day in Rusty's olympic sized swim spa. 
 It was big enough for Ms. Subaru, but lucky for us she passed up the opportunity.

And on to Arizona!

Another beautiful spot.  Our main reason to stop here was to explore the cave. This time Mark and I took a helmet and headlamps tour.  There are no photos allowed in the cave, so I've got a few shots of the area over the caverns for you to look at while I tell you about what's underground.  Here's a link to some underground photos and a nice story.

The cave was discovered in 1974, and only opened to the public about 12 years ago, if I'm remembering correctly. That means it is very fresh and untrammeled compared to most caves in the US that have been open for much, much longer. Kartchner Caverns uses cutting edge cave preservation technology to keep it pristine while allowing visitors to appreciate it as well. 

We passed through SIX air locked doors to get into the cave and were misted down in one manmade tunnel to keep down the lint and dust visitors bring in with them. The tour we took was completely without lights except for those on our helmets. This gave us a very different view of the cave and all its formations. While it's not as large as Carlsbad, the headlamps let you see more in some ways, because you can choose to look anywhere you want, not just where the preset artificial lighting displays allow you to.

Above ground there were lots of well marked hikes and I took the 2 1/2 mile Foothills Loop early the next morning before we left for our next destination.

Next we were in Tucson for a whole week.  Whew!

Mark left us for his home in New Hampshire.  : (   It was great having him with us for awhile. Plus he was SO helpful with RV repair and maintenance and with the quickest set ups and break downs ever!  But we miss him already.

We spent the week catching up on some tasks around the RV. We needed to replace the cords on several of our accordion blinds - a never-ending chore.  But we still had time to do some sight-seeing and lots of hiking in the desert in our back yard.

Phew! Now I'm caught up and can move on to current events. Next post will be about Phoenix.

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