Friday, January 5, 2018

Two Top 10's in 2 Days!



First off, an adventure that made our top 10 adventure list.

We had been to several caves and caverns in the past year and thought we had seen some pretty cool stuff but nothing prepared us for what we saw at Carlsbad Caverns. Everybody we talked to says Carlsbad is really cool, but “cool” is relative. We had been to Kartchner Caverns, it was cool. We had been to Wind Cave, it was cool, but nothing prepared us for what we saw at Carlsbad, it was beyond cool!
All of our other underground tours had been guided. Carlsbad has a self-guided tour. Kartchner does not allow cameras, Wind Cave does not allow tripods. Carlsbad allows both. And bonus… it is free! So camera and tripod in hand we headed to take the self-guided tour. We were expecting a line of tourists shuffling along like lemmings while listening to screaming kids, what we got was the total opposite. Although there were other people there, we were pretty much by ourselves the entire tour. Every once in a while someone would pass us as we were taking our time taking pictures but even the kids that passed us were quiet as church mice.

The self-guided tour starts at the Natural Entrance just outside the Visitors Center. This trail is 1.25 miles and goes down 80 stories. You then get to the Big Room which is another 1.25 mile trail that is fairly level. Although the Big Room was the most spectacular, I would recommend walking the whole thing. Some people opted to take the elevator down and walk the whole thing up. I would not recommend that, those that passed us were huffing and puffing the whole way up.
The Natural Entrance

The path leading down to the entrance
We had googled how to take pictures in a cave before we arrived but those settings did not work out for me. Instead most of the pictures that turned out had exposures of up to 5 seconds. Thank goodness for the tripod! Here are some of the better ones that Barb and I took……






 What you don’t get from the pictures is a perspective of how big some of these formations are. They are huge. Some of the columns are 20 or more feet. If you look closely at this picture you can see me standing in the shadows and get an idea of how big some of them are.

Our journey up here was quite the adventure. If you are traveling up here from Big Bend National Park to Carldbad DO NOT take U.S. 285 between Pecos and the caverns! We have not been on a road this rough since leaving Alaska. The section between Pecos and Carlsbad is not only rough but it also takes you through some of the dirtiest oil field country that we have ever seen.

Our next adventure took us to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and it made our top 10 accomplishment list....  The Guadalupe Peak Trail, the highest point in Texas! Our friends Steve and Debbie are on a quest to hike the highpoints in each of the states they visit. They have seen some great sights and been on some great hikes. I don’t know for sure but I think this might have been our first “high point” hike but it will not be our last! And bonus, Steve and Debbie have not done this one so we have one up on them!!!!

It is described as a strenuous 8.5 mile round trip hike that climbs 3,000 feet. Allow 6-8 hours for the hike and be prepared with plenty of water, sun protection and food.

We thought this peak was our goal....we were sadly mistaken, this peak hides another peak even further away....


The first 1 1/2 miles are the most strenuous with a lot of stairs and switchbacks taking you up a steep grade. Combine this with the fact that our lungs and legs usually fight us the first 1/2 hour of any hike we do we thought we made a bad decision fairly early in the hike.

But we trudged on switchback after switchback watching the rig getting further and further away. We started out on the sunny side of the mountain and quickly took off our jackets but once we reached the shady side of the mountain the wind picked up and the jackets came back on. We kept our pace fairly slow taking short breaks at the end of each of the switchbacks. Those were our goals, get to the next switchback.....

Up and up we go.......



Once we got around the first mountain we our real destination!

All was going well until we were about 2/3's of the way up and I noticed Barb was slowing down and lagging behind. I stopped and waited for her, when she caught up she looked like she had been crying as her eyes were all watery. I asked her if she was alright and she said her eyes were acting funny, that she could see fine looking straight ahead but if she looked to the side it was like she was in the matrix. We had both been drinking plenty of water but we took a break, had a bite to eat, more water and carried on.
Almost there!
Her eyes continued to bother her but she refused to turn around and powered through. Before we knew it, we were at the top! It took us 3 hours and 20 minutes from the parking lot to the peak. We had climbed just over 3,000 feet and were now at 8,751 in elevation!

Look at Barb's hair, it was windy up there!

You can see forever! That is El Capitan right in front.
To the West

North.....

East....
There were two other couples up there, one from Alaska who were on a several month road trip and another young couple from Vermont who were heading west to hike the Pacific Coast Trail.  We ate lunch and talked with the other couples for about 30 minutes and headed back down the trail.

Much easier, much faster but you use different muscles going downhill so whole new aches and pains. Luckily, the rest at the top was just what Barb needed and her eyes were fine on the way down. 2 hours and 10 minutes later we found ourselves in the parking lot where we stumbled to the rig and took off our boots.
Headed back down......


Our rig is waaaaaay down there in the center to the right of the wash
We were sore and tired but very glad that we stuck it out and made it to the top!  
Our travel plans over the next month are forever changing and evolving. Our tentative plans from here are to head to Tucson (1/7) Casa Grande (1/11), then on to Organ Pipe (1/14), Yuma (1/16) and finally Quartzsite (1/20). If we are going to be in your area, send us a note maybe we can get together for a beer!

28 comments:

  1. Great job on the hike! That is one I would like to do also. Carlsbad is awesome! The only problem is that we did it first and now other caves are a bit of a disappointment.

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    1. We plan on hitting more caves and caverns on our travels and are now curious how they will measure up to Carlsbad.

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  2. We made our first visit to Carlsbad Caverns just last winter. Definitely glad we decided on this route to see it. You two are truly amazing!!! That was a crazy climb...3,000 ft is really tough. Way to go!! Hope Barb's eyes are all right now. Congratulations!

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    1. Now, the next morning, we are both questioning our decision to climb that peak. We are both moaning and groaning around the rig!

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  3. Good job on the hike and photos. You guys sure get around making fun memories. Safe travels.

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  4. Tylenol! Goid job on the hike with amazing views. We agree about Carlsbad after visiting this past year.

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  5. Very nice pictures of the cavern. You are right though, they just don't show the perspective of the size of the place. Maybe Barb needs those horse blinders for hiking. Safe travels.

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    1. Next time we see you guys why don't you try and put the blinders on her and see if you get kicked!

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  6. I enjoy reading your blog. My husband and I are traveling 6-7 months a year seeing all the NP, NM,etc. Lehman Caves in Great Basin NP is another amazing cave. Well worth the longer guided tour. Thanks for your travel info!

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    1. We have never been to Lehman Caves but are traveling through that area later this spring. Thanks for reading!

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  7. Great job on completing hikes. Look forward to seeing you in Q!

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  8. We also were unprepared for Carlsbad Caverns - we hiked down and back up since the elevator wasn’t working! We were blown away by size of the whole thing! Awesome job on the hike! Hope we catch up with you guys at some point!

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    1. That would be a long hike and thigh killer on the way back up!

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  9. We loved Carlsbad Caverns too, and definitely want to see it again. Ray has a new camera lens and cannot wait to try it out.

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  10. I think we are literally following behind you, so thank you for the road condition report and the fabulous pictures.

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    1. Not a problem! It is getting warmer the further west we get, just got into AZ today and it is finally over 70!

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  11. Carlsbad sounds great and is on our list for next year. With a 3000' elevation gain that's quite the accomplishment completing that hike!
    Safe travels!

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    1. You won't regret it, make sure you take your tripod!

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  12. Thanks for the Carlsbad Caverns review, Jim! Looks like a place we need to check out. Congrats on making it to the top of Texas!

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    1. We drove by Carlsbad last time we were in the area, if you have not been there at least one don't just drive by!

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  13. Your pictures were great. Love that they let you take a tripod. I'm not a huge fan of caves, but that one looks really beautiful and on the big side so I might be ok.

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    1. This one is not bad at all for claustrophobia if you take the elevator down and up. I ceilings in the "Big Room" are very tall.

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  14. Those caverns were really awesome! We like the uniqueness of each of them. Congrats on making it up Guadalupe! Wish we could've hiked that one. You only have 27 more to go to pass us! ;-)

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    1. We know better than to try and surpass your peak climbing achievements, we are content with just having one high point that you don't!

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