Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fri, Feb 5, 2010: Journey to Southeast New Mexico, Day 2

I woke up refreshed and relaxed, full of excitement and anticipation for the wonderful things I knew I would see. My plan was to head up to Roswell to see the UFO museum, then down to Carlsbad Caverns, before driving south of the Guadalupe Mountains on my way to Alamogordo.

Heading up to Roswell, I saw a lenticular cloud formation to the west, which seemed a little strange to me given the lack of large mountains nearby. Some UFO skeptics argue that many supposed sightings are actually of lenticular clouds. Once again, I found myself looking at this cloud formation with a smile on my lips. Seriously? This doesn't really look like a UFO to me, aside from the classic "saucer" shape.
I was distracted by a sign pointing me to Brantley Lake State Park, a bit north of Carlsbad. I was curious to see what a lake in the middle of the desert looks like so decided to take a detour. I unexpectedly came across the Pecos River, and startled a large flock of white birds who were relaxing on the calm surface of the water. Their flight was a frenzied piece of chaos in the otherwise still desert.
The lake (which I'm guessing is actually Lake McMillan) reminded me a lot of Lake Pueblo in Colorado, though with even fewer trees. It's strange seeing all of that water sitting in the middle of a plain of parched land.
I think this plant is a yucca. Yes, I took a lot of pictures of them. :) I love their shape: the spiky symmetry of the base, and then the random point of stem from which the flowers bloom.
Brantley Lake State Park is actually pasture land for beef cattle. Here are 2 curious cows, one indifferent bull, some oil extracting equipment pumping juice from the Earth, and the dam behind it all, calmly holding back the waters of the Pecos River.
My eyes soaked in the sights abundant in this new place as I headed back to my original route up to Roswell. The UFO Museum is located right on 285 and is very easy to find!

The museum was filled with information, not only on the Roswell incident of 1947, but also about crop circles, UFO sightings, and the Universe. My favorite part of the museum was all of the witnessed testimony from various military officials explaining what they really saw the day of the Roswell incident.
The museum also has a library filled with what seemed like every book a person might ever want having to do with UFOs or "strange" phenomena.
I wanted to spend some time wandering around in what seemed like the touristy area of Roswell, but left instead so I would have time to tour the Caverns before closing.

As much as I enjoyed Roswell, I'm glad that I left... because I absolutely loved the Caverns.
The caves looked to me like a mermaid's castle lifted dripping from the ocean and placed in the middle of the Earth. The stalactites and draperies hanging from the ceiling resembled dripping seaweed, and the "cave popcorn" formations reminded me of coral skeletons.
The rooms were cool and immense, and despite my uneasiness in enclosed places, I felt entirely comfortable and at peace.
This is a panorama of the Papoose Room:
At one point during the tour of the King's Palace, our tour guides asked us to be silent and turned off the lights. Being completely robbed of my senses was such a powerful and amazing experience, and I found myself feeling very humbled. In complete silence and darkness, I was able to strongly experience the energetic connections between the members of our tour group, as well as our collective connection to the Earth through this cave. Once I let go of my "self", I was able to feel the energy of the people and stone around me like a circuit, flowing out and flowing back and circulating in every atom. I was awe-struck by this experience.

This formation looks like it has a giant jellyfish on the wall!
This is the Green Pool:
Many of the pools in the cave have evaporated since the creation of the elevator shaft, because the water evaporates up into the desert. The Green Pool was one of my favorite places in the entire cave. I received 2 cave kisses in this room: a soft one on my left cheek, and a big splashy one on my right shoulder.

When I left the relative colorlessness of the cave, I emerged into a desert that felt more green and alive than anything I've seen in months.
Driving down the canyon away from Carlsbad Caverns, I studied the plant life around me and was amazed by its diversity.
I headed down Rt. 180/ Rt. 62, south of the Guadalupe Mountains, thinking that if I had time I might pop down to Mexico for a bit. The Guadalupe Mountains were covered in sand and a small amount of shrubby looking cacti, and it was interesting to see how different they appeared in comparison to the pine-covered mountains of Colorado.

This is El Capitain (but not the one in Yosemite!):
The sunset was amazingly beautiful, and I felt like every time I looked at it I was noticing something new and special.
The mountains in this area of New Mexico and Texas seemed to randomly rise out of nowhere and erupt into tall, solitary peaks. They were loners without companion peaks to keep them company.
This was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've had the pleasure of seeing in my life.
The sky went down in flames.
Some time later, I crested a mountain range and found myself looking down into the twinkling light-filled valley of El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico. I wished that it was still light out so I could explore the area a bit, but still had a ways to go before reaching Alamogordo.

My attempts to find Rt. 54 in El Paso were frustrating, and it took me about an hour to end up on the correct road. Although the area seemed pretty in the twilight, all tucked in and surrounded by mountain peaks, I didn't enjoy my time in El Paso very much! The drive up to Alamogordo was mostly uneventful but was unpleasantly interrupted by Border Patrol, who apparently don't actually work on the border. I was questioned, had my trunk searched, and was asked for my license and registration. I wasn't in the mood for it after my long search for Rt. 54, so I commented, "I have my passport, you want to see that too?". The military official declined as if he was doing me a favor. Um, thanks?

I arrived in Alamogordo in pure darkness, knowing that there was spectacular beauty around me that I couldn't see, and I eagerly awaited its unveiling in the morning.

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