May 23rd, 2003
Departing Boulder Friday afternoon it was a long drive down towards Guadalupe Peak. We sailed down I-25 until
just outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico where we headed for Ft. Sumner. Remembering from the Young Guns movie that Billy the Kid was buried somewhere in the
area I made a phone call to a friend who did an internet search and told us he's buried 3 miles east of Ft. Sumner off Highway 60. We arrived at the
gravesite of William H. Bonney(Billy the Kid) just as it was getting dark. He's buried in small cemetery and his grave has actually been stolen a couple
times most recently in 1981 and once in 1950 where it remained lost for 26 years. I was happy to learn that somebody did etch the word "PALS" on his grave,
just like the movie said.
After looking around the cemetery and taking some photos we proceeded south across the dark New Mexico desert.
Just outside of Roswell we decided to set up camp for the evening around 10 p.m. Leaving the rainfly off my tent we were treated to nice views of the stars
and also allowed us to keep an eye out for UFOs. Noticing the stars were rapidly disappearing I got up and put on the rainfly just before it began to
sprinkle a little bit.
May 24th, 2003
We got up fairly early, ate some breakfast and proceeded to Roswell. The alien crash has really put this town
on the map and the downtown area is packed with alien stores. Taking some quick photos we continued to Carlsbad Caverns located just outside of Carlsbad,
We decided we wanted to hike down the Natural Entrance to the Caverns and tour the Big Room. The Natural
Entrance trail descends about 800 vertical in about 1 mile and is a must do. Below is a photo of the cave entrance and also the viewing location for the Bat
Flight during the evening.
We began our descent into the cave and the temperatures quickly dropped. Taking the Natural Entrance really
gives you a sense of just how big the Caverns are, the path seems to descend forever. There are several interesting cave formations along the descent to the
Big Room including the photo below which is called the Whale's Mouth. This was one of my favorite formations in the Caverns.
We finally made it down to the Big Room and the name says it all. It is absolutely massive and the path around
the perimeter of the room is more than a mile long. The are dozens and dozens of formations lit up for display like the photo below.
After completing the tour of the Big Room guests are treated to an elevator ride back out of the cavern. There
are also gift shops and a restaraunt underground in the Cavern.
We arrived back on the surface around 1 p.m. and discovered the first Bat Flight of the year was taking place
at 7:15 p.m. Guadalupe Peak is only about 40 miles away so we realized we might have time to hike the peak and make it back in time for the bat flight
instead of hiking the peak early Sunday morning. It was decided and the race against the clock began. We hurried over to the trailhead, got our gear
ready, dropped our $3 donation in the box and began hiking around 2:15 p.m. It was a very hot afternoon, we had originally planned to hiked Guadalupe early
Sunday morning to be out of the hot afternoon sun, and I wouldn't recommend hiking this peak in the hottest part of the day.
The trail begans switchbacking up the slopes heading towards a cliff area in the photo below.
We passed a couple parties carrying big packs up to the camping area and another day hiker who wasn't fairing
so well. The trail traverses along a ledge shown in the photo below.
Passing the ledge you cross over a ridge and then begin ascending through a somewhat forested area. We were
making good time but noticed a thunderstorm off in the distance. Eyeing the storm as we proceeded it seemed to be moving very slowly. If it would hold out
another hour or so we could make the summit and retreat back to a relatively safe area. Proceeding onward we passed several parties on the descent including
one guy who warned us he had seen a rattlesnake near the wooden bridge. The photo below shows the summit of Guadalupe Peak still a little further
Proceeding cautiously past the wooden bridge we didn't see any snakes so we continued on to the summit. We
made it to the summit at 4 p.m. taking just under 2 hours for the ascent. We took in the views of Texas and New Mexico and had the summit all to ourselves.
We signed the registered, took some summit photos, and I made my traditional call to my mom to tell her we made it.
For a summit panoramic Click Here--See Note below if image seems small.
NOTE: some version of your browser may shrink the image to fit in one window, if this is the case, hold your mouse over the image for several seconds and click the button that appears on the right side of the image.
The photo below is the classic shot of El Capitan from the summit.
After staying on the summit for about 20 minutes or so, another storm was approaching from the southwest so we decided
to head back down quickly. We made good time coming back down as it began to lightly sprinkle. The rain felt very refreshing and was light enough to that we
didn't need to put on our raincoats. Passing the ledge through the cliff section it began to thunder and lightning and the intensity of the rain picked up.
We stopped at the end of a switchback to put on our raincoats and as I had my head in my backpack I heard the all too familar hiss of a rattlesnake. The
snake was up along the hillside about level with Amy's head, luckily she seen the snake and quickly backed away. Once the snake realized we were no threat to
him, he quit hissing at us and allowed us to don our raingear. The snake blended in to the environment really well as shown in the photo below.
It was only about 20 minutes or so back to the car and we signed out at about 6:15 p.m. bringing our total hiking time
to about 4 hours exactly. Looks like we just might make the Bat Flight back in Carlsbad after all. We quickly departed and was treated to a spectacular
lightning show as we zoomed across the desert. After the storm a beautiful rainbow came out shown in the photo below.
We arrived back at the Caverns with about 10 minutes to spare as we found a seat for the bat flight. The ranger gives a
lecture about the Mexican Freetail Bats as you wait for the bats to emerge from the cave. It wasn't long before the bats began pouring out. The bats circle
the cave entrance in a counter-clockwise direction gaining altitude to get out of the cave. As the numbers of the bats increased the scene began to look like
a tornado of bats swirling out of the cave. The photo below didn't turn out as great as I wished, but all the grey area is bats and not the rock.
The bats scatter in all directions as the fly off into the desert sky, appearing almost like smoke. That is actually
how the cave was discovered, a nearby resident thought there was a fire on the hillside and went to investigate.
After watching what had to be many thousands of bats stream of out the cave we headed back to Carlsbad for the
May 25th, 2003
We hit the road out of Carlsbad around 10 a.m. and today's destination was Santa Fe. Heading west across the New Mexico
desert we were treated to more displays of lightning and a hailstorm that seemed hard enough that the hail was going to pierce the roof of the car at any
moment. We arrived in Santa Fe around 4 p.m. and cruised the multitude of shops and art displays. One definite point of interest in Santa Fe is the
Miraculous Staircase at the Loretto Chapel in the photo below.
The staircase remains a mystery for serveral reasons, the identity of its builder, the type of wood, and the physics of
the staircase construction. When the Loretto Chapel was completed, there was no way to access the choir loft, 22 feet above. Carpenters were called in to
address the problem but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small
Chapel. To find a solution to the problem, the Sisters of the Chapel prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Legend says on the ninth and final
day of prayer, a man showed up at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later the elegant circular staircase was completed and the
carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded
that he was St. Joseph himself. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and has no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built
without nails, only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and
other materials used in the stairway's construction. Architects, carpenters, and disbelievers all wondered exactly who the craftsman was, and where he'd
purchased his materials. Every lumber yard in New Mexico was approached and questioned, but to this day no one has ever come up with an invoice. No one ever
found the name of the genius who built the steps to the loft. The many searchers did agree on one thing; the wood used in the staircase was foreign to the
United States. Visitors from the Middle East have claimed that the hardwood used, belongs to them. No one has ever been able to identify the type of wood.
May 26th, 2003
After checking out the Miraculous Staircase, we said goodbye to Santa Fe and began the journey back to Colorado.
Crossing the border back into Colorado the Sangre de Cristos and the Front Range looked to be getting blasted by thunderstorms. We arrived back in Boulder
about 4 p.m. bringing our mileage total to right about 1,600 miles. It was a very awesome weekend, from Billy the Kid to freetail bats, from rattlesnakes to
rainbows, and from summit panoramas to staircases from heaven.