After a short 40 mile drive from Guadalupe Mountains NP in Texas, The Bearded Man promptly checked into the Trinity Hotel in Carlsbad, New Mexico, about 25 miles from the Carlsbad Caverns NP entrance and fell asleep. Although there are no lodging facilities inside the park, the town of Carlsbad offers a wide variety of options. Our man chose the Trinity Hotel for it's history, food and comfy beds. According to our traveler, "I was was so tired my eyelids hurt". In any case, 14 hours of sleep was in order and we now have a refreshed Bearded Man.
At the intersection of the southern Rocky Mountain Range, northern Chihuahuan Desert and southwestern Great Plains bio-goegraphic provinces, Carlsbad represents a diverse ecosystem including the karst system (a what?) that created Carlsbad Caverns. While most of the caves people are familiar with - such as Mammoth Cave in Kentucky - were formed by rainwater slowly dissolving limestone, the caves of the Guadalupe Mountains were formed in a different fashion. Between 4 and 6 million years ago (pre-internet) hydrogen/sulfide rich waters began to move through fractures in the limestone. When mixed with rainwater it formed sulfuric acid (H2SO4 for those keeping score at home), which dissolved the limestone and formed Carlsbad Cavern. This now concludes the scientific portion of our lesson today - There will be a short quiz after lunch.
After a self-guided hike through the natural entrance to the caverns, The Bearded Man will be taking a park ranger guided tour through The Kings Palace today, some 830 feet below the desert. He feels most fortunate since Thursday's guided tour is through Spider Cave. And even though he has no fear of spiders - unlike some sissies - we share his feelings that any cave with the word 'spider' in it should be avoided. I mean, what if the spiders are 3 feet tall with track shoes and a pellet gun? Why risk it.
"The Dawn of the Bats", one of the most unique occurrences at any national park, takes place at Carlsbad Caverns. Each summer people gather in the evening at the entrance to the cave and watch hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out of the cave in their nightly search for food (and the necks of young innocent people if I'm not mistaken). But few witness their return just before dawn. Unfortunately, the annual "Dawn of the Bats" event takes place on July 17th and The Bearded Man will be somewhere around Rocky Mountain National Park by then. So he will have to be content to see the exit of the bats this evening (while wearing three turtlenecks) before finishing the night with a star gazing expedition and heading back to the comfort of the Trinity Hotel.
Thursday morning The Bearded Man will be driving west across New Mexico on US 10, heading into Arizona, on his way to Saguaro National Park, just outside Tucson. The trip should take about 8 hours, so there are a couple of planned stops along the way. First stop is Cloudcroft, New Mexico, a small town of about 850 people. Located in the Lincoln National Forest, at an elevation of 8,600, Cloudcroft is typically a good 20 degrees cooler than towns only 30 minutes away at lower elevations. It is also home to Big Daddy's Diner, serving the best fried peanut butter & jelly sandwich in the state of New Mexico. And let's be honest here, you simply can't pass up a chance to eat something that healthy. Peruse the Big Daddy menu for yourself. http://www.bigdaddysdinercloudcroft.com/menus.html
The Bearded Man's second stop on his way to Saguaro NP is in Bowie, Arizona, home of the world famous Geronimo's Castle. A large teepee that was once a Greyhound Bus Station (I think my dad slept there once - or a week), a filling station and later a bar with the best bar marketing line of all time - "Stop in for a bottle of beer". Brilliant! But while many say Geronimo was captured on the spot of Geronimo's Castle, which would at least explain the first part of the name, alas, Geronimo was neither captured here, nor did he live in a castle. It's a shame really, because The Bearded Man can't "Stop in for a bottle of beer". He will however need to get something to drink while in Bowie, as that fried PB&J is stuck...right about here.
You thought we forgot about the quiz, didn't you? Wrong! Sit down and get out a sharpened #2 pencil (is there a #3 pencil?). Question 1: What is a karst system? Question 2: What do we call people who are afraid of spiders? Question 3: Do bats turn people into vampires as we have long suspected? Please submit your answers to LCSmith@TheMountCo.com for your chance to win an autographed Teddy T. We have no idea who we can find to sign the T-shirt, but it will in fact be signed.