I am trying not to get lost within my own photos for as many as I took. And then of course as a day or two passes, only a few from the originally many “wows” remain. It is par for the course… it is what I call “cavern overload”. We are parked in Gallup tonight, NM, a couple hundred miles only from Valley of the Gods where we should arrive tomorrow. There is much information on the web about the Caverns, more than I could ever write realizing that it is not the object here… maybe a bit!
The tour I took was a tease, an appetizer for this deserving “Grand Meal” which kept being served to no end. It is a destination that should take many visits as every step of the way throws in a new face and shape that has taken 250 million years to present itself. How can a few mere hours satisfy the senses heightened even more by this creation. It all started within a 400 mile long reef in an inland sea that was covering this region, a horseshoe shaped reef formed from the remains of sponges, algae, seashells and calcite that precipitated directly from the water. Throughout the many years the reef rose and cracked, the sea evaporated and all was buried under deposits of salts and gypsum.
These wonders to me are right up there with any other National Monument, this is Mother Nature’s incredible exhibit. I am still there it seems like, not able to catch up with the present moment here, now. A few million years ago the natural uplift and erosion of the area began to uncover the buried rock reef. It truly has been an amazing process. I would call it a “miracle”. During the uplift that would become the Guadalupe Mountains, rain water seeped downward through the cracks and faults present in the limestone.
At the same time, hydrogen sulfide rich water migrated upward from vast oil and gas fields to the south and east. These two waters mixed, forming sulfuric acid, which dissolved the limestone and opened up the fractures and the faults in the large chambers present today. As the mountains were pushed up, the levels, where the rooms and passages in the caves were being formed, moved lower into the ancient reef rock. This is the process that created the nearly horizontal levels connected by the steep and narrow passages.
They were just plain caverns at one time. Over 500,000 years ago, after much had been carved out, stalactites, stalagmites and an incredible variety of other formations began to form, slowly, drop by drop. Water dripped and seeped down into the limestone bedrock and into the caves. As each raindrop fell to the ground and percolated downward, it absorbed carbon dioxide gas from the air and soil and a weak acid was formed.
Each time the drop dissolved, a little limestone absorbed some of the basic ingredients needed to built most cave formations: mineral calcite. Once a drop finally emerged in the cave, the carbon dioxide escaped into the air and no longer able to hold the dissolved calcite, the drop deposited its tiny mineral load as a crystal of calcite. Billions and billions of drops later… those are the images we now can see and feel.
Water dripping slowly from the ceilings formed the stalactites and soda straws. When dripping onto the floor it formed stalactites which sometimes merged into beautiful columns. Draperies were hung where water ran down a slanted ceiling. Flowstone was created by water flowing over the surface of a wall or floor while depositing layers of calcite. Cave Pearls, lily pads and rimstone damns appeared where pools of water occurred
This is a part of New Mexico we had never been through. Such little Historical towns as Lincoln and Capitan where we rested last night are worth some much longer stays, including the roads surpassing many I have experienced lately. But Valley of the Gods calls me. It is unusual for me to want to reach a destination, to be there as we have been before. It is a bit my northern “Oasis”, as the Hell’s Canyons in Oregon is, even a bit further up not too far from the great little town of Halfway and Richland with it’s organic orchards and Saturday’s Farmer’s Market.
Will find out soon enough what this pilgrimage is all about. I deep down know of more questions lately I have not found an answer, or if I have they are still cloudy and murky filled with the unclear words of mine. I have always felt Valley of the Gods as being the ultimate retreat and space to meditate upon the now present enabling me to be unencumbered from it all. The creations within it’s space has been carved by the same creator of those above caverns, and suddenly all has taken such a different shape and form as I feel so privileged to be present amongst it all, even if it is for just a short while.
Twenty nine months of Photography is finally in order on SmugMug… In “Your Favorites”, in “States”, some labeled “first year” and second year”, now also “Texas the third year”. Feel free to browse, you can even use the slide show mode and have fun. Merchandise is also available through SmugMug. If you like to order prints, all sizes are available as I store the originals myself considering the huge bandwidth needed to upload them on the Galleries.
Maybe your reading the Blog is worth $1 a month…
Ara & Spirit