. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Break Trip: Carlsbad

Carlsbad, NM....Wow, what a town. Not much here, really, besides one long strip of highway that appears like it has died a long and slow death. The Wal-Mart was a "happenin'" place though. And they do have a Chili's restaurant with really delicious cheese fries. Anyway, it is a place to stay and again, makes me thankful I live in northern New Mexico.

Carlsbad is located at the edge of the Guadalupe Mountains on the Permian Basin. It is part of that Permian shallow sea where a great reef formed some 250 million years ago.

We drove about 45 minutes southwest of Carlsbad to go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The park is part of the Capitan reef within the Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem. Basically, that means lots of cactus species (in fact, more species of cactii than in any other desert) and shrubs.

The Capitan Reef (where Carlsbad Caverns National Park is) was mostly made of sponges and algae with the occasional shelled creature such as ammonites, brachiopods, or crinoids that were deposited and transformed into limestone. Over the past 20 million years this deposit has been uplifted and exposed. The limestone caves were formed when slightly acidic groundwater seeped into the cracks, dissolving away the rock and leaving empty space. Because this area has many oil deposits, it is more acidic than normal and so dissolution is greater. That's why Carlsbad Caverns are so magnificent.

Anyway, we went into the caves via the Natural Entrance, the same entrance that I went into when I was about 9 years old. The descent into the cave was amazing with continuous switchbacks leading deeper into the caves. The trail led about 1.3 miles and 800 feet down into the cave, opening up in "The Big Room" where the elevators deposit you if you choose to take them down rather than hike down (and it's another mile or so to walk the trail through the Big Room). Believe me, it is far more extraordinary to enter through the Natural Entrance!

The Pièce de résistance, of course, are the magnificent speleothems that are formed from rain and snowmelt seeping into the caves, dripping to create stalagtites, stalagmites, ribbons, draperies, popcorn, flowstone, and soda straws (for example). The waters are rich in minerals and absorbed gases from the sediments and limestone above. When the water drop evaporates, it leaves behind calcite and decorates the caves with awesome formations.

Tomorrow, we're going to go on a ranger-guided tour to the King's Palace in the Caverns. I hope the kids don't freak out when he/she turns out all lights to make the cave dark. But before that adventure, we're going to visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. It'll be another fun, and warm day.


"Let all that you do be done in love"

1 Cor 16:14

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Brings back memories of times gone by.