May 10--Tuesday: There were two things we wanted to see in Carlsbad. First was the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. We got there early and it wasn’t open yet, so we drove down toward what looked like a huge bridge but turned out to be an aqueduct, part of the first system to bring water to the area. Nearby stood one of the first dwellings ever in the Carlsbad area, which had served at times as a personal home and at one point as a dentist’s office. After that, we returned to the Living Desert where we saw a lot of local plants, cacti and sage and juniper, among many others. We also saw wolves, buffalo, javelina, pronghorn antelope, elk, desert tortoises, a gray fox, two golden eagles and a bald headed eagle that had lost most of one wing, and a hawk, as well as other birds. The animals were caged, of course, but many were either rescue animals, like the eagle, or part of a conservation effort, like the tortoises.
After that we went to Carlsbad caverns. It was a pretty long drive from the town, through rising hills, but once we got there and went in it was simply magnificent. It took us well over an hour just to walk around inside, and both Lana and I agreed that it was the single best experience of our trip. I have one photo of it on the blog today, but Lana will have many more over time and I’ll let you know when she puts those up. Just let me say, it’s well worth a visit.
On the way out we stopped at one other site. Down the hill from the caverns was a place in the cliffs where Native Americans had lived at various times. There was a stream nearby, dry at the moment. I took some photos and will run them at some point, but there wasn’t much to see, just a narrow overhang and rock beneath. I thought for a long time about what hard living that would be. Put our hotel woes into perspective.
We finally had dinner at a barbecue place in Carlsbad and it was pretty decent. That was nice after the previous night’s fiasco. I finally got a few minutes to read on my Kindle and started Sidney Williams’ new thriller, Midnight Eyes.
May 11--Wednesday: We were up early and drove all the way into Arizona, ending up stopping in a little town called St. Johns. This was the worst hotel we’d seen yet, and the most expensive, but the day we had getting there made up for it. We first stopped at the Hubbard Museum of the American West, in Ruidoso Downs. We saw a Colt 45 that Billy the Kid had once owned, and a bunch of other guns (see pics). We saw a Conestoga wagon, which weighs in at 3000 pounds and will haul 5000 pounds. We saw a Pony Express saddle with all its mail pouches. There were historic saddles, spurs, and plenty of Indian artifacts. I took copious notes for background color if I decide to do another western. We had a great breakfast at a little places called Jorges. I had steak and eggs and hash browns. Yum.
We then drove up through tree-green mountains, through a town called Ruidoso. It’s a ski town in season and was just beautiful. Lana and both agreed that it would be a very interesting place to live. By afternoon we were down to the Rio Grande, which had been diverted in one area to form a nature sanctuary called Bosque del Apache. This was an amazing place. Even though it was off season, we still saw huge numbers of birds, as well as a mule deer and a bull snake. We saw two turkeys, a bunch of herons, egrets, ducks, coots and swallows, along with a pheasant and some weird black ibises. After that, as we drove on, we saw a herd of 20 or more elk, and several pronghorn antelopes. We also stopped and took pictures at the Very Large Array. We crossed the Continental Divide, and we saw a tumbleweed blowing right down the road at us. At last I knew we were in the west.