50 National Park Tour with Rob and Jan Wilson in the U.S.A., by John Wilson
Welcome to the National Parks Tour, glad that you have decided to check out my site. This is a site dedicated to the travels of my brother and his wife, Rob and Jan Wilson -The Sprinter Tour , a 50 National Park Tour that they embarked on in April of 2010.
Presently heading up to Alaska, Rob and Jan have allowed me to share their adventure with you folks!
I have submitted some questions to Rob and Jan , to allow us to catch up with them - as they are about half way through their journey.This will allow us to :
1) Learn where they have been
2) Enjoy some of the stories they have written about
3) Take a look at some of their pictures from the National Parks they have visited.
First park Carlsbad/Guadalupe National Park, followed by some picture that we hope you will like!
Life in the Midst of Barren Lands: Carlsbad Caverns/Guadalupe National Parks
Carlsbad Caverns kind of sneak up on you.
That’s what caves of this size and length are like: their entrances are tucked away in hillsides and canyons. In Great Basin NP, without the formal entrance built by the park you would never know the caverns are there.
The man-made entrance for Carlsbad Caverns is contained within the visitor center and an elevator whisks you down 750 feet into the cave in a couple of minutes. Or you can walk from the real cave entrance, and you are in for a 30 minute trek that drops you 750 feet in one and half miles.
Carlsbad is where our serious appreciation of caves begins because of an excellent ranger-led walk through Kings Palace. We had never thought of caves as an unexplored world, a world never having experienced light nor the touch of man. Until the cave explorers show up with their lanterns and measuring instruments.
We also learn that caves like Carlsbad are much larger and longer than the original caverns. Exploration and discover continues even today, and the current known size of Carlsbad is almost three times the part that is open to the public. Think in terms of a cave structure that goes on for over 100 miles and you begin to realize the scope of these creations.
It turns out that 4 of the worlds 5 largest known caves are in the U.S., and we’ll be visiting 3 of them: Carlsbad Caverns, Wind Cave, and Mammoth Cave. Jewel Cave is the fourth one, but it is not a national park so we’ll be whizzing by that one.
Because we started with the ranger-led tour, our Big Room self-guided tour was that much more rewarding. We better understood the forces at work, the sensitivity of the cave to human visitors, and the life forms that live here.
As cave exploration and discovery continues around the world, heretofore unknown microbes are being discovered, some with amazing properties. One of these extreme-a-bobs - as named by our Ranger guide - eats plastic. That stirred our imagination a bit about the unknown potential residing in these dark, hidden places.
The real thrill of Carlsbad Caverns was yet to come - the bats. Not that you see the bats in the caves when you are down there. But they come out each night in search of food, responding to some programmed signal that night is falling and it is eatin’ time.
At peak bat season, there are 400,000 bats residing in the caverns. And when the programmer rings the call for dinner, out they come, wave after wave after wave. They begin just as the light is finally loosening its last grip on the day, and exit in one continuous stream of bats. Bats, bats, and more bats.
As they exit the cave, they form a vortex-like circle and spin out of it at the top and head off into the night in search of food. Some bats will fly 30 miles to get fed.
So here is the question that needs to be answered. Who decides which of the 400,000+ bats comes out first, and who decides which of the 400,000+ bats is last?
We sat in silent awe with about another 100 people watching this phenomenon unfold for over 30 minutes, and still the bats come.
Guadalupe NP is just around the corner from Carlsbad. It’s so close, we stay in a Carlsbad RV park and “commute” to Guadalupe.
The park is there because of some rare geological formations. They can only be accessed by pretty strenuous hikes of some length - as in 6+ miles, with steep vertical gain.
Not for us in the 100 degree heat.
We stick to the lower levels with minor inclines and hike to an oasis of sorts. Figuring we’ll find water and some coolness there, we arrive to a dry waterhole and increasing temps. There are people who actually lived here and made a life and a living from this very empty place. What tough stock they must have come from.
Slipping back to what passes for a visitor center, we check out the exhibits showing how the Guadalupe area was settled. Farming (how on earth?), sheep, and a flexible, versatile approach to what the land and weather served up is how they did it. They built their homestead over a spring - still delivering much needed water. The structures they built at the Frijole Ranch in the early 1900s to capture and distribute the water around their property is still standing and functioning today. The original “built to last” pilgrims in a harsh and unforgiving land.
We take a second, shorter hike up for a look-see of the ruins of a second homestead. Leaving the park for Big Bend has us scratching our heads - how did they accomplish all of this, and why? Surely in country as big and as full of good land and water as the U.S. is, they could have found a place much more hospitable to making a life. Tough bunch, these settlers - something to look at for inspiration in these supposed tough times in the U.S.
Heading south, we see the El Capitan cliff dominating the landscape. With some bright yellow flowers in the foreground, a fitting farewell shot of Guadalupe NP.
Two very different parks, almost across the street from each other. Yet life springs forth in both under most trying and unusual circumstances.
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