Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 40 - Brantley Lake State Park, NM

We moved about 80 miles today so that we can do a little bit of exploring at Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow.  Our day started on an exciting note.
Felix Baumgartner made his supersonic skydive from 128,000 feet today.  He launched from Roswell and his balloon flew directly over our campsite.  We weren't able to see him as he jumped and opened the parachute but this was still a pretty exciting view.  The helium balloon is 55 stories tall.  It looked very small to us so it must have been at quite an altitude when it passed overhead.  I'll tell a little secret.  I went outside this morning and looked up into the sky where I spotted the craft.  When I saw it my first thoughts were "OMG I'm seeing a UFO!".  Well, it was unidentified for a second there.

While some people had their extreme adventures today, others had more mundane tasks.  The worms got fed this morning.  Brett says that they are doing very well and don't seem to mind the traveling at all.  I think he'll have to charge more for these ones when we get home since they have had the exotic experience of camping.  If they don't behave, Brett has threatened to take them fishing.

Yesterday we met a young man at the laundromat who told us that he worked oil in New Mexico.  I hadn't seen any evidence of oil fields until today when we passed many working wells and storage tanks. We also saw the Navajo Refinery (the largest in New Mexico) in the city of Artesia.  Artesia was named in 1903 after the discovery of an artesian aquifer in the area.  These aquifers were used for agriculture but were significantly depleted by the 1920's. 
We reached Brantley Lake State Park at about 1:30pm and got all set up in time for a little afternoon nap.  The park is about 12 miles north of Carlsbad, NM and is named for Brantley Lake (a man made reservoir created when Brantley Dam was built across the Pecos River).  The surface area of the lake is about 4000 acres but because of the climate and the irregular flow of the Pecos River it is often much smaller than that.  Right now it is very low.  The lake is stocked with bass, walleye, catfish, bluegill and crappie.  We saw several people fishing and also signs recommending that the fish not be eaten due to high levels of DDT. 
All of the New Mexico park campsites have had a ramada set up for shade.  This has been very nice on these hot days.  But New Mexico camping also involves more house flies than I have ever seen.  There hasn't been a frost here yet so they are still very active and there are tons of them. 

Somebody was camping in a primitive site down by the lake.  These spots would have been underwater when the lake level is up but today it was still a walk down to the water.  We were warned that the ground would look firm but would actually be very soft as we neared the lake bed.  The ranger said to be wary or we'd have to be calling him for a tow. 

Brett is very happy that we are taking our first bike ride of the trip (finally).  He is posing prettily while I get the documentation.  My job is to sit on the back seat and pedal.  His job is to steer and use the brakes.  So far this has worked out well.  The roads in the park were mostly paved but as we got to the primitive areas near the lake they changed to big gravel and it was harder going.

Brett is a nice bicycle pilot.  We are walking for my sake rather than his.  This is uphill on the loose gravel and my thighs were begging for a rest.

Here is a view of the dam and reservoir.  The dam is 4 miles across.  The dark line on the bank shows where the water would be when the lake is full.  It is probably a 20 foot difference from today.  We are standing on the lake bed.
Many migrating birds pass through this area.  We could see a lot of footprints on the lake bed.
As we headed back to our campsite, a flock of lesser sandhill cranes came by.  They don't seem to be nearly as organized as geese are but they were certainly as loud. 

It was a relaxing day and we are looking forward to many more.

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