Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Some local NM caving

A little bit of local NM caving. 
4/24/2016 Windows of the Earth.  This may have been underground but it was a "cave" made by an artist by digging out the sandstone.  Tours are given but it's expensive for what it is.  Also, the company really dropped the ball on our group tour.  It's a woow woow hooty snooty kinda place.  You can't do drop in's so IMO it's not worth the time to get there and the $25 person for the tour.

It was just a few rooms with some neat carvings on the walls.  It was nice but the other carved caves are nice and what the pictures are from.  Why do they show us the nice pictures of the other caves when we cant go to them?  Bait and Switch.

5/14/2016 Buckman Cave.

Looking down the abyss.  It's about 80' to the midd level but there is another 30 - 40 feet to drop to get to the bottom level where the back door is.
Lois negotiating the rocky obstacles.
 Someone coming down.  From the lower level it took 125' of rope.
Exiting the back door.  The cave can get cold so bring a sweatshirt.

This cave was impressive.  The walls were about 10 to 15 feet apart with the celling 200 feet above.  Worth seeing but a vertically sporting cave.  The front door is a exposed scramble.  To go from the mid level to the lower level we all did it with descending gear but it can be climbed down with a hand line but only for good rock climbers.

Then to get to the main part of the cave you have to squeeze and stem down a 10 foot drop.  I literally had to exhale to make the squeeze.  On both trips there was someone not willing to do it.  Someone has died here because they went the wrong way over the rock rather than try the squeeze.

This trip took all day even though the cave may only be 600' long.

5/21/2016 AJ Cave.

AJ Cave is one of the newer caves they found at El Malpis.  The meeting for the South West Regional cave organization was held in Bonito Canyon near El Map Park.  The parks Cave manager along with other park personnel worked with us to select a proper working project that many of us could assist them with.

 The project was to survey the Moss gardens of several lava tubes.  We got to visit a few caves that are normally off limits. 

Moss gardens are cool!

They are very special.  They are a type of moss that lives in the Artic!  Its special because this is the desert!!!  The lava tubes create small environments for them to live in.  The lava tubes are cold year round.  They have ice in them.  They are also humid.  Moss needs sunlight so the moss can only live near the entrance or under skylights.
 This lava tube had interesting minerals.
 There was some squeezing here and there in very sharp breakdown.
A very rare calcite formation in a lava tube! 

There are over 450 lava tubes in the park and not to long ago you could visit them but now they changed the rules and only let people in 3 of the caves there.  Its very frustrating.  The only way we can visit some of these caves is to go during the week on a work trip and even they you may just sit there at the entrance and not get to go in.

The grotto is working on a MOU so we can do work at some of these but it is very slow going.

Lots of nice ice formations.
It was cold in the cave.

5/29/2016 Tripple Engle (GypKap)

Tehnuka, Blake and I were the only ones this GypKap trip.  I had planned on going Saturday and Sunday but because of possible travel for work I was only able to go on Sunday and Monday.  Monday didn't happen because rain moved in Sunday afternoon.
 Blake got the ranchers permission to visit Triple Engle Cave.  Saturday Blake and Tehnuka visited this cave only to the first drop and they saw baby coyotes in one of the entrances but we did not see them Sunday.
The drop required some careful stemming to get down.  I went first and since Tehnuka was light I had her stand on my shoulders to navigate down the 10 foot drop.

Once down she and I continued on for about only 20 minutes.  Blake waited for us at the top of the drop.  I had to turn sideways to fit through the meandering passage.  It was slow going because of a few inches of water in several spots.  We tried to keep our boots dry.

The Gypsum was interesting.  The picture above is "Chicken wire" gypsum.  Very cool.
 There were a bunch of dead baby rabbits in the cave.  Poor little guys.  They did smell a little.

We saw a couple of spotted salamanders in the cave. 

We left the cave and went back to the cars.  I went across the road to look at the other entrance to the cave and got lucky to see this owl.  It was supper nice to see!

Back at camp we saw the rain coming and also on our phones we could see red and purple storm cells coming our way.

The caves are sinks so that's were the water goes and besides that just a little rain turns the roads to mud making it impossible to pass.  We are many miles in the middle of no where.  There is nothing around!
 So we got out before the rain and headed north towards home.

There was no rain about an hour north near Vaughn so we stopped to check out some leads.  They didn't pan out but they were still neat to see.
 You can see there is nothing around!

The most dangerous part of the trip was almost stepping on this guy.  The wind was blowing all the time very hard so we didn't hear him.  He moved just before we were about to step on him.

We stopped in Santa Rosa for Subway then finished the drive home.  I spent about 9 hours in the car for 1 hour of cave time.

6/5/2016 Buckman Cave.

I went back to Buckman cave with Aimee and some others to check out the front door entrance.  The front door requires a short exposed scramble up the cliff.
 A sign greets you.  It probably should be more strongly worded as there are many places to fall.

It requires some fair skill climbing up and down rocks.  Two places are tricky.  The climb down from the mid level to the lower area that leads to the back door and the tight 10 foot stem to the main part of the cave.  One person has died there.
 Since everyone but me had harnesses we decided it was safer to rappel from the mid to the lower level.

Here Aimee is setting up a rope.  Ana helped me with an improvised harness made from the webbing I had with me.  It worked well and I borrowed a rack to rappel down.  Once you started to descend  you could see that it could be climbed down easy enough except for the last 8 feet.  From there is an old hand line that people use.
 Here we are waiting for our turns squeezing up through the back door.  There are several climbs and squeezes you need to be able to do to get out.
A view of the canyon with rain in the distance.

If I could keep caving like this I might call it "caving" but with no caves planned till October (Monday Alabaster trips don't count) I'll forget how to cave.  Maybe there will be some more trips planned at tonight's Sandia Grotto meeting.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A recap of my visit back to Puerto Rico in March

March 19th I met my friend Rob and his friend Laurel in San Juan for a fun filled week caving and diving.  We picked up our rental car from National at the airport and drove across the island to our condo in Isabella.  We quickly unpacked and got our Scuba gear together.  We meet David and Julio at El Natural for a nice dive.  The water was supper clear and warm.  Thanks David for bringing the tanks!

 The next day we had an exciting caving adventure planned.  We got up relatively early and meet at Panaderia Lourdes.  The standard meeting location for caving in the Camuy area.  We got our gear sorted out in a nearby park before heading to the cave.  What made this an adventure for us was that we planned on passing two 40 foot sumps with scuba gear at the end of the known cave.  This was no small feat getting all the gear to the end of the cave.  We rappelled down into the cave and had to pass the tanks and packs through many climb downs. 

The cave is not visited much and has nice formations in spots.  It’s a river cave but since it was the dry season and not much chance of rain that day we were safe from the caving flooding.  We had to crawl through many green pools of muddy water.

Finally at the end of the known cave we got to the first sump.  Anthony and Tom got all their dive gear assembled.  Anthony went first and could see the way on.  Tom was next and he pulled a 100 foot rope through the first sump and secured it on the other side for us. 
Now it was Rob’s and my turn.  We only used a dive mask, regulator, and tank.  No fins, Bouncy control vest, or other scuba gear.  The plan was to just pull ourselves along the rope.  At this point the visibility in the water was about 6 inches.  Rob and I went in side by side.  I was crammed against the left wall and by the time we got 10 feet in my regulator was being torn out of my mouth.  Since my left arm was pinned I had to let go of the life line in my right hand to put my reg back in!  Once the reg was back in my mouth I grabbed Rob, shook him, and started pulling him back out.

 At that point I was done!  Rob went through the first sump a couple of times cleaning up some old line but didn’t go any further than this first sump.  I just couldn’t handle the 6 inch visibility in a small cave passage.   

Anthony managed to get a little further than Julie did last year but again since he was alone he did not get out of the water to push the “dry” passage beyond. 

We all had a great time and got out of the cave and packed up just before dark.  We then had the most difficult time of the day trying to find a place to eat.  We wound up eating from a Gua Gua (dirty food truck) on the side of the road.

The next morning we met Tom at El Messon in San Sebastian for a bunch of caves on and near the Tanama river.  We had a nice jungle walk seeing snakes and visiting more than 6 caves.  The Tanama river is spectacular.  We wound up eating at La Famila.

Tuesday morning again we met Tom at El Messon and then Met Bro in Lares.  We had planned on visiting several big caves but because of the later start and some issues with parking we were only able to visit Dos Ojos and Dugon.  Both of which are big caves.  Laurel and Rob got a sampling of what Cueva Cucaracha is like except with breathable air.  

Wednesday we took it easy with the caving and only did Cueva Sorbetos.  Sorbetos has mind blowing helectites and soda straw formations.  We got back early enough to met with Tom and David for another scuba dive at El Natural.


Thursday Laurel and I took Rob to the airport.  From there we drove back and visited with the owner of my old house in Moca.  I had hoped to see the two cats we left with the new owners but sadly Blanco had some health issues 6 months ago and had to be put down.  RIP, or Smokey as he is now called is still around but I couldn’t find him in the short time we were there.  Doug rents out the down stairs as an air bnb on occasion.  They are doing well and enjoy the house.  It was nice to see it again.


From there we drove to Toni and Gerds in Guanica.  We stayed there for the next couple of days.  We did some kayaking, windsurfing, and snorkeling along with just plain visiting.  We had an early flight Sunday morning so Saturday night we stayed at the airport hotel.  We had dinner with Toni and Gerd at Chilies in Ponce and then drove to the airport.  We were able to participate in blinky blinky on the way.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chickens for Eggs (pets), for Eggs (pets) - yah

So we somehow got the idea to get chickens. I don't know when it happened or why, I didn't even eat eggs until a couple years ago,  but here we are getting chickens! Since we have an acre and there are no covenants saying we can't have them we decided it may be nice to have fresh eggs and some new pets toddling around our space. The next place we live we may NOT be allowed to have chickens so we are going for it! Since there are coyotes and great owls and bobcats (we have yet to see one) and only one dog that runs loose for an hour in the morning we have to have them in an enclosed area unlike in Puerto Rico where they are almost wild! To spare our neighbors (and Jeff) the crowing and to spare me cracking open a fertilized egg we decided to get sexed chicks. This is supposedly 95-98 percent accurate but we won't know for a few months. By then I will be attached and it will be an awful thing to have to part with someone (it better not be Sweety...if she turns into a he we will get a crow collar)! We will cross that bridge if we have to. I have read the My Pet Chicken and Barnyard Chicken websites non stop trying to learn about coops and health and everything else. The dog run turned catio turned straw bale garden thingy is now being repurposed as a chicken area. The area for them to roost will be raised and they will sleep inside at night and during the day they will run around the 10 x 10 dog run. It is covered to provide shade, enclosed with hardware cloth, doodaded out with perches and dust bath bins and a chicken swing will be coming when they move out there. We thought we'd get four. Chickens are pretty addictive once you start looking at the different kinds and what their eggs look like and stuff. There are many different kinds of chickens with different sizes and personalities and egg laying abilities and egg colors...who knew?

After doing a fair amount of research about the chickens that were coming to Tractor Supply, Dan's Boots and Saddles, and Village Mercantile in Corrales I decided on the Mercantile  because they had the kinds I wanted coming in on the same day with the exception of the Brahma. Dan's Boots and Saddles had the Brahmas coming in a week later. I read that you want to get your chicks pretty close together so the pecking order gets established, because of size differences (I had no idea how fast they get big) and heat requirements. We wanted a variety of egg colors, docile chickens since they will be pets and ones that can stand the heat and cold we have here. At first we were going to get 4 but then I saw some other varieties....realized someone may have to go if they end up being a male and unfortunately chicks can die due to undeveloped organs or diseases in their first 4-5 weeks. At that point it would be harder to introduce another baby to the group so I ended up picking 6!

We have an Ameracauna - nothing special to look at and not the most docile birds BUT they lay green or baby blue eggs! We have a Gold Wyandotte because they are spectacular looking and very docile and excellent layers. I got a Barred Rock because they are supposedly nice birds and they are nice looking. I wanted a Buff Brahma because they are little dinosaurs...9 pounds with feathers on their legs and feet and very very friendly. It ended up that the Buff ones didn't come in but the Light Brahmas did and our little puff ball is now getting gorgeous snow white feathers!!! Very exciting. These guys all lay various shades of brown eggs. While chatting with the chicken lady I got talked into (yah, that was a hard sell) a Welsummer (dark chocolate brown eggs with spots) and a Black Austrolop (her favorite most personable chicken). So there you have it...6.

So here are some photos of their enclosure and of them in their little hot tub brooder inside the house. We tried the garage for about an hour but it was way to cold out there and since we have to redo carpet and some sheetrock in the water damaged room we turned it into a chicken bedroom!

The leveled and covered dog run is ready for hardware cloth and the addition of the "coop" part of the structure. Below Jeff is working on the sleeping and nesting quarters for the girls. The back walls will drop down so I can hoe the dirty shavings out and into a wheelbarrow. We don't have the perches or ventilation worked out in this photo.

We decided to make their entrance a little comical...the cut out is the door their ramp will come to. A door will shut from the outside once they are in. The vinyl is so the plywood doesn't absorb all the pee and it will make cleaning easier. Here are a couple of the day old girls. Nutmeg is the Welsummer on the left and Midnight is the black and yellow one. She will turn into a jet black girl with a green and purple shimmer to her feathers (supposedly - hope she keeps some of the cute markings on her face).
This one is "Trouble." I liked her inquisitiveness and her markings. Her puffy cheeks make her an Ameracauna and even though she was in with the day old ones I am thinking she is a little older...she has gotten much bigger faster and has more feathers! She is a stinker already.
Here's "Honey" the Light Brahma with her feathered feet at one day old!!! She is really sweet.
This is "Sweety" my favorite. She is the Barred Rock and has the best personality! She lets me hold her and falls asleep in my hand! Sweety and Honey are my favorites.

The chick on the right is the Pepper the Gold Wyandotte. You can't tell from this photo but she has little gold dots where you would expect ears.
They are all a couple weeks older than these pictures and their feathers are coming in . You can kind of tell what are going to become but they morph so fast you can't really tell!

Work continues on the outside abode that they will live in in another 3-4 weeks.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Baker Mine in Deming NM

Jeff and I joined the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club on the monthly field trip which was to the Baker Mine, in Deming NM in search of geodes and thunder eggs. We don't know what we are looking for which makes things interesting, but it is a way to get outside and get to places that are usually off limits for people. Deming is not somewhere that was on our radar. We have a lot to explore and Deming is a good 4 to 4 and a half hours away. Little did we know the interesting things that are out there! Jeff left a little early and we started the drive Friday at around 4:30 and got there around 8:30 or so. We had a hotel reserved which made things nice. We checked in and then headed to the meeting place in the morning. We then joined the caravan out to a rock shop to see specimens and then on out to the claim. It was 45 minutes of driving on a good two-track out in the middle of nowhere to get to what essentially is just a big pit. Everyone was excited and we all scrambled into the pit with our shovels, rakes, rock hammers, picks and buckets. You plant yourself near a wall or on a pile and then just sift and rake and pull round globs out of the ground for hours! What a strange and addicting thing to do. After a while it all looks the same, and with the geodes or eggs you may never know what is inside unless you can get someone to cut them open for you! I smacked some open and my best specimen broke into a few pieces - blue opal...wish I hadn't done that! After about 5 hours we showered and ate and went to bed. The next day was scheduled to go even further away to a rhyolite site. Unfortunately I had a terrible migraine in the middle of the night and was not up for it. We instead got a later start and went to Rockhound State Park where we got rhyolite specimens. We didn't have time to go to Rock City which is a park on my radar for photo opportunities...next time I hope! At 3:30 we headed home and went through some interesting (maybe) towns. Didn't make it to Silver City either. Here are some photos of the general landscape and a few taken in Hatch (famous chilis) I hopped out of the car for!