Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Carlsbad, New Mexico: Our New Home

Some images from Eric and Noelle’s new home of Carlsbad, NM.
Roadrunner and Flume
The Pecos Flume and a Roadrunner

Potash Train
A Potash Train

Pecos River Emergence
Pecos River

Carlsbad's Oldest House
Heritage Park

Jim White Statue
Jim White Statue

Carlsbad River Walk
The Riverwalk

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alibates Flint Quarries and Lake Meredith

I woke up this morning finally feeling recovered from my gluttony at the Big Texas Steak Ranch last night. I headed north out of town and headed for Lake Meredith National Recreation Area and Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. I had a reservation for a tour at Alibates at 10 am, but I wanted to see what the NRA had to offer so I headed towards a spot I found on my map and guide called Mullinaw Creek. 
Lake Meredith NRA Landscape

There was a hiking trail at Mullinaw Creek, but it petered out soon after it started. I hiked in a dry creek bed there for a while before turning around to get to my tour. 

On my trip to the Alibates Contact Station I passed by the interesting McBride ranch house which had been built back in 1903.
McBride Ranch House

The Alibates site itself was excellent. I had my own personal tour and my guide was a volunteer who was knowledgeable and passionate about the quarry. The Alibates flint is a very colorful rock that was quarried and traded across the present United States for material for making weapons and tools.

Flint Tool

Flint Quarry

Alibates Flint

Alibates Colors

While it was a hot hike to and from the quarry, I was glad that I had gone. The panhandle of Texas is a sparsely beautiful area with red soils and desert-like plant and animal species.
Hiking Out of the Quarry

Quartz Crystals

After my tour I checked out the contact station before heading south. I passed through Amarillo and was soon on my way to Lubbock. I stopped in Lubbock for lunch at Chipotle and then was back on the road. Before I knew it I had made it into New Mexico, my new home state. I passed through the depressing city of Hobbs and then found myself in my new hometown of Carlsbad.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Washita Battlefield NHS

Washita Landscape

I was glad to be leaving the dirty, hot and boring strip of Kansas that I called home last night. It was good to pass into Oklahoma, even if it was still hot as hell. I ate breakfast at a Cracker Barrel and then headed south to Oklahoma City or OKC as some call it. I headed straight for the Oklahoma City National Memorial, site of the 1995 bombing at the hands of a domestic terrorist. I have to admit that before my visit I wasn’t really sure what kind of impression the site would leave in me, but I did find the place to be quite moving.

At first I strolled through the memorial itself. My first stop was the Survivor Tree, a 90+ year old American Elm tree that somehow survived the blast despite being just yards away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building once stood.
Witness Tree

From the Survivor Tree I wandered over to the 9:01 Gate and looked across a reflecting pool to the 9:03 Gate.
Reflecting Pool

The times on these gates are symbolic of the time before the blast, which occurred at 9:02, and the time after in which thousands of lives of those in Oklahoma City and around the world were changed. I passed through the gate and solemnly passed by the field of empty chairs.
Empty Chairs

Each one of the 168 chairs represents a live lost in the bombing.

From the memorial I decided to go and check out the museum there. While I feel the ten dollar entry fee is a bit too much, I did find the museum moving and informative. From memorial I headed west on I-40 and headed for Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. I stopped along the way for lunch at Baum’s, a fast food and dairy chain, before driving the final miles to the battlefield site. 

Washita Battlefield is the site of a massacre of Chief Black Kettle’s group of Cheyenne who were camped along the banks of the Washita River.
Washita Battlefield

The visitor center offered a decent orientation film and some nice exhibits. Outside it was very hot (106 degrees F), but I still hiked the short trail through the baked grasslands. There wasn’t a whole lot to see on the hike, but it gave some perspective of the terrain on which the massacre had occurred. 

From Washita Battlefield I headed south back to I-40 and soon crossed into Texas. As I approached the small town of Groom it was readily apparent that I was in the Bible Belt. There was little on the radio besides conservative talk and country music, and I enjoyed listening to Rush Limbaugh bash liberals as I drove towards a huge silver cross. 
I found the Groom Cross to be so impressive, I just had to get off the interstate to admire it.

There were others there to see it as well, but the other folks who were there seemed to view their visits more along the lines of pilgrimages than I, who just saw the cross as a quirky roadside attraction on par with Carhenge or Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch. After a quick visit, I once again found myself on the interstate. Before I knew it I was in Amarillo for the next great adventure of the day, dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Osceola, Iowa to South Haven, Kansas

Eric Driving

I hit the road early this morning and quickly passed into Missouri. I stopped at the first rest area in Missouri and found it to be clean and pleasant. It was a prairie part of the state and the steel sculptures in the rest area played up the area’s prairie heritage. There were sculptures of bison and Native American hunters on horseback. 
Missouri Rest Area

Missouri Rest Area Rider

After the short break I headed south and soon found myself in Kansas City.
Kansas City Skyline

I had never spent much time in KC and was a bit intrigued. I crossed the Missouri River on I-35 and took the first exit on the other side. I found myself in a park that ran along the banks of the Mighty Mo.
Missouri River

The park was pleasant with nice views of the river and as I walked I found myself in an interesting neighborhood with old refurbished warehouses that have been converted to offices and lofts. I also found a nice market featuring lots of produce and food vendors. 
Kansas City Market

After perusing the market I made my way back to the car and then headed across Kansas City and into Kansas. It was becoming a hot day. I hopped on the Kansas Turnpike and made my way through Wichita. I finally stopped for the day on the Kansas side of the border with Oklahoma. I am staying at a Motel 6 in a little place with just the motel, a gas station, and a closed Mexican restaurant. Needless to say there’s not much to do around here. I went to the gas station to get some food, but the pizza there looked like it been under the heat lamps for days. Oh well, I guess I’ll just go hungry tonight. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Goodbye Minnesota: Lake Louise and Myre/Big Island State Parks

Flower Closeup

I left Mom and Dad T’s this morning headed south to New Mexico and my new job at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I had mixed feelings as I got in the car and headed out. I felt excited to be embarking on a new adventure as a permanent National Park Service ranger, yet it was sad to say goodbye to Noelle. I don’t know when I’m going to see her again. Upon leaving Galesville I drove into Minnesota via Winona and stopped by Noelle’s Dad’s work to say goodbye to him. 

From Winona I drove west with my first stop being Lake Louise State Park near the small town of LeRoy. I hiked the Hiking Club trail at Lake Louise along the Upper Iowa River. The hike is supposed to be 3.5 miles long, but it seemed more like a mile, two at the most. 
Jack in the Pulpit
From Lake Louise I headed west to Albert Lea, Minnesota and Myre-Big Island State Park. The hike there was a rather long one at 6.2 miles. There was evidence of high water along much of the trail and I caught several glimpses of Albert Lea Lake.
Lake Louise

I saw many late summer wildflowers and even caught a glimpse of a groundhog.

White Flowers


From Myre-Big Island I got onto I-35 and headed south. I made it as far as Osceola, Iowa before I decided to call it a night. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Goodbye Duluth

It's been a great two years! Duluth you are a wonderful city with plenty for outdoors minded people like myself and Noelle to do. You will be sincerely missed! In preparation for our imminent departure, Noelle and I spent much of our free time over the last two weeks enjoying all the things that make Duluth Duluth.

We visited the Rose Garden where Noelle took some time to stop and smell the roses.

Smelling Roses

We enjoyed the Lake Superior views.
Lake Superior

laker on the Lake

We went for our last cold Lake Superior swims.
noelle in Lake Superior

Eric in Lake Superior

We walked the beach at Park Point.
Crazy Driftwood

We hiked at Congdon Park.
Crossing Bridge

We admired the beautiful waterfalls.

We went back to the Depot to check out the art and the trains.
Steam Engine

Track 6

Depot Stained Glass

We also made one last whirlwind trip up the North Shore to Grand Marais.

Noelle at Cross River

We looked for agates.

We watched kayakers in the harbor.

sailboat and kayaks

The Theres'

We had some fun at World's Best Donuts.

Eric Donut Viking

Grand Marias Lighthouse

We hope to return soon!

Goodbye Indiana harbor