After California we visited my Aunt and Uncle, their 3 girls, 2 dogs and 2 cats in Los Alamos. Always great to see the family and to see the girls growing up! Los Alamos is such an interesting town. We drove into Los Alamos from Albuquerque along Highway 4 through Valles Caldera, an active volcano that last erupted about 1 million years ago. The route showed off the diversity of the terrain in New Mexico, from red rocks, to green alpine terrain, impressing both of us. As we pulled into town we were greeted with a security gate. Ok. Surprise! Apparently the route took us right through the Los Alamos Lab. The guard simply asked about the reason for the visit and for our IDs and then we proceeded along. Los Alamos has a lot of fascinating history behind it, which, if you aren’t familiar with, I recommend you read up on. One of the things that surprised us most was how accessible the outdoors were in the area. The town isn’t large and you can access some wonderful trails straight from my uncle’s house. The Friday before Labor day, we headed into Santa Fe, only a 45 minute drive, to see Zozobra… the other burning man. Zozobra is the burning of a 50 ft marionette effigy that signifies gloom and by burning him, people destroy the worries and troubles of the previous year. It was a really interesting festival that attracts quite a lot of people to Santa Fe – we were excited to have seen it. After a few days in Los Alamos, and a wonderful visit with the family, we headed south towards Carlsbad Cave National Park…
Carlsbad is one of the most impressive National Parks, in my humble opinion. The 1.2 mile long path into the cave gradually descends 800 ft underground, showcasing fascinating geology. Once you get to the ‘bottom’ of the cave that is open to the public, the “Big Room” opens up. The “Big Room” is a chamber the size of 14 football fields put together and at it’s tallest point, 255 feet from top to bottom and about 1.2 miles in circumference. The chamber is the fifth largest in North America and 28th largest in the world. Unfortunately, I’m not good enough at photographing to give this place justice, I just hope that you have a chance to see it for yourself. There is an elevator that goes from the cave entrance to the Great Room, so walking down and/or up can be avoided. Put it on your bucket list if it’s not on it.
Next stop for us was Tucson to visit one of Jakob’s friends with whom he worked with in NYC, then moved to San Francisco and then back to NYC at similar times. Anyway, he’s now working in Tucson so we were looking forward to spending some time with him. We got in on Sunday before Labor day, and spent the night in town with him. Unfortunately, I woke up the next day with some kind of cold that completely knocked me out. Fortunately, we had to go to Phoenix that day to get some work done on the van so we had a hotel booked anyway, but once we got to the hotel, I slept for nearly 24 hours. Jakob took wonderful care of me and woke me up a few times to have me eat some soup or take some medicine. I’m starting to feel better but still not back to 100%. I’m guessing we’ll need to get used to some of this as we get into Mexico… Anyway, the work on the van took about a day and a half and after picking it up, we headed back to Tucson to see Shackelton and test the car out in some elevation. On the drive back to Tucson, there was a lightning storm like I’ve never seen! We had been planning to drive up Mount Lemmon to camp that night but decided to stealth camp when we saw how much lightning was hitting the mountain. At one point during dinner, we saw a building near us get hit and an impressively loud ‘boom’ after…. So yea, we camped in a neighborhood that night. Tuscon, to me, seems like an awesome town. While summer weather maybe a bit too hot, it doesn’t stop the people there from being active. At 5AM, before it gets too warm, you’ll see tons of people out running, biking and outside playing with their dogs. There are the Catalina Mountains, Coronado National Forest and Saguaro National Park, just to name a few, right outside the city. Anyway, the next night the 3 of us headed up Mount Lemmon to camp out. While the city of Tucson is at about 2,500 ft, we camped at close to 8,000 ft on the mountain, only 28 miles outside the city. There’s also a 40 degree temperature difference during the summer, which is awesome for camping. We grilled some veggies, watched a spectacular sunset and made a campfire. Sooo, a pretty awesome night. There are two main dispersed camping spots we found: Bigelow Road and Incinerator Ridge – definitely recommend both of these spots. Later that weekend we all went for a swim at the JW Marriott, which was only a 10-15 minute drive out of the town (on the west side) and so worth it. It was beautiful, relaxing and had a wonderful view of Tuscon. See you in Central America, David!
Now, we’re headed towards San Diego for a few days to do some last minute preparations for our trip into Mexico!!