This morning, I looped back to run the dogs at Guadelupe National Park. On my return, Jason and Che were again hitchhiking on the side of the road. I picked them up and we drove to Carlsbad Caverns. We hiked a little on some trails, stopping to pick and eat dried cactus fruit.

I also tried another fruit from an unknown (to me) cactus, and ended up with a mouth full tiny stickers….

I observed some very intricate patterns on limestone, that I was careful not to displace.

Jason and I talked about what divided the 4 deserts: Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mohave, and Great Basin.

In the case of the Chihuahuan, I thought it was the mountains, the continental divide. As it turns out, Jason is not your average guy – he biked! the continental divide from New Mexico to Idaho last year. As he explained to me his trip on the map (in what must have been excruciating detail for him) numbly articulating where he had a flat tire, and the various loops that he had made, I could relate. He and I both had passed through a zone where survival and death were an everyday possibility. Not knowing what was around the corner, he now had his pup, and with a casualness that very few people might understand, it was both attachment to life, and possible loss every day. Jason opted to stay outside and wait with his pup while I hiked the 2.5 mile loop through the cave entering the spectacular natural entrance, and doing the big room tour afterwards.

A little bird on the 0.5 mile trail to the natural cave entrance gave his approval, posing for a picture.

The formation of caves and the various forms that calcium carbonate (limestone) can form is fascinating. I wondered about the bacteria that manage to grow down there – what was their nitrogen source? Also, what controls the hardness of limestone?

Caves are like any other scientific problem – except perhaps more beautiful in their splendor. You take the problem, describe the unique features, categorize them, and try to explain why something happened to make this look one way in one case, and another way in another case.

Later, Jason and I hiked to the Indian Rock Shelter and found some sort of red peanut on the outcropping. We both tasted it – a little bitter, but tastier than acorns…I didn’t want to taste too much of it in case it was poisonous.

In Carlsbad, we parted company – both of us completely out of food, and me with low blood sugar. It was too cold for me to risk taking him up north where I was going. He was better off staying in southern new mexico for a little while longer.

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