Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SPRING TREK 2013: Tucson to Hobbs, NM

Huge sign on side of the road
welcomes you to Hobbs.  

SUNDAY, March 24
Carlsbad to Hobbs, NM
Click HERE to view pictures

     Brrr!  Hard to image that just over two weeks ago we were running the air conditioner because the trailer was 102 degrees inside!  This morning it was 42 degrees after a chilly and windy night.  Rick said he broke a little piece of ice off in putting away the water hose this morning.  Our hands were COLD packing up!  But….give thanks we are not in the mid-west!  It could be a lot worse!  And the winds did again die down in the middle of the night. 

     We are off this morning bound for our Habitat build in Hobbs, NM.  Departure time of 8:20 am – plenty of time to stop and grab a coffee and make the 70 mile drive UP to Hobbs.  That was a surprise.  Carlsbad is at an elevation of 1200’.  We expected Hobbs to be the same, but had noted that the town was usually 5-10 degrees cooler than Carlsbad.  We found out why today….we climbed steadily from Carlsbad.  Final result?  Welcome to Hobbs, elevation 3685’!!  Hobbs is even higher elevation than Baker City! 
Landscape as we leave
Fireball at the top of refinery. 
    Much of the rather flat terrain between Carlsbad and Hobbs was marked with potash mines, oil grasshoppers, and refineries.  One refinery had a HUGE flame burning.
     Found the beautiful white spire of the Presbyterian Church easily and parked along a side street.  Quickly changed clothes, although I was grumbling because I didn’t bring any “cool weather” church clothes.  They had to take me in my jeans and good windbreaker.  I did put on my Sekko sandals, even though my feet were cold.  My tennis shoes are shot already – tar on the toes in addition to the tie dye blobs!  Not church shoes! 
     We were welcomed graciously by the Hobbs congregation.  So many came up and introduced themselves.  I won’t remember all the names: Eleanor, Lolly, Harold and Megan (pastor and his wife), Archie.  Good service with a good message.  Either the acoustics in the sanctuary are bad, or the congregation doesn’t sing very much!  We went in for coffee hour and visited briefly. One neat room at the church houses a ‘Memorial Wall’ with a wide variety of crosses, each given in memory of a loved one.  I liked the idea and the variations of materials and styles. 
The memorial cross wall at Hobbs FPC

     On out to Sanger & Seminole to find the Habitat ‘campground’.  The property sits behind old batting cages and next to an old pecan orchard. Previous owners installed the RV hook-ups, but it now owned by the city.  The city donates the use to Habitat Care-a-Vanners.  There are 6 sites (only five usable right now).  One couple from Idaho Falls will be leaving in the morning.  The others, from North Dakota and San Diego, CA, will be continuing on another build session.  Also a single lady volunteer, but we haven’t met her yet – she was up in Roswell for the day.
Our new residence at Hobbs Habitown.
     All came out to greet us, and then left us alone to settle in to our spot – right in the middle!  As the forecast is for temps in the mid 20’s again tonight, we decide to leave the front bed up for a couple nights until things warm up.  By then we will be glad to have the space! 

First glimpse of the Habitat house we will
be working on.  
     Calls to family and then an orientation drive to acquaint ourselves with the town of Hobbs!  We get directions up to the build site of the two homes and the Habitat lots.  Nice looking places.  We will  be doing some sheet- rocking to begin with I think.  On to find the Albertsons for a little grocery restocking, then Dollar Tree for more Salad Dressing! 
  Relaxation time prior to dinner out at the Cattle Baron with the Habi-town residents: Izy and Kathy from North Dakota, Arleta & Carl from San Diego, and Lois and Byron from Idaho.  Salad and soup buffet for Rick and I!  A good chance to get to know each other further. 

SATURDAY, March 23

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Click HERE to view LOTS of pictures! 

     What an adventure we had today! We drove back down the highway to White's City and then back up Walnut Canyon's winding road to the top of the plateau - a windswept barren hillside of scrub bushes, cacti, and sage brush!  I had forgotten how EMPTY the cavern area was!  
Dropping down the natural entrance to Carlsbad. 
     Our hope was to pick up our tour tickets and then have time to descend into the cave via the natural entrance.  It worked.  We didn't 'dawdle', but we also took the time to enjoy our rather solitary entry into the cave.  We passed just one other couple on the way down.  (Coming back up between 1:30 and 2pm, we passed a steady stream of tourists descending down....many of them in flipflops or carrying young children.  I didn't envy any of them!)
     We arrived at the rest area/food room at 9:40...right on time to gather for our 10am tour.  Rick and I were trying to remember if we had been able to visit the King's Chamber in 1994 when we came to the caverns with Jed and Luke.  Our guide said the chambers were self guided until 1993!!  And I'm sure we didn't pay extra back then....we didn't have extra to pay!  It was worth the cost.  Our guide was Annie and she reminded me of Nicole Butler....fun, blond, and good with the crowd.  Our group was fairly large.  

     It is hard to describe Carlsbad Caverns.  I didn't try to label every picture with it's 'title', but rather just enjoyed the variety of formations, shapes and shadows.  The park service has done an excellent job of lighting: subdued yet adequate for vision purposes.  You rarely see the lights themselves as they are tucked into spots where they backlight or spotlight various formations.  All lighting is natural.  The colors suggested in some of the pictures are more from pigments in the limestone.  

     It was a good day to be inside!  New Mexico is being hit with a cold front meeting up with the warm air.  High winds are forecast (up to gusts of 50 mph) and the temps are going to be dropping below freezing tonight.  Cuddle up time!  The winds really pick up in the afternoon and evening hours.  
Early spelunkers marked their path with smudges from the
fire torches. 
Drapery formations.
     Discovered yesterday in reading through the materials that we won't be able to see the bats.  They haven't returned yet from Mexico.  :(  Does make it easier to make the decision to leave sooner, however!  
Bashful Elephant
The Lion's Tail
     After the King's Chamber ranger led tour, we grabbed a sandwich and split it and add some of the apple we brought with us.  We discovered as we were coming into the cave that they don't want ANY food brought in now.  Regulations are strict to make sure that the caves stay as pristine as possible.  (I say caves in multiple because the national park has over 100 discovered caves below the surface, including the more recently discovered (1986) Lechuquilla Cave with 120 MILES of charted caverns.  (In contrast Carlsbad has only 30 miles of charted cave.)  My question is.....why doesn't the whole mountain collapse in on itself!?? 

     After lunch and enjoyable mile walk around the Big Room on a self-guided tour.  So many famous formations in this enormous chamber.  Plenty of people by this time, so the quiet and solitude was definitely altered a bit!  

     We finished up on the second self-guided tour and decided the elevator lines were too long and we were up for the hike back up and out of the cavern.  No one passed us along the way and we passed no one else.  Not sure many were opting for the hike out.  But....we did it in 39 minutes and only stopped for a breather a couple times!  Not too bad for two old folks!  
     Back to the trailer for a quick change and then into 'town'....dinner and gas in the truck.  We drove up and down Main Street (actually called Canal Street) and decided on the Chilis Restaurant.  It was super crowded, but we were able to sit without waiting at a booth in the bar.  Good meal, especially good guacamole and chips appetizer!  
     Relaxing now and waiting for pictures to upload on the computer.  The wind is blowing dust into the trailer.  Such could be our life in Hobbs for the next two weeks!  

FRIDAY, March 22
Guadalupe National Park
Las Cruces NM to Carlsbad NM via Texas!!
Click HERE to view today's pictures

     I can now add Texas to my list of states visited!  And a 5 minute (no more than 10) trek into Central Time Zone!  
     We took a leisurely morning departure, knowing we only had 210 miles to travel.  That opportunity allowed us to have a good chat with Pete before we left.  Pete also took the mail which we still hadn't been able to deposit in a mail box!  He reiterated that we are welcome back to Las Cruces Habitat ANYTIME, but reminded us that we can have a huge impact on many of the smaller builds across the country.  I appreciated his comments.  We didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Dyanna.  Probably should have knocked on her door to see if she was up and about!  
     We altered our 'exit route' from Las Cruces to swing past a Big O Tire Store and have the trailer tires checked.  Rick thought they were a little low.  While there, I ran across the street and picked up a couple of cheap coffees at the Valero Corner Market.  On our way out of town finally by 9:45am.  
The Franklin Mts. north of El Paso.  We went around them rather
than over the top! 
     Pete and Maria had recommended an alternate route to bypass the traffic of El Paso.  Rick and I had been discussing whether to try the TransMountain Road north of town, but Maria said she always uses another road just north of the Texas border.  It connects with the road south from White Sands Missile Range.  We took it - smooth sailing!  Ran into some traffic at the junction with the Transmountain Road - a little ugly for about 3 miles - and then back to freeway conditions down to Hwy 180/62 east to Guadalupe and Carlsbad.  We never really SAW any of El Paso, but that's ok!!  We saw the airport and parts of Fort Bliss Army base!  
My first view once inside Texas.  Hmmmm.
     The terrain was a little hillier than we expected leaving El Paso.  We climbed abit and then leveled out on a plateau.  This must be a major migrant channel east of El Paso: we went through an inspection station, saw 4 helicopters, two of which were flying VERY low, and a number of Border Patrol trucks along the road.  We didn't see alot of cars!  
The vast NOTHING of this part
of Texas. 
     There are NOT many settlements along this stretch of the Texas Mountain Trail (we saw a few signs for that!)  Plenty of signs advertising real estate in 10 and 20 acre plots.  It seemed a ridiculously small section.  Rick and I thought it looked like they should be selling in 100 or 1000 acres sections!  So much vast space!  
West side of the Guadalupe Mts.  
Swinging around the southern end of mountains
and preparing to head over the pass.  
     The Guadalupe Mountains are significant as you approach from the west heading east.  El Capitan is the prominent rock outcropping, but it isn't the highest.  Guadalupe Peak at about 8700' is the highest point in Texas.  We stopped at the Visitor Center (the truck said THAT was a good pull up the pass!) for the National Park.  I didn't even know until this trip that there WAS a national park here!  It was windy and forecast to get MUCH worse before it improves!  Glad we weren't planning to camp there!  But it proved to be a good spot to stretch the legs, gather a little more information on Big Bend, and eat some lunch!  
View of mountains from national park
 visitor center. 
     Another 50-60 miles into Carlsbad itself, having noted the turnoff for the caverns at White's City about 18 miles earlier.  We will do a little backtracking tomorrow, but this campground was much nicer than White's City RV Park!  And it will make Sunday's drive a piece of cake.  I had forgotten, however, how devoid of vegetation, life, etc. is the stretch of road between White's and Carlsbad.  Not much there!!  
     It is afternoon.  We plan to relax, maybe take a swim in the pool, and be ready to descend DOWN tomorrow into a cavern wonderland!!  We bought tickets online last night for the Guided Tour into the King's Chamber.  Glad we did as they were almost sold out for Saturday!  
Addendum:  Rick opted not to swim so I was the only one in the pool.  I took down the divider rope and swam 50 lengths!!!  That is the most I have swum in years.  It felt good, but I sure am out of "swimming shape"!  

THURSDAY, March 21
Habitat Work and Lunch with Jed!
Click HERE to view all pictures

The 'dry' house. 
Habitat house we worked on today. 
     Back to early mornings for Habitat work!!  We meet Pete out in front of our trailer around 7:45 and follow him to the site of the four houses the Care-a-Vanners worked on much of the winter.  Two will be dedicated and closing will take place in early April.  The other two are considered 'dry' - All exterior work completed except for the stucco.  The chicken wire is on and ready.  That will probably be done relatively soon, and then the house will SIT until next fall's building season when the interior will be finished up.   
I rolled all the fencing
up nice and neat! 
Rick is still smiling at this
point in the morning! 

     Our job today was to help move the dirt and rocks out front to level things out in preparation for the landscape fabric, rocks, and modest plants that Habitat provides (a few shrubs and a tree).  The backyard is the responsibility of the homeowner and Pete said that means nothing is usually done!  Rick will attest - it was somewhat backbreaking work!  Alot of digging, shoveling, raking, and wheelbarrels.  I worked at first to remove the chicken wire and fabric 2' fence separating the Habitat house from the neighbors.  Not difficult except some of the wood stakes were sunk 18" into the rocky soil and were hard to get out.  The metal stakes with their 'fins' just below the surface were MUCH easier to get out!  
Rick and Rick finish up in the garage. 
     A pleasant surprise today was to find one of the Las Cruces volunteers, Rick, also working.  I worked side-by-side with Rick frequently last fall.  It was good to see him and catch up on some more visiting!  Unfortunately I didn't get a good picture of Rick, except from the back!  
     Around 10:30 I headed inside to see if I could help Dyanna a little with the cleaning.  She had finished all the windows and was working in the bathrooms, etc.  I vaccumed both small bedrooms and the main bath, and then polished up the stainless steel kitchen sink.  Then it was time to call it a day!  We have a lunch date!  
     After a quick shower and change of clothes, we are on the road to Truth or Consequences at 11:45am - we have a 1pm lunch date with Jed at the Happy Belly Deli!!!  (I found it on the internet and liked the name!  Plus the prices were reasonable!)  Smooth drive up - the predicted high winds haven't materialized too much....yet.  
Lunch date with Jed! 
The Happy Belly Deli!
     Jed pulled in about 5 minutes after we arrived, we sat out in the courtyard of the Deli, and enjoyed a good two hour visit!  Little birds hopped and chirped all over.  Rick had a Green Chili Philly Steak sandwich, I ordered a humus sandwich, and Jed the Italian.  All were good.  
Jed models his new shirt. 
     Before we departed, Jed showed us the bright orange shirt Subway gave his volleyball team one night when they were dejected after a loss.  They will use them for their new uniforms this spring!  
     We stop to wash the truck and gas up before a return to Camp Habitat.  Laundry time and then preparing to leave again in the morning.  

Hiking at Aguirre Springs Recreation Area & White Sands Missile Range Museum
Click HERE to view today's pictures
A day of hiking!!!

Ouch!!  Shifting into Mountain Daylight time results in rising in the dark again at 6:15!!  I was enjoying my early morning sunrises in Tucson!!!  Oh well, the good news is my watch, which I set last fall on Mountain Daylight Time finally is reading correctly again!!!  (I have it next to my bed so I can see what time I am getting up in the morning.)  

We are going to PLAY today!!!  The day we never took last fall when working in Las Cruces.  We asked Pete last night at dinner for a good hike referral and he recommended the Pine Tree Loop out of Aguirre Springs Campground on the east side of the Organ Mountains.  Perfect.  We can 'kill two birds with one stone" as the Missile Range Museum is also on that side of the mountains.  
Approaching the east side of the Organ Mts. 

Again,  I am giving Rick a break from driving for the entire time we are in Las Cruces!!  We leave at 8am, gas up at Shorty's for 3.46 a gallon, grab refill coffees for .69 each (soooo much cheaper than the Pilot station in Lordsburg!) and head east on US 70 toward Alamogordo   Once we cross over St. Augustine Pass (5700') we find the road to Aguirre Springs and wind our way up and down, over and around, to the campground and trailheads.  The Pine Tree Loop is just over 4 miles and 1000' elevation gain.  Proves to be an excellent choice!  The air is cool this morning, but the sun is warming things up.  Very hazy in the distance to the east, so our views of the Sacramento Mts. behind Alamogordo  White Sands National Monument, etc. aren't great.  Views of the Organ Mts. ARE superb, however!  We identify Baylor Peak, the Rabbit Ears, and the rest of the Organ Mts. are basically 'The Needles" - I think!  
Rabbit Ears as we drive in the road

I took pictures of new growth coming out at the base of dried clumps of plants.  Hopefully I will be able to figure some of them out.  Also still trying to get all the characteristics and differences of agave, yucca, and sotol figured out!  

Not many on the trails this morning.  We passed maybe two other groups of hikers. Such is the advantage of weekday hiking.  The area is reported to be VERY busy on weekends! 

I will simply post a few pictures of the hike with explanations.  
Trailhead at Aguirre Springs campground. 
Rick heads up the trail. 
View across to St. Augustine Pass and Mts. 
The grasses provided some color, even though dried up. 
We pose in front of The Needles. 
Ponderosa Pine trees!!  
Cholla cactus blossoms
Little lizard guys jumped from rock to rock all over the trail! 
Entrance station to White Sands Missile Range
After the hike, we picnicked briefly at a table overlooking the valley, and then down to White Sands Missile Range.  We had to get 'papers' to enter the facility, as it is a military base of some kind.  We chose NOT to drive in, and just walked the five minutes to the Missile garden and the museum.  I mostly wanted to visit to see if the Sidewinder Missile was here.  I was pretty sure that Uncle Bill had come to White Sands to do some of the tests on the missile.  And...we found it out in the garden area!  

Sidewinder explanation from Missile Park
Uncle Bill's Sidewinder Missile!!!
The rest of the museum was over my head in some regards (what are submunitions?), but we found the history of the area, the Trinity Site, and other displays interesting.  I think one area that fascinated both of us was on the 'Missile Dogs'  (Margaret and Mac, you will love this!)  They needed to locate all the parts of the missile after is detonated to determine what went right or wrong.  It was consuming way too much time to find the parts buried in the sands, etc.  So they would coat the missile (up to a year in advance!) with shark-liver oil which humans couldn't smell but dogs could.  Two dogs in particular, Dingo and Count, were especially effective at locating the parts, usually within an hour!!  

Enroute home we veered off at Candace's McDonalds and found the Habitat house that we framed in last October.  It looked so 'open' without the Habitat work trailer parked in the front!  Candace moved in just after Christmas - 3 months from concrete pad to finish!!  
Finished Habitat house 
Back into town around 3pm to find the highway blocked with a big accident just beyond the 1-25 interchange with 70.  So I hung a U-turn and we headed south on the interstate to the Walmart exit and stopped to pick up a few things enroute home!  Showers and BLACT sandwiches for dinner (that would be Bacon-Lettuce-Avocado-Cheese-Tomato)  Yum!  I still have at least four more meals of meat in the freezer from when we left Baker.  That's pretty much ALL I packed into the freezer!  

TUESDAY, March 19
Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM
274 Trailer miles
Sunrise from Resort CHRPA 

     Travel day!!!  Lorene and Walter came knocking on our door at 7:30 am, wanting to be sure to say goodbye.  Walter said he didn't want us "sneaking off without a goodbye!"  It was rather touching!!  But we did indeed get all packed up, closed up, and ready to roll by 8am.  Just ready to pull out when Alison came in so we got another goodbye hug from her!
      We finally 'know' Tucson roads well enough to NOT drive back out Kolb to the freeway!  We want to stop at the QuikMart on Craycroft to get drinks (cheap and you can get a Mocha granita type cold coffee!), so we dropped down to Golf Links and smoothly cruised on to I-10 eastbound!!
Typical vista from the truck windows today. 
Organ Mts. & Las Cruces as we approach from the west.
      I don't have many pictures from today.  With hazy skies and dancing clouds, we saw ridge upon ridge of mountains sticking up from the desert floor laced with soaptree yucca plants.  It gradually warmed up, especially as we passed Lordburg and the early afternoon.  We stopped at the border rest area, again in Lordsburg for gas, and arrived in Las Cruces Habitat at 3pm (we remembered the time change around noon!)  I can't say this is the part of New Mexico that I find the most fascinating!
     Visited with Maria, Dyanna and Pete briefly, and then backed the trailer into the spaces next to the laundry room and under the only real tree present.  There is another fifthwheel trailer over on our side of the street, but the owners are down in Costa Rica.  Pete is staying Cruces for the summer, Dyanna will be leaving at the end of the month.  They are working on detail work to be ready to close on two homes on April 5.  We are hoping to help out for 3 hours on Thursday morning before driving up to T&C to see Jed.
All set up at the Habitat campground! 
     Dyanna and Pete were getting ready to go out to Pecan Grill for Happy Hour, so Rick and I joined them.  A very pleasant couple of hours as we shared CHRPA stories and Pete shared Habitat Disaster Relief stories!  Pecan Grill is a very fancy restaurant, but Happy Hour prices are reasonable!!  We each just had an appetizer and drink!  Afterward - a drive to Albertsons for a few groceries and back to the trailer to unwind.

No comments:

Post a Comment