|Tour of New Mexico and Texas - Part II
山勢高聳，拔地而起， 氣勢非凡， 景緻具震攝人心的空靈之美，非
The majestic El Capitan above the desert with the peak elevation of 8,085 feet in Guadalupe Mountains
National Park in north-west Texas, near the border of New Mexico. We toured New Mexico and
northwest Texas in February 2006.
In the vast areas of desert in Guadalupe Mountains National park, there are a few springs that provide the
precious water for the wildlife in the desert. While hiking on a trail at McKittrick Canyon, we saw many birds
perching on or flying in-and-out of a couple small trees. We walked gently and quietly to go near those two
small trees to take pictures of those birds. While we were taking pictures of birds quietly for a while, suddenly
we heard “Thump! Thump! Thump!” of heavy footsteps behind us. When I turned my head back to look, Wow!
There were at least five wild pigs near us. One of them could be seen clearly as shown in the picture above.
The other wild pigs in the group were near us but hiding behind branches or bushes, and were staring at us as
shown in the following picture:
Then the one in the clear came under the small trees, bent down the two front legs and started to suck water
from a tiny spring with trickling water as shown in the following picture:
At this point, we then realized that the reason that so many birds and wild pigs came here was the precious
water in the desert. These five wild pigs must be very thirsty and must be desperate to suck the water from
that tiny trickling spring. With such understanding, we took a few pictures, then walked away from that area to
get out of their way so that those wild pigs could enjoy their good drinks of the precious spring water.
Later when we arrived at the Visitor Center, we told the ranger about our close encounter with those wild pigs,
the ranger told us that (A) the official Spanish name for those wild pigs is Javelina (i.e., Collared Peccary)
where the Spanish “J” is pronounced in the sound of “H” in English, and (B) After sunset everyday, the entire
McKittrick Canyon area is closed to tourists in order to give those wildlife more free access to the precious
spring water without the disturbance caused by the tourists.
A ceiling view of the "Chandelier" inside Carlsbad Cavern in Carlsbad Cavern National Park in southeast New
Mexico. Carlsbad Cavern is the largest and most impressive among several caverns that I have visited in north
America so far.
The mountain ranges of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in northwest Texas and of Carlsbad Cavern
National Park in southeast New Mexico are connected. Both national parks are near the border of Texas and
New Mexico and are in desert terrain. The mountains here are uplifted ancient marine fossil reef. There are
several big caverns in this mountain range.
Two more views inside Carlsbad Cavern
The stone amphitheater with large seating area, in front of the cave natural entrance, for tourists to sit and to
watch the spectacular evening massive fly-out and the morning massive fly-in of very large number of bats
during the summer season. A visitor who came in summer season indicated that the Red Tail Hawks would be
sitting out on the walls of the cliffs around the opening, waiting for that magic moment when the bats would
come "swarming" out... Dinner was served.
The story of the discovery of this huge cavern goes like this: One day at dusk, back in the early part of the
1900's, a young cowboy named Jim White spotted what he thought was smoke pouring out of an area in the
Guadalupe Mountains. From a distance, the nightly exodus of millions of bats appears like a plume of smoke
rising up from the desert floor. It turned out to be bats...millions of bats...leaving home for their nightly feasting
on tons of flying insects. It was this spectacle that lured the young cowboy to the entrance of Carlsbad
Caverns in the early 1900s.
(We visited this cavern in February. The bats migrated south to Mexico in the winter season such that we did
not have the opportunity to watch the spectacular fly-out or fly-in of the huge number of bats).
Paved trails with stainless steel handrails in the Big Room inside Carlsbad Cavern.
The Big Room and the Elevator
There are about 300 caves in the connected mountain ranges from Carlsbad Cavern National Park to
Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Among these 300 caves, the most impressive and the best-equipped
cave for tourists to visit is the Carlsbad Cavern. Only very strong and healthy people are allowed to go in from
the natural entrance, shown in the picture above, to tour this huge and very deep cavern because the natural
entrance leads into a very challenging and long hiking route that descends 750 vertical feet to reach the big
room below. It is equivalent to go down a 75-story tall building not through regular nice stairway but through
very challenging hiking trail and stairs in the cave.
Instead, most tourists are encouraged to take the easier way of an elevator in the visitor center to go straight
down 750 feet to the big room. The big room down there is really “BIG” of the size of six football fields. It is
not a big empty room but is full of strange-looking rock formations of stalactites, stalagmites, dripping rock
columns, soda straws or tooth picks like stones hanging from the ceiling, barnacle-like or coral-like popcorns,
flowstones, dripstones, curtain-like or drape-like stone walls, etc. Tourists can spend hours walking through
paved trails with stainless steel handrails to enjoy watching various strange-looking formations. Some of these
rock formations have the descriptive names of Chandelier, King’s Palace Area, Witch’s Finger, Queen’s
Draperies, Temple of the Sun, Longfellow’s Bathtub, etc.
A few more photos that I took inside the Carlsbad Cavern are in the following.
From Socorro in New Mexico, we drove west on Highway 60 to visit the Very Large Array (VLA) site operated
by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). This VLA is a big collection of 27 huge radio antennas
spread out in Y-shape on a very large area on the plains of San Agustín, which is about 50 miles west of
Socorro in New Mexico. It is on a high plateau at 7,000-foot elevation on the south side of Highway 60. It is far
away from any city to avoid radio interference because the radio signals coming from deep space to be
measured are often very weak. Each antenna in the array has a diameter of 82 feet (25 meters), height of 94
feet (23.6 meters) and weight of 230 tons. The VLA is used by astronomers from around the world to do radio
astronomy observations and studies.
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing location of Very Large Array-NRAO
A picture of me in front of the Very Large Array. My eyes were not fully open because I was feeling the mild
effect of high altitude at 7,000 feet of elevation with thin air here.
Seeing this Very Large Array of antennas brings back the sweet memory of my earlier days as a Ph.D.
student at the University of California at Berkeley where I took a one-semester course on Antennas and
another one-semester course on Radio Astronomy. Some of my classmates in Berkeley then were working
with astronomy professors on radio astronomy research. Sometime, they had to go up to Mt. Whitney in
eastern California at 14,494 feet of elevation to do their radio astronomy observations.
The knowledge learned from these two courses in Berkeley has been very helpful to me for my 30 years of
professional work in Bell Labs/Bellcore/Telcordia on radio communication systems.
While I was enjoying watching this Very Large Array of antennas, suddenly I also saw many antelopes (i.e.,
pronghorns) running on this semi-desert high plain as shown in these two pictures
This is Part II of my Travelogue on Tour of New Mexico and Texas. Part I is the Tour of Bosque del Apache
National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico to see about 18,000 red crowned sandhill cranes (丹頂鶴) plus 30,000
Snow and Ross's geese and 40,000 other waterfowl, hawks, road runners, pheasant, bald eagle, and mule
deer as described in my web page at:
Part III of our tour of New Mexico is at:
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How I use information age technologies to enhance my enjoyment greatly of sightseeing large driving tour
loop of thousands of miles and of one to two weeks in duration covering many Points of Interest is described
on my web page at: