One of the sisters that I visit teach mentioned that one year she and her family went to Carlsbad around Christmas time and said that it was a really pleasant time to go. I mentioned this to Ryan and we tabled it as a maybe for New Years. Then one day I overhead him talking to his parents. He soft balled the idea of them coming down to Albuquerque for the New Year. I softly interrupted and asked, "What about Carlsbad?" So then he pitched that idea to his parents instead. Apparently Carlsbad Caverns has been a life long dream of his dad's. Both of my in-laws are cave lovers, so this idea was especially appealing to them. They were a little worried about interrupting our family time - but we honestly love having them with us and we knew it would be an incredible experience, so with very little arm twisting, the plans were set in motion.
On Friday, the 30th, we headed down to White Sands. This place is amazing. Yes, it was overcast, (which made the temperature perfect) but most of these pictures turned out pretty gray - including the sand. I assure you it is not. Miles and miles of incredible white sand. My in-laws brought a little round sled that you will see in the pictures. It did a decent job, but I would suggest bringing one of the round plastic ones that's more bowl shaped. (Ironically - the very one that Pierscen found in Home Depot shortly after we moved here and he was trying to sled down the aisles. Too bad I didn't buy it!) Yes, you can purchase one at the gift shop, and they will even buy it back for a fraction of the cost, but it was just extra money we didn't want to spend.
Anyway... we drove a ways in to find a good hill (there are plenty) but we were looking for one that was slightly less crowded. Then we hiked up and the fun began! From here on out... lots and lots of pictures and videos:
Check out my amazing halo! I'm still not really sure what was going on with the lighting in these pictures...
Pierscen's first run:
Oma's first run... and crash. ;)
The only shot I got of Ry and I. Thanks, Ryan! Hahaha. See, it really was bright despite being overcast.
Until they crashed. Hahahaha!
Oma and Opa weren't too shabby at pretending to jump. ;)
But I can see where Ryan gets his talent from. These boys are not to be outdone by the other.
We had a wonderful time! We made it back to the car, shook ourselves off as much as possible, then continued on with our trek.
We almost missed our next point of interest, the Mexican Canyon Trestle Bridge near - Cloudcroft, NM. We nearly blew past it because, well, ironically, we were literally in the clouds and couldn't see anything. This is one of those pull off spots along the road where you can get out and snap a picture. Nothing to do, but Ryan thought P would be interested. And he definitely was. It was just wet and cold! So we took a few pictures, then jumped back in the car.
I really love this shot:
There's the bridge. Now you can see why we almost missed it!
Our final stop for the night was in Artesia, NM. It's about 45 min - 1 hr outside of Carlsbad, but much cheaper for hotels. We got there about 4 pm, went to Pizza Hut, ordered some food, and headed back to the hotel to eat, swim and exercise. It was a very good evening.
The next morning (New Year's Day) we headed to Carlsbad. Ry couldn't resist getting Pierscen this lime green mining helmet/lantern.
There are a couple options for getting into the cave. 1. The Natural Entrance - aka, walk in. 2. Take the elevator which takes you down to the "Big Room" 700 feet down. Doing so saves time and effort, but you miss a lot. So there was no question.
Natural Entrance here we come! Standing there in front of this huge, yawning expanse, it's hard to believe that this remained hidden for so long. And that even once it was discovered, no one believed the boy that found it. The cave is known for it's bats (that's how the cave was discovered) but this time of year they aren't around.
Down, down, down. The only problem I had with this portion was that it was semi steep and I... VERY unwisely, ran 9 miles on the treadmill the night before. Sometimes I am a genius, I tell you. Ha!
That blur is Ryan trying to keep up with Pierscen. Pierscen was so excited!
From here... well, all I can say is that these pictures are almost pointless. There is no way - even having been there in person - to truly wrap your mind around the incredible expanse of these caves. In fact, Oma turned to Opa and said, "Dear, I may be ruined for all other caves now. It may be hard to Ooo and Ahh after seeing something like this." And it's true. These caves are HUGE!!!! So I suggest looking up images of the caverns online because there are tons of professional photos where the lighting is... well, not natural by any means because it's actually quite bright, but you can see how big the area really is. The Big Room is almost 4000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at the highest point. We heard differing reports on how this translated into football fields, but I just looked it up and a football field is 360 feet long. Doesn't that mean the Big Room is the equivalent of 11 football fields?! Even if I've done something wrong, the point is, it's beyond comprehension just how big it really is.
Kind of a family photo. I forgot Ryan and Pierscen were in this until I looked really closely and noticed stripes on the right hand side.
One of the rules is to be as quite as possible because sound carries big time down there. So naturally this meant that Devry sang Jingle Bells, quite loudly, just about the entire time. Hahaha. All things considered she did really well, though she was tired and cranky. At the very end I finally got her to fall asleep in my arms. You do have the option of walking back out, but at that point, we opted for the elevator. We were tired!
When we got to the top we learned that Pierscen could participate in the Jr Ranger program. They had a pamphlet of activities. He needed to complete 6 of them. He could either do it on his own and he could mail it in, or we could take a bit of time and get it done there. He opted to get it done and it was the cutest thing in the world. When he passed off his activities, the Ranger had him repeat the oath and swore him in. He took this VERY seriously. One of his responsibilities is to pick up litter. The walk back to the car took quite a bit of time because he was fulfilling his oath by picking up every bit of trash he could find. Even months later he will look out the window and see sections of road that are particularly bad with litter and demand that I pull over so he can clean it up. He's a great kid, I tell ya!
From there we made the long drive home. We stopped in Roswell at Dairy Queen, which was not a wonderful experience, but hey - it was food. We pointed out all the aliens everywhere, but otherwise didn't stop for anything Area 51 related.
We made it home late in the evening, extremely tired, but very happy. The kids collapsed with little fuss. The adults sat in quite heaps on the couch with a small glass of sparkling grape juice to welcome in the New Year - several hours early as we were all too tired to actually make it to midnight.
It was a fantastic trip and I'm so grateful my in-laws were able/willing to come make the trip with us. We are looking forward to many more adventures in the months and years to come.
Happy New Year!