Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Anniversary trip to New Mexico, a weekend in Hilton Head, and new work!

(Above:  Carlsbad Caverns.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

It is unusual for me to have a week gap in blogging.  It is much more unusual for me to neglect this blog for nearly two weeks but that's exactly what has happened.  It isn't that I'm not work or am somehow idle.  Far from it!  I'm BUSY and TRAVELING!

On September 12th Steve and I celebrated our 32nd anniversary by flying off to New Mexico.  We've always wanted to explore Carlsbad Caverns and knew we didn't really want to wait until we were in wheelchairs to do it ... though, it is quite easily possible!  So ... off we went for a wonderful, long weekend.

(Above:  These old tennis shoes totally disintegrated before we headed to the national park.)

There were a few glitches ... like our initial flight was cancelled.  We were rebooked on a totally different airline and arrived in Albuquerque three-and-a-half hours late.  This meant we didn't get to Carlsbad in time for the evening Bat Flight program.  We were disappointed ... until the next day ... when we learned that flash flooding in the area closed the park that night.  No one witnessed the bat flight at all.

Yet, before arriving at Carlsbad Caverns, we had another hilarious problem.  I brought these tennis shoes to wear in the cave.  Why?  Well, my "normal" athletic shoes are Skechers ... soft soled and have never been used anywhere except on my treadmill.  In the back of the closet, however, I found these harder soled tennis shoes.  I thought my mother must have given them to me.  (She says not!)  I don't know how long they've been in the closet but it has evidently been long enough (and hot enough ... as the closet is also where the pull down ladder to the attic is ... and it gets HOT in there all summer) that the shoes disintegrated almost immediately after I put them on.  We went to a nearby Wal-Mart.  I limped in ... sort of pulling the foot with the broken sole ... until the other shoe also fell apart! LOL!

 (Above:  At Wal-Mart purchasing a new pair of shoes!)

A nice sales lady cleaned up all the white, flaky foam from the floor and took me to the sales counter to pay for new shoes ... not in a box but walking out the door on my feet!  At about this time, we remember that it was Friday the Thirteenth!

(Above:  The visitors center at Carlsbad Caverns.)

Fortunately, that was the end of any bad luck for the day.  From this moment on ... Carlsbad Caverns was more than we dared hoped.  We went on the self guided tour through the natural entrance.

(Above:  The amphitheater for the daily bat flight program.)

This tour starts at the visitor's center, meanders through the roughed, New Mexican high desert, goes by the amphitheater for the daily bat flight program, and descends on a paved hairpin path into the cavern.

(Above:  Carlsbad Cavern.)

The path is just over a mile and filled with natural beauty.  The enormous space inside the earth is amazing.  Finally, we arrived in the Great Room, a void so large that the next self-guided tour is another mile and a half around the perimeter.  At no point, however, were we even aware of the distances.

 (Detail in Carlsbad Caverns.)

Both Steve and I took a lot of photos but most didn't turn out well due to the low light.  That's not to say that the lighting wasn't PERFECT!  It was!  The lighting was subtle, never in one's eyes, and such that it didn't add color to any formation.  What we were seeing was really there ... and it was GREAT!  We just didn't bring a tripod in order to shot better photos.  What I did keep can be viewed on a Flickr! set ... CLICK HERE

 (Above:  Bathroom .... 750 feet deep into the earth!)

We highly recommend Carlsbad Caverns.  It is fantastical ... like a totally different, gorgeous world.  After the two self-guided tours, we took a bathroom break at 750 feet below the surface and bought a bottled water at the subterranean kiosk.

(Above:  Elevators at Carlsbad Caverns.)

Then we rode one of the elevators back to the visitors center, had lunch, and assembled for the Lower Cave tour.  This unique experience was limited to ten adults (over sixteen) and was escorted by two park rangers.  We were introduced to the location and instructed in the proper fitting for provided gloves and battery lit hard hats!

(Above:  Knotted rope used to descend into Lower Cave.)

We were also told how to use the knotted rope for our descent into Lower Cave and how to "work as a team" while on the three metal ladders ... passing information down the line ... "On ladder" and "Off ladder" because these slippery ladders are only safe if one person uses them at a time.

(Above:  Steve on the rope ladder.)

The Lower Cave tour starts with an elevator ride back to the Great Hall ... and quickly comes to a steep passageway accessed by the rope ladder.  It was fun!

(Above:  Metal ladders at Lower Cave.)

After the rope ladder, there's the metal ladders and then the floating bridges!

(Above:  Floating bridges.)

Along the way, the rangers pointed out several unique formations and provided interesting facts about the cavern's history, geology, and about the bat colonies that call the place home.

(Above:  Park ranger illuminates a mummified bat ... trapped inside the stalgmite formation.)

The park rangers were really very, very good, patient, and fun.  Although the Lower Cave tour doesn't require crawling, there is one short section that is optional.  Of course we crawled!

(Above:  Steve crawling inside Lower Cave at Carlsbad Cavern.)

We saw "cave pearls", a mummified bat, areas that shifted with fault lines, and unique reflections of the "ceiling" in shallow pools of water before coming back to the subterranean kiosk where the tour ended.

(Above: Snowflake like cave formation.)

By the end of the day, we just had to "adopt a bat" for a $5 donation.  The packet included lots of information about the sixteen species of bats living in the caverns, about bat preservation and about white nose syndrome that is killing east coast bats.  It also had a picture postcard of your bat and a certificate of adoption!  Hilarious!

(Above:  Steve with our bat adoption certificate ... framed, of course!)

Of course we had to frame the adoption certificate.  We named our bat Bury!  Great name and a perfect way to spell it!

(Above:  Letter from the adopted bat.  Click on image to read it!)

The very best part of the packet, however, was the LETTER FROM YOUR BAT!  Totally wonderful and worth the $5 donation in and of itself ... even though we never actually got to see any of the bats!

(Above:  Washed out road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings visitors center.)

Although every news program was covering the flooding in Colorado, there was plenty of rainfall and wash-outs in New Mexico too ... including the road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings ... our next destination.

(Above:  Gila Cliff Dwellings.)

We got lucky in many respects.  The Gila Cliff Dwellings were closed the day before we arrived and closed the day after we visited.  On the day we went, only the road to the visitors center was washed away.  The day, however, was gorgeous.

(Above:  Gila Cliff Dwellings.)

The trail to the Gila Cliff Dwellings was lovely.  The historic 14th century ruins were amazing.

(Above:  View from inside the cave.)

The park rangers were informative and the views were terrific.  One would never guess that nearby areas were flooding away!  We never it made it to El Murro.  The bridges across the San Francisco River were all closed!  Yet, we really, really loved this western area of New Mexico!

(Above and below:  Gila Cliff Dwellings.)

We particularly loved D and D's Organic Haven, a bed and breakfast!  The place was a paradise!

(Above and below:  Breakfast at D and D's Organic Haven.)

Our time at D and D Organic Haven was one of the best parts of the trip.  It was quiet, relaxing, and a place to contemplate the natural beauty of the high New Mexico desert.  I created another Flickr! set for all my photos from the Gila Cliff Dwellings and other parts of New Mexico HERE.

(Above:  Petting the cat at D and D Organic Haven.)

I don't usually just SIT and STARE and pet a cat for the sake of it.  Relaxing in New Mexico was wonderful!  We soaked in the hot tub, watched a thunderstorm in the distance, and ate from the garden.

(Above:  View from D and D Organic Haven.)

After returning from New Mexico on Monday night, Steve and I plowed into the custom picture framing that waited for our attention.  It was a "short week" since last weekend was another opportunity to leave Columbia.  This time we went for a visit to my parent's time share in Hilton Head.  I finally got to go down the water slide at Marriott's Barony club.  Such fun!  Thank you Mom and Dad for another great weekend away.

(Above:  My Dad and Mom with Steve in Hilton Head.)

When we returned from Hilton Head we had a great surprise.  My mentor, the highly talented Stephen Chesley, assembled a wooden cairn from some of the slabs of our old pecan tree ... right on the old stump!  We ate outside just to enjoy it a bit more!

With all this traveling, one might assume that I've gotten nothing creative accomplished!  Far from it!  Below are the three newest "In Box" series pieces.  I've also got another, large Stained Glass fiber piece on the stretcher bars for melting and a second one with its stitching nearly complete.  Plus, I finalized the details of a solo show for a curated group of the Decision Portraits to be on view at the University of South Carolina's Sumter branch from October 11 - January 27!  (More about this later!)

(Above: In Box CXVII.  Unframed:  14" x 10.  Framed: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4".  Polyester stretch velvets, metallic foil, chiffon scarves with self-guided free-motion machine embroidery on recycled, black acrylic felt.)

(Above: In Box CXVIII. Unframed:  28" x 16".  Framed: 34" x 22".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

(Above: In Box CXVI. Unframed:  14" x 10.  Framed: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4".)


Anonymous said...

So glad you enjoyed New Mexico. One of my favorite places was Taos where I vacationed twice, both times staying in B&Bs that where historic adobes. I would love to retire in Taos! I've never seen Carlsbad Caverns but hope to some day.

Wanda said...

I so enjoyed this post! What a wonderful experience! And now you have your very own bat, not to be brought home. What a cool way to get donations! I loved being able to experience the caves through your writing. And I know exactly how things looked, how you felt and what was going on when you experienced your 'closed due to flood' things. We've been there and done that! So now you desire to go where I went and I desire to go to where you went. ha ha Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going now to look at the flicker pictures....

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Hi Susan, Congratulations on such a wonderful anniversary! Your trip out west looks like it was a big success. My family did a big western trip when I was 12 and Carlsbad Caverns was one of the most memorable stops. By the way, I bet Barry is missing you :-(

Judy Ferguson said...

We took a trip to Mesa Verde when we were about 50 and could still get around. We could never do all those things now and I am so glad that we saw all those things when we had the strength to do it. So happy that you are doing the same thing. Wonderful pictures.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

You're right Susan, the bat mail is very "special". I can just see the park rangers sitting around composing this.