Our trip in late April 2008
Our Travels

On the Way to Carlsbad Caverns NP (NM) and Mesa Verde NP (CO)

State and National Parks and Monuments Visited:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hueco Tanks State Historical Park (TX)
White Sands National Monument
Saguaro National Park
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Petrified Forest National Park
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park

Guadalupe Mountain NP (TX) and Carlsbad Caverns NP (NM)

We left Big Bend and headed for the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns NP. We had heard a lot about Carlsbad from one of the Park Rangers at Mesa Verde last summer, and so felt we should see it for ourselves. And so we did....and it was amazing!

Carlsbad Carverns are huge! The "Big Room", for instance, is 8.2 acres and from it are still more sections of the caverns that go on for miles. Unfortunately, it was the wrong time of the year to watch the millions of bats fly into and out of the cave ....but maybe next time.

It also was good visiting two Park Rangers who were working there---Robbie Anderson with whom we had worked at Mesa Verde, and Andy Dannaker who had been at Cape Hatteras with us. In fact, we've come to discover that the world of National Park Rangers in general, and seasonal Park Rangers in particular is a fairly small world. And so we are beginning to find old friends and acquaintences all over the country!

Needless to say, it was fun comparing notes with Robbie and Andy, getting an inside view of the caverns, and then being with Robbie at the end of the day when his job was to slowly turn off all the lights inside the caverns!
Deep within Carlsbad Caverns
Deep within Carlsbad Caverns

White Sands National Monument

From Carlsbad we drove to White Sands National Monument. Our lead Ranger at Cape Hatteras, Mac McClammy, had worked at White Sands NM and so once again we felt we already knew quite a bit about it and had to see it.

And White Sands NM is an awesome place! Essentially it is over 275 square miles of gypsum sand that was created when run off from nearby gypsum deposits were trapped in a basin (called Lake Lucero). Every year the water in the lake evaporates, the remaining gypsum crystals start breaking down, and eventually everything turns to sand. Because the area is surrounded by mountains, the sand can't go anywhere and it just accumulates.

The end result is an immense sand dune! It's all very white and very barren....and we were happy we weren't visiting in the middle of the summer!

White Sands NM
Sara "hiking" at White Sands NM
White Sands NM

Saguaro NM in Arizona

From Carlsbad we drove to Saguaro...not only because we wanted to see all these amazing Saguaro cactuses, but also because Emily Zivot was working there. Emily had been with us at Cape Hatteras...and once again it was fun catching up, hearing about how Cape Hatteras had changed last year, and getting updates on what some of our friends from Cape Hatteras were doing.

Much to our surprise, Saguaro really is almost like a "city park." It's right on the edge of Tucson, many of its visitors are local residents who use it the way New Yorkers use Central Park, and it's huge---offering all kinds of options. There are sections which climb up into local mountains and then there are the flats which are more like what we had envisioned. And the Saguaro cacti are amazing---and they can be very big!

Saguaro NP
Saguaro NP
Saguaro NP

Casa Grande NM(AZ)

Just north of Tucson and east of Phoenix is Florence, AZ where Sara's cousins, the Ishams, live in the winter. And so we visited them...parking our Pursuit in their village of mobile homes. And since Casa Grande Ruins National Monument was so close, we went to see it.

Casa Grande was built by the Hohokam people and completed sometime around 1350. Although they are a different group of people than the Ancestral Puebloans who lived at Mesa Verde, it was interesting seeing what they had done, how they had built their homes, and comparing some of their culture to the culture of the people at Mesa Verde.

Casa Grande NM
Casa Grande NM

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Our next stop was Canyon de Chelly National Monument....located right in the midst of the Navajo reservation.

We had visited Canyon de Chelly last summer, but only had a few hours and it was incredible hot.....and much too hot to hike or do anything. And so we said that we'd have to come back sometime. And we did!

Since there's only one self-guided tour and since visitors can't go into the canyon alone, the only way really to see anything is on a formal tour. And so we went on a tour sponsored by Thunderbird Lodge---the lodge at Canyon de Chelly NM. And it was incredible!

In a 6-wheel vehicle that could go anyway, we drive up the river, through the river, and across the gullies, and got to see a number of the famous Canyon de Chelly cliff dwellings and most of the canyons!

Riding "The Machine" in Canyon de Chelly NM
Canyon de Chelly NM
Canyon de Chelly NM

And after spending the morning at Canyon de Chelly NM, we headed on to Mesa Verde NP!

Mesa Verde National Park (CO)

It was fun going back to Mesa Verde NP. We saw snow on the mesa which we hadn't seen last year, snow on all the surrounding mountains, and the effects of a very hard winter on the entire park. We also got to see many of our friends and fellow Rangers from last summer. And one evening, we had a wonderful dinner in town with some of them.

Going back to Mesa Verde felt like we were going back to one of our former homes. Everything just felt familier... we knew where we were and where the stores we needed were, and we didn't have to waste time trying to orient ourselves. And so it was fun.

And yet in some other ways, it was fun just being a visitor and having all time in the world to do whatever we wanted.

After three nights relaxing nights at the Mesa Verde/Cortez KOA, we finally continued on our trip....heading towards Utah and Natural Bridges National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, and eventually towards Yellowstone and Alaska!

Bruce and Sara--Travels in 2008 (Opening Page)

Jan to April 2008---The SAM Shortline in Cordele, GA

April 1st to April 13, 2008---Driving from GA to Big Bend NP, TX

April 14st to April 23, 2008---Driving from Big Bend NP,TX to Mesa Verde NP

April 24 to May 4, 2008---Snow in Yellowstone, a Change in Plans, and a Detour to Zion NP

May 4 to May 11, 2008---From Zion NP to Salt Lake City and Glacier, and then to Canada

May 12 to May 16, 2008---Kootenay, Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks Yoho)

May 16 to May 25, 2008---The Alaskan Highway---From Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Skagway, Alaska

May 25 to June 7, 2008---Southeast Alaska--Skagway, Sitka, Juneau, and Haines

June 8 to June 21, 2008---Haines Junction, Fairbanks, and Denali

June 22 to July 4, 2008---The Kenai Peninsula: Portgage, Seward, and Homer

July 5 to July 22, 2008---Whittier, Anchorage, Palmer, Valdez Prince William Sound and Wrangell-St. Elias NP

July 23 to July 28, 2008---Driving Down the Cassier Highay: Steward and Hyder

July 29 to August 14, 2008---Driving Home after 13,600 Miles

If you want to write to or contact Bruce and Sara, their email addresses are: bruce@schundler.net and/or sara@schundler.net

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