Posts Tagged With: adventure

Cool Carlsbad Caverns

It was a long drive from the national Park sign to the actual visitor center, climbing up the more-desert-looking-than-Texas-mountains. We headed straight in towards the info desk to inquire about the hours, pricing and timing. The natural entrance into the cave was 1.5mi long and the big room was too, taking about 2 hours total, depending on how often we stopped and took pictures. It was $10 per person but our national park pass made it free. We packed up jackets and water (it’s a humid 56 degrees down there) and headed out. A guy we’d just seen at the Information Center asking about where to stay with also heading down. The path was very steep and it wasn’t long before the stench of guano (bat poop) hit us. It was almost unbearable to stop and take pictures of the entrance, a giant dark hole in the earth. We kept descending lower and lower, on steep switchbacked paths, eventually losing sight of the natural light, now only seeing by the dim lights overhead. We passed by amazing formations and we weren’t even to the main room yet! We made our way to the big room and were even more awestruck. This was a giant cave, equal to about 14 football fields with a 255 foot ceiling, all 750 feet below the surface. We continued around the big room, creeping past stalagmites, stalactites, popcorn rocks, massive boulders, and other wonders. I wasn’t sure how neat the caves would be or if we wanted to explore more but we definitely did! We enjoyed the cool dark atmosphere and wanted to learn what else was hidden down below the Earth’s surface. We took the elevator up and explored the vast gift shop filled with turquoise jewelry, pottery and other cultural tourist traps. I kind of wanted a native pottery piece but didn’t know what I would do with it. 

We cooked dinner by our car in the parking lot, waiting for the bat flight program. They’d set up an ampitheater just outside the natural cave entrance so people could watch the bats fly out. Around 7 p.m., we wandered over to the amphitheater to get good seats and waited, listening to the distance thunder and looming ominous clouds. The ranger told the gathering crowds that if lightning came within 5 miles, he would have to cancel the program and make sure everyone left the amphitheater. We were all hopeful that the storm would stay away long enough for us to see the great bat exodus. At 7:30, the ranger began, telling us a bit about the bats, but he was cut short. Just a few minutes in, he had to tell us to go away. I was really bummed especially because I didn’t think we’d be here the next evening. It began to sprinkle as we drove back to Guadalupe. The dark storm clouds looked neat against the setting sun behind the mountains. The rain stopped and Travis was able to set up his tent. We researched where the nearest REI was so that I could buy new shoes that didn’t hurt my feet. I had had this problem before and had tried on altra lonepeak 3.0’s and liked them, so I was pretty dead set on finding them when we found one. Conveniently there was one in Tuscon, which would be our next stop anyway, but more on that another time. According to Google, my issue wasn’t in fact Achilles tendonitis but rather retrocalcaneal bursitis, inflammation in the area above my heal that the Achilles slides against. 

We decided to check out more of the caves and leave Guadalupe for another campsite. We slept in, mostly because we wouldn’t be hiking in the heat, packed everything up and headed back to Carlsbad caverns. I thought we were in time for the 10:30 kings palace tour, but the clerk said it would take him a while to print the tickets. I was a little miffed that we would have to wait till the noon hour, if we had been helped by a different clerk 15min would have been more than enough time to print tickets and get to the meeting place at the bottom of the elevator in the caves. We now had an hour and a half to explore the gift shop and eat our lunches. We sat outside in the shade of the building, charging our phones, cameras, battery packs and my fitbit. We made scrumptious peanut butter and Nutella taquitos with delightful dole fruit cups (mmmm fruit!) on the side for lunch. Finally it was time  to head down to begin our tour. The king’s palace tour was 83 stories deep, the lowest part of the cave open to the public. Travis was picked to bring up the rear and make sure any stragglers weren’t left behind. This cave room was stunningly handsome and did indeed look regal. There were different formations everywhere, including soda straws and “tortured lovers kiss,” a stalactite and stalagmite that were permanently 3mm apart. The tour winds through the Queen’s chamber, dressed in ladylike, multicolored curtains of stone. The ranger had us sit and turned off the artificial lights, letting us “see” the natural essence of the cave. He brought out a single lighter to show us how those who first explored the caves would have experienced them. We headed out getting to use a restroom deep below the Earth’s surface, which we both thought was kinda cool. The other tours we’re too pricey so thats where our cave exploration ended.

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My eyes leaked a little today

Just like the sky this morning.
Almost two years ago, just after my farewell party for my European adventure, a guy texted me, “Maybe would you like for me to maybe join and your dog for a walk at oak grove lake maybe? Later that day I answered with as much sass as my little dumb phone would allow me, “Maybe.”
As we walked around the lake, I got the feeling he kinda liked me. But I just wanted someone to distract me so I wouldn’t bawl like a baby at my last walk with my dog for a while. 

Now, I’m taking him with me on a national park tour across America. For the first time, I have a human adventure buddy! We will be driving through the south to San Francisco, up to WA where we’ll poof home after Yellowstone. This is a different kind of adventure than I normally take, in a car, with someone else. I pray my feet enjoy the faster lower miles (I’ll still be day hiking!) and my heart enjoys the companionship. 
Again, I walked my dog around the lake, trying not to cry but failing this time. She’ll be looked after by family and friends, but still I’ll worry when there’s a thunderstorm or fireworks. 

I’m excited to traverse across my country, in awe of God’s magnificent landscape.

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Lux Luxembourg

Monday July 27I got up early to catch the bus to Luxembourg. I had to ask reception to open the kitchen back up so I could cook some eggs. I left for the station, again walking past some unsavory shops. I was taking flexibus and had a hard time finding out where it was or where to wait for it. I finally just joined another girl standing on the street who had been dropped off there a few days before. It was really windy making us all cold. The time for the bus came and went. Many more people had gathered on the street but no one knew if this was the right spot or where our bus was. Finally, 30minutes past time, a flexibus pulls up and just passed us. It was true there probably wasn’t enough space for a bus to safely parallel park but he didn’t even wave us forward. We all ran a block chasing the bus and caught it, pretty much having to board in the middle of the street. I put my pack in the luggage area and climbed aboard. Most everyone had gone to the second level of the bus for some reason, leaving me almost alone on the first level, with two mothers and their kids. This was alright by me, as long as the kids continued to behave. I was glad I had my M&M blanket to snuggle up under.

We arrived in Luxembourg and luckily one of the ladies overheard me ask the driver where was the tourist office. The bus had dropped us off again just near the stations so I was a little lost. The lady told me to follow her into the train station where the tourist office was. I thanked her and walked into the tourist office. 

This was an adventure. I’d bought a ticket to Luxembourg not having any idea whatsoever of what to do, see or where to go. I knew I was going to Echternach later that day but I had roughly 5 hours to spend. The lady handed me a map and circled the city center and pointed out some monuments and paths around the city. It was warming up outside but was threatening to rain. I headed over the bridge to the city center, passing several nice gardens and views along the way. There were several deep valleys and cliffs within the city making for some aesthetically pleasing vistas. I wanted a bite to eat and I wanted to find phone service and a charger. I was able to find a phone store called Orange and they set me up with a new SIM card. I was expecting them to have some good international rates because Luxembourg was so small but no, it would just have to cost me more to call, text or use data outside of Lux. I was okay with that, figuring I’d use mostly wifi unless I needed the service. Many of the shops were fancy and I didn’t want to eat in them especially with my large now dripping pack. I found a store that sold pizza pretzels and got one to go. I stood outside under the umbrellas eating my snack. I wasn’t quite sure what to do in the rain as what I wanted to do was hike the path to the top of the cliffs for he views. I wandered the city center, looking in a few of the stores. A concert band started gathering in the gazebo in the plaza. I tried to watch them as they played but the store owners wouldn’t let me stand out of the rain under their umbrellas, even though there were hardly any customers even inside, let alone outside.

I left for the path to the view and as I climbed up and down, the sun came out. I hoped it was here to stay. I got to the top and looked out across the city and river below. It was a nice view but I preferred to look out over wilderness. I saw a few people on a level below me and wondered how they got there. I kept walking and there were more and more people. I saw signs saying entrance for 4 euros so I went down to take a look. There were caves and paths down inside among the cliffs. I paid the fee and the clerk let me store my large pack inside his office, saying it’d be hard to go below with it. I sure wasn’t going to argue with that and quickly dropped it on the floor. It’d be safe within his office. I entered the caves and was stuck behind a school group for a little bit. I wouldn’t have minded except that I couldn’t understand the language their teacher was talking in. I crept past and entered the main cave. I figured it be worth a few minutes exploring but I had no idea how extensive the caves actually were. At first there was one large main path with a few equally wide shoots off it to over looks and where cannons would’ve pointed out. It was darker but there were a few lights on the floor lighting the path. I had a small guide map with me but it didn’t tell me much. I just kept going down, making turns and descending steep, skinny, spiral stairs. These new paths would be one person wide an led even deeper into the cliff, eventually coming to a tiny hole where you could peer out. This was so much fun! I kept wandering deeper and deeper, having no idea where I was but knowing that I wasn’t going to be lost. Several times the stairs got pretty tight and I’m not normally claustrophobic but it got a little hairy in there. I followed one path and a family turned back after thinking it was a dead end. I saw a small space and climbed up in it. It was just my height so I kept walking. It got smaller and smaller, but I kept going, crouching down so I could continue. It wasn’t til I was almost on my hands and knees and scraping my hips and daypack on the sides that I figured I should turn back. I certainly couldn’t turn around but I just walked backwards. I have no idea where it ended up but I was glad to have crawled down it as much as I could. Finally when I felt like I was going in circles and loops and up and down the same stairs, I looked for an exit sign. I’d seen them when I’d come in but now they were sparse. I found one and reentered the bright blinding sunlight. Yay pure blue skies!! I got my large pack back and sat on the bench overlooking the valley and ate some of my Cadbury chocolate caramel bar. Mmm, what a cool random adventure I’d found in Luxembourg! 

I headed back toward the station, intent on finding a charger for my phone before leaving for Echternach. I asked the tourist office lady and she had no idea. I sputtered and finally asked for an electronics store. She could answer that question with that there was one just 5minutes away. I headed into Saturn but the security guard motioned for me to put my pack in their lockers and storage. It wasn’t even close to fitting in the little locker so I set it in front of it in front of the window, hoping he’d make sure no one took the bulkiest pack. I wandered around inside, looking for anything remotely like a charger. I asked customer service but they just pointed me to the adapters. I just need the European outlet plug for an Apple device, not any cords or adapters. Eventually I found a clerk that understood what I was trying to get and led me to the Apple plugs section. Yikes, the plug was 20 euro!! I was expecting not to pay over 10. Oh well, I didn’t really have a choice, I really needed this charger. I got it and remembered I also needed Chapstick. The pharmacy nor any quick mart type stores had it. I went into Yves Rocher makeup store and asked for lip balm, showing them my Chapstick stick. The lady pointed me to the right section but none had over SPF 5 and all had slight coloring too. But at least it was only one euro. Finally, I was ready to head towards Echternach. The ride was an hour and a half long and I got off one stop too early. There were no signs, announcements or indications which stop we were on. Luckily I’d just bought service so I could make sure it was only a 15 extra minute walk to the city center. I’d looked at campsites and had picked one out and was hoping they had a site available for me and my little tent. I got to the city center but was a little turned around so I headed for the tourist office but it had just closed. I remembered the campground was pretty close to the river and I didn’t want to use all the data I’d just bought so I made my way to the river and just followed it. I’m pretty sure there was a quicker way through town but this was easiest for now. The town looked quite quaint with many old buildings and little shops. Still not a whole lot was in English. I found the campground but reception was closed. It said to go see the night guard and pointed up the hill. I kept walking and walking but saw nothing of the sort. I came upon a hotel and went in, hoping they could point to the night reception. The guy just pointed back to the campground and said up. Well I was hiking up and up. I’d expected to have been cooking dinner by now, with my tent and bed all set up. I was getting pretty frustrated and hangry. Finally I found the night guards building but it too had closed. I stood there, pondering what to do. Just then a car drove up and a lady got out. Her English was terrible but I was able to understand that she worked there. She tried to give me directions to the backpackers tent sites but eventually just drove me and told me I could pay in the morning. 

It was a real nice set up, with campers along the front when you come in and the more primitive sites on flat grass roads up above. There was potable water and sinks every 50 or so feet. I set up my tent in between two couples and we were all fairly well spaced apart. I tried to set my tent up to catch the morning rays but the ground wasn’t quite flat the correct direction. I got my bed set up and started cooking dinner. I set up my stove on the cement steps hoping to not melt anything or catch anything on fire. I was on the top level so I could watch all the other campers. Many of the other tenters had gas stoves and portable chairs, picnic tables and other car camping equipment. My stove and tent were definitely tinier than all the rest. I just sat there, enjoying the last rays of sunlight waiting for my pasta to cool so I could eat it. The reception was next to a lounge room that had couches, books, games, tables, chairs, outlets and wifi! I went down there after dinner so I could try to plan what I was doing tomorrow. There were many day hikes in addition to the long distance Echternach loop trails. I wanted to hike the whole trail but didn’t quite have time for it. This area was called little Switzerland because it has many of the same geological features as Switzerland, gorges, caves, cliffs, and expansive mountain areas. After an hour I still hadn’t quite found any map or listing of where these day hiked began or ended so I went off to bed. It’d gotten quite chilly out once the sun went down and I’d been in the lounge room. I was pretty excited to be sleeping in my tent once again. There could be snoring from the other campers or suburban noise but mostly just the sounds of the night. 

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