Brian A. Hopkins Visits
New Mexico & Carlsbad Caverns


One: Off Road in the Guadalupe Mountains


I think they call this sort of country chaparral -- a Spanish word for "land with
lots of plants that you don't dare sit upon."  Summer and I
thought the cacti were pretty cool, though.


We especially liked the many varieties of Cholla.


Desert or no, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you can find life everywhere.
If it sees you first, it's usually gone.  The trick is to have the camera ready ... and not
make a lot of noise or sudden movements.  You can see these guys checking us out,
but we're doing our best not to appear threatening.  The fact that we're not carrying
firearms probably helps.  Relax, I'm only gonna shoot you guys with my camera...


Some of the wildlife you'll spot is quite large.


Some of it is quite small.  (It helps to look under rocks.  We also found a tarantula
under a rock, but, silly me, I didn't take its picture -- thought we'd find a bigger one.)


It's wise to take along some wildlife of your own.


Two:  Climbing in the Guadalupe Mountains


To see some of the more remote areas, you should be prepared for some climbing.


Derek is like a mountain goat and generally spent his time waiting on the rest of us to catch up.


There he is waiting now.  You can just make out Summer (in yellow) working her way up toward him.
I'm below, taking the picture (and catching my breath).  Betty is even further below ... probably tuckered out.


Eventually, we generally got to where we wanted to be, though.
Here we are, pretty effing high in the sky.  How high?


There's our vehicle (silver Rodeo on left)  ... a million miles below.


Occasionally, Summer needed a hand.


Derek generally found his own way up.


And I did my best to keep up with him, old man that I am...


The climb was always worth it.  Here I am sitting beside Sitting Bull
Springs (just downstream from Sitting Bull Falls).


And if you're looking for caves -- as we were -- you have to keep your eyes open
and go where the general public does not.  With over 800 known caves in the Guadalupe
Mountains, they're not that terribly hard to find if you don't mind the hike.


Three:  The Caves


This is the natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, where many (but not all) of the following
photos were taken.  We did several other caves, including undeveloped ones where
we had to bring our own light source (I swear by Mag-Lite brand flashlights).  In one
of the guided tours through an undeveloped cave, we had to use a candle-lit lantern,
which provided the rare opportunity to experience the cave as the first explorers did.


I took so many photos of gorgeous formations, that it's
difficult to decide what to include here.


Here's a lovely drapery.


A cool subterranean pond.


Flowstone and more draperies.


A secret passage to adventures untold.

Betty wondering if we're lost.  Derek on point (of course).


Betty and Summer pausing before a forest of speleothems.


A wonderfully ornate stalagmite.


One of the truly unique formations in Carlsbad's Big Room; "The Lion's Tail" it's called


And though this formation wasn't labeled, I know what I would call it.  I definitely
feel as if I have been clutched to the bosom of Mother Earth after seeing this.
There's nothing in the picture to give you a reference, so you'll just have to trust
me that this speleothem is about five feet in diameter.  What cup size would that be?


An interesting side passage.


A Chinese temple?


More colorful flowstone.


Derek and Summer pause in their explorations.


A friendly troglodyte snapped this one for us.


More cave madness.


Yours truly before a fascinating column.


A giant mound of ice cream, melting in the rain?


I was tempted ... but, no, I decided that this ladder couldn't be trusted.


A slender column.

More ice cream.


Copyright 2011 Brian A. Hopkins, 2011-07-31 11:20,