From the El Paso airport we drove to Carlsbad Caverns and arrived in time to witness the thousands and thousands of bats and swallows exit the cave for their night time meals. The next morning we walked into the caverns via the Natural Entrance. The caverns includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is 4,000 ft long, 625 ft wide, and 255 ft high at its highest point. The Big Room is the largest chamber in North America and the 31st largest in the world.
White Sands National Park is completely surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range. The park covers 145,762 acres in the Tularosa Basin, including the southern 41% of a 275 sq mi field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals.
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is created to protect Mogollon cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness on the headwaters of the Gila River. For thousands of years, groups of ancient nomads used caves above the Gila River as temporary shelter. In the late 1200s, people of the agricultural Mogollon culture made it a home. They built rooms, crafted pottery and raised children in the cliff dwellings for one or two generations. By approximately 1300, the Mogollon had moved on, leaving the walls behind.
Truth or Consequences is the county seat of Sierra County with a population of ~6,000. The unusual place names is due to renaming itself in March 1950 after the Truth or Consequences radio show. We enjoyed the hot springs for a 1 hour relaxing soak.
Finally we spent four days at the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in the heart of the Gila National Forest. a private ranch located in the middle of millions of acres of protected national forest land.
Our friends Jim and Pam invited us to overnight camp with them and their horses (Max & Freck) at Otter Creek Horse Trails. The Otter Creek Horse Trails are a series of interlocking horse trails comprising about 65 miles located on both the Independence River Wild Forest Unit of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The trail system uses a series of old, sandy roads and woods trails to traverse a beautiful diverse area with the trails winding their way along spirea flats and wooded areas, accessing picturesque Adirondack ponds and following or crossing Otter, Little Otter, Beaver Meadow, Chase, Burnt and Crooked Creeks and the Independence River.
Eric stayed at BillieJo’s and played video games with Stone, while Kathryn and I took our pop-up camper to Helmer’s property just outside the park. After lunch, Jim & Jim tacked up and went for a 90 minute trail ride, followed by Jim & Kathryn reversing the earlier ride. We cooked steaks on the grill and sweet corn on the campfire before turning in at night. The next morning Jim and Kathryn went out for a 2.5 hour ride while I fired up my chainsaw and cleared an area in the woods that expanded the horse corral and gave the horses better shade.
Sunday Eric got invited to a horse show by his buddy Trevor. Eric had never been in a horse show – or even ridden. He was very apprehensive and told me that he was concerned because the horses were so big. He was much relieved when I told him that they all were fitted with a nice Leather halter that they were used to and would listen to him. Besides we would be doing the leadline class together, so I’d be right there with him. Ellen provided a helmet, saddle and pony, Addy. There were two leadline classes – a walk only and a 2nd class where each contestant is asked to walk away from the judge, turn and trot back to the lineup. Prior to the class Trevor said he was ready to trot. Eric and I decided we would walk only as he had never ridden before. The kids rode holding the reins in one hand and holding on the saddle horn with the other. The horses were basically guided by person leading, although the judge rewarded the kids that were trying to pilot their own steeds.
During the lineup in the 1st class the Judge asked Eric if he could back his pony up. Eric replied “No, not really”. There were 7 entries in the class and ribbons were handed out to all kids. When Eric got a ribbon (and model horse) as a prize from the 1st class he decided he wanted to try to trot as “We do good if we do what the judge says”. He lost a stirrup and bounced a lot during his trot but the judge praised him for his effort and he got rewarded with 5th place ribbon. The boys had a blast and talked to each other through out the classes. Eric is ready to go to another horse show “if Trevor invites me!”. More pictures are at: http://www.jimmuller.com/Pictures/2007_07_22HorseShow/EricHorseShow.html