Eselpee Goes to Carlsbad Caverns

Eselpee Goes to Carlsbad Caverns

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call … The Twilight Zone (Rod Serling).

Or…”Grand Canyon with a roof on it (Will Rogers)”

It was a great time to go to the Caverns. The elevators are currently broken, and while this means that people with extenuating circumstances cannot see the Caverns, it keeps the average tourist at bay as well. So it was not crowded, and those that did visit were dedicated.

EntranceCave entrance close

I did my best to take photos, but the one in the header was taken by “Noname”, who was apparently allowed to bring backlighting. Ansel Adams’, who described his experience of Carlsbad as

“something that should not exist in relation to human beings. Something that is as remote as the galaxy, incomprehensible as a nightmare, and beautiful in spite of everything.”

was also allowed backlighting for his photography. It is difficult to do it justice otherwise. The one below is mine (in case you had confused my talent with Ansel’s).

Totem pole with soda straws forming on ceilingunnamed

The trip broke my personal walking record since receiving my flex bit (thank you, Carrie!!) since discovering my cardiac issue. The elevation is a steep 750 feet, so it was an impressive 15,977 steps – a precipitous 7 miles.

Cave entrance path
A steep 7 miles

I didn’t notice this on my way down, but it was lovely when I first felt the air move on my way up, which happened at about 12,000 steps.

way out
The way out – back side of entrance

The Big Room (1.25-mile circumference) is open to visitors, but so far, 85 caves with a total of over 136 miles have been discovered. Lechuguilla was found in 1986, but the most recent is Halloween Hall, named for the date of its discovery on October 31, 2013. The Big Room offers views of massive numbers of a variety of speleothem named for the item they resemble: soda straw (hollow like a drinking straw, drapery, cave pearls, helectites (curly soda staws), flowstone, shelfstone, popcorn, and totem poles. The rooms that are open to the public have speleothem coated in dust. It is estimated that the 4000,000 to 700,000 visitors each year leave behind 10 pounds of lint (each year). Access to nonpublic caverns is restricted and researchers wear protective, lint-free clothing. Nonetheless, they look like snowscapes.

popcorn or pearls
Popcorn seleotherm

In addition to the lint, inside the public area is a lunch area and restrooms as well as nineteen miles of concealed wires to light the cavern, trails, and the old excavating shafts to remove guano*. Directly above Carlsbad are a visitor center, parking lots to handle large crowds of visitors, a maintenance yard with its associated gas tanks and paved parking areas for trucks and other large equipment, and a housing area with sewer lines, propane lines, and garages – all of which leak into the porous caverns. (* guano was used as fertilizer primarily by orange growers. In about 20 years of operation, over 100,000 tons of guano was taken from Carlsbad Cavern).

The work in the cave and building numerous structures over the cave has been damaging to these beautiful caverns. I’d love to don some lint-free protective gear and see the pristine parts. The photos of Lechuguilla show how beautiful and delicate Carlsbad Caverns once were.

Photo by Dave Bunnell of the Chandelier Ballroom in Lechuguilla Cave. These are the largest known gypsum stalactites in the world. Each is tipped with a spray of gypsum crystals.

Click here for even more amazing photos

The Guadeloupe Mountains are positioned at the intersection of the southern Rocky Mountain, northern Chihuahuan Desert, and southwestern Great Plains biogeographic provinces, giving the area a grand diversity of flora and fauna. The center stage goes to the park’s bats. 17 different bat species live in the caves. The large colony of Brazilian (or Mexican) free-tail bats wows visitors every evening from spring through fall with its spectacular out & inflights, which I hope to attend at least once before my time here is completed.

The Carlsbad Cavern Natural Entrance is also an Audubon IBA because of the large colony of cave swallows that resides and breeds there in the summer. They chatted to each other all though my visit. The birds that have been observed in the park lists 357 species.

Carlsbad is home to are three species of cave crickets as well as isopods, troglophilic beetles, millipedes, centipedes, various spiders, and primitive creatures related to bristletails and silverfish.

So far, more than 1,200 strains of microbes, including lithographic* bacteria have been isolated. Studying these life forms widens perspectives for identifying life outside of Earth. (*derive metabolic energy from sulfur, manganese, and iron from pools, soils, corrosive residues, and sulfur deposits)

Mother Nature carved Carlsbad Caverns below the Guadalupe Mountains. They are an exposed part of a 400-mile horse-shoe shaped reef of the Permian sea that covered this region 250 million years ago. The reef is made of the remains of sponges, algae, and seashells and from calcite. Eventually the sea was displaced and dried up. The reef subsided and a thick blanket of sediments and mineral salts buried it. The reef was entombed until just a few million years ago when earthquakes strong enough to have tectonic effect exposed the fossil reef as the newly emerged Mountains.

The cavern was formed, like the Grand Canyon, drop by drop more about 500,000 years ago. Rainwater mixed with salty residue formed acids that dissolved limestone to leave massive caverns. The limestone rich droplets were exposed to carbon dioxide to create calcite. In the cave, the carbon dioxide was released into the air leaving behind the crystal of calcite it had carried there. A googolplex of drops later, the speleothem in the linked photos formed. Carlsbad contains some geologically unique and rare cave formations. This area contains one of the best-preserved, exposed Permian Age fossil reefs in the world. It is the second deepest cave in the continental USA (1604ft), exceeded by Tears of the Turtle Cave in Montana (1629ft) with the deepest US in Hawaii (3614ft)


James Larkin White, one of the first to extensively explore the cave, used this guano bucket to transport hundreds of tourists into and out of the cave.

Carlsbad Caverns was first discovered by endogenous Americans nearly 14,000 years ago. It was known by the Spanish in the 1500s. Anglos found it, as probably those before them, by the 500,000 bats that surge in and out before sunrise and after sunset, and began to exploit it commercially. It was established as a national monument by the first US president from Vermont, Calvin Coolidge. A quick history can be read at



So long* to Silver City

So long* to Silver City

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.
Mark Twain

It seems strange to leave a place that one likes as much as I liked the Silver City area.

Silver suited me. It is about 30 years behind the country, protected by its isolation, and surrounded by wilderness. It is reminiscent of Vermont before the great migration of the 1990s. The people here could be grouped by demographics such as Hippie, Rancher, Latino, etc., and these traits probably do influence social groups. In other places I’ve lived social groups were insular, but not here. A warm, kind tolerance for differences unites these people. My neighbors are individualists, but warm, down to earth, and always helpful. My colleagues at work are wonderful. People get along very well here.

This old southwestern town of 10K people, home to Billy the Kid, Geronimo, and Cathy Williams/William Cathay, also has plenty of good restaurants and supports art of all kinds. It has museums, a 4-year college, and a hospital. We finally even got a movie theater! There is a grocery coop and a farmer’s market. Even little tiny Mimbres – not even a town, but a “designated census area” – has an organic store, all organic farmers market, and a good restaurant. One of my greatest joys was a respite from my water phobia. Flowing out of the wilderness area, my well water was spectacularly clean.  Testing also revealed it had the ideal amount of minerals, except fluoride was low.

Silver is surrounded by 3,000,000 acres of wilderness: the Big Burro Mountains, Little Burro Mountains, Gila Wilderness (the first designated wilderness area in the world) and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area with lakes, forests, mountains, the Mimbres river (which flowed behind my home) and the tail end of the Continental Divide. There were cliff dwellings and rich archeological and fossil evidence. There were several ghost towns in the area as well.

I have photos of the area at the end of this post, but they just don’t do justice to the beauty. Maybe it is just that my soul resonates with this area, but it seems so much more precious when I am seeing it than when I look at the photos.

The only downside is the Golden Compass level of dust – it truly is sin! When I visited Lili in Santa Fe (1979), I swore I’d never live in such a dusty place. Now I am sad to be leaving.

My reasons for leaving Heaven on Earth are to make my life manageable and to complete my bucket list. It seems that I am off to a good start with both.

Everything I own

All I possess did not fill this little 7×15’ (exterior measurements) truck & my car. I now have it all packed in a 10×10 storage room in Mesa AZ. That’s all there is, my friends!

Nate asked that I keep the photos, so they are all there. I have a few of the most sentimental pieces of furniture, the items that I bought from the yard sale on College St, and the rocks; pretty manageable! Of course there are spiritual and personality aspects to a manageable life, but like I said, it’s a good start.

My bucket list begins with visiting the most beautiful places in the USA, and I will see #12 next weekend. To celebrate the 100th birthday of our national park system, entrance fees are waved the next two weekends. I can hardly wait!!

This is where I lived amidst 3,000,000 acres of wilderness. I lived between two ridges of foothills with the Mimbres river right behind the house.

Mimbres House  from foothills annotated


This was my home. The tree in the upper right was full of humming birds in the summer who would hover at my winders to watch me. The part in the back (left) was built first and to the right in front was gotten free from the mines. The middle part was built over twelve years by the family. It was very whimsical.

The Mimbres House

This is the view from my yard looking toward the river. I am sorry I could not find one of the dogs playing in the river.

Mimbres Backyard


*So Long comes from the ghettoes of New York where irish, italian Jewish and Arab immigrants mixed together. Jews and Arabs always greet and say goodbye to each other by saying Shalom, Shalom, or Salaam, Salaam. These words were corrupted into solong, solong. Ultimately folks believed that it meant that it had been so long since you had seen someone. Not so.


The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

The Roving Eselpee is dedicated to my firstborn, Nathaniel. He has encouraged me through the years to take more photos. So, armed with a very poor phone camera and even worse eyesight, I am photographing my life. This blog is also dedicated to my mom, Harriet. Family lore has it that I began adventuring as soon as I could walk, and I walked at 9-months. My mom took the photo featured above. While it might not have been her favorite photo of me, she said it was the one that was the most like me, my back. She always supported my love of adventure.

Starting the life of a traveling allied health therapist (SLP) is the initiating event of this blog. I gave 30-days’ notice at my job at Silver City Care Center in Silver City NM, took a job with CompHealth, and August (pictured in my Mimbres backyard below) and I left home. I chose CompHealth because they gave me a deadline to start.

August in Mimbres close up

I loved the Silver City area. It is a diverse, charming town nestled in the Gila wilderness of SW New Mexico. The people wonderful, it has good restaurants, and the best weather in the world (according to Joanne, my next door neighbor). I will miss it. Below is a photo of the Mimbres Valley where I lived for 18-months.

Hike home

I am doing a major downsizing. I started a family – of the five most amazing people ever – in 1980 and settled into an angle of recline. A household can accumulate abundance in 35 years that is relatively easy to part with, but my mother’s death contributed many items of deep sentimental value. Most of it is going. This is a painful labor. I have been in the fetal position deeply focused on the best of NetFlix to find respite from the pain. There were other bad things that I am not yet prepared to talk about contributing to the angst. Doing this while working full time then getting sick (an upper respiratory infection) was possible only because a friend showed up to put the stuff in a yard sale for cancer. I persevered because I believe this is the best decision for me.

The charge for my travel company is to send me to places I’ve never been to explore places I’d like to see. I googled The Most Beautiful Places in USA as a starting point. The placements are typically 13-weeks. I get benefits, some tax-free, and they get (and pay for) the licenses, certificates, etc. needed to work in each state. I completed an astonishing amount of paperwork and agreed to go to Carlsbad NM In addition to Carlsbad Caverns, recommended excursions to Bottomless Lake, Bitter Lakes, and the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park (thanks, Laura) are planned. This is an 8-week placement. Meanwhile, the travel company gets me set up to the first place on my bucket list, the Northwest.

I also intend to do an Immersion program in Guatemala. They have developed a cottage industry of teaching gringos to speak Spanish. The schools include cultural immersion and exposure to the socioeconomic issues of the area. The tuition is more than reasonable and contributes to the schooling of the children in the community.

So, Nate, there will be photos in your future!