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Location Guadalupe Mountains
Author Candice McMilon
Date July 7-8, 2012

The weekend of July 7th and 8th I (Candace McMilon) had my first real exciting and challenging experience with Lee Ann Dean, Derek and Jaclyn Smith, and William and Tammy Tucker. We camped at Parks Ranch. The first thing I saw was a mouse like critter with a funny tail they called a kangaroo tail rat. The next thing I saw was something that looked like a black scorpion. They called this a vinegaroon. My only thought was, ???What did I get myself into???? I???m not a fan of bugs or rodents or snakes!

The Challenge

Saturday morning Lee Ann and I went on the Slaughter Canyon tour. We had to do what I thought was a tough hike up to the cave. I thought I was going to throw up everywhere halfway, but I made it! We got into the cave and began touring it. It amazed me the kind of things we saw inside. Things that looked like, and were named after foods like fried eggs, popcorn soda straws. There were also bugs like cave crickets and springtails. Lee Ann and I stayed in the shade at the entrance while the rest of the tour group hiked back to the parking lot. We ate lunch and contemplated whether or not to attempt the hike to the mountain across the valley to explore Corkscrew Cave. My mind flashed back to the heat and nausea and decided against it.

Later we met up with the rest of the cavers to go for a little swim at Rattlesnake Springs. No I did not see any snakes, Thank God! We did see a very pretty lizard though. I was a little unsure of getting into a muddy, mossy body of water and I didn???t bring a bathing suit, so Lee Ann let me use some of her clothes to swim in???.so, no excuses. I got into the water and it felt nice after being in the sun all day. It was hard to adjust to the mud in between my toes, but I managed. I did my best to avoid all moss at any cost. I also had a little bitty fish friend swimming with me. That, for some reason, surprised me. Actually, every animal, reptile, rodent, insect, bug and fishy we came across was not scared of us one bit.

After Rattle Snake Springs Derek, Jaclyn, William and I went to explore the Parks Ranch Cave. It was different from Slaughter Canyon Cave. This one had tighter and smaller spaces to maneuver around. Good thing I???m not claustrophobic. There was also water we had to walk through. Derek would advise us when the water was okay to walk in. The black water was stinky but I don???t think William really cared about that! The cave was a gypsum cave. It was beautiful and shiny. After all the squeezing between things and crouching AND bumping our heads enough, Jaclyn and I decided for the group we were done! We went back to the camp and ate.

After supper we drove to Carlsbad Caverns to watch the bat flight. We had to sit through a ranger talking before we got to watch the bats come out. Jaclyn bought fudge to share so that was nice too. I thought it was very cool that when one bat wakes up they make a clicking sound. They also eat moths, so I wanted to take one home. Moths irritate me! The ranger said we could adopt a bat for $5 but we couldn???t take it home???.Bummer. When the bats began to come out they would fly several times in counter clockwise circles before flying off. They were smaller and cuter than I expected. It kind of shocked me how many people were losing interest and leaving. There were some people that were so disrespectful and kept talking and laughing. Good thing I???m patient because I wanted to pop ???em in the head. That wouldn???t have ended well. I really did enjoy seeing the bats so I guess that???s why I was getting annoyed. That was the last thing I did on Saturday besides learning a thing or two about insects and knots from Tammy.

William helping me prepare to enter Christmas Tree Cave

Sunday morning we got up early to prepare for the day. I was ecstatic about going to see another cave, Christmas Tree, plus I was going to get to repel and use vertical gear. The hike to the cave was not bad. It was long and hot, but it was flat and easy to get across, except for thorny plants called cats??? claw which kept cutting up my legs. Derek graciously gave up his long knee pads for me to use. When we finally made it to the end of the flat part and needed to climb, we realized we were off trail. In an attempt to find it, Derek started climbing. Lee Ann went a different way. She found it. Yeh! Go Cave Chicks! By the time the rest of us made it to the trail we could look up and see a little red dot, Derek. He waved down at us, so we proceeded up the trail. And then I really looked at it. This trail looked nothing like the one I had been on the day before. I began to climb; stumbling though rocks and more cats??? claw, drinking water left and right, and taking as many breaks as possible to breathe. The muscles in my legs felt as if they were going to ???spring out of my legs.??? I began feeling nauseous from the heat so Lee Ann and I sat down. I began to think about giving up and just going back down. Thankfully Tammy and William came up and encouraged me. They told me I had already come so far and that we were almost there. Tammy even sympathized with me about my nausea and I decided to keep going. Tammy distracted me from the heat the best she could and in no time we made it! Derek and Jaclyn welcomed us. We rested awhile and began gearing up so we could repel. Derek went first with ease, then Jaclyn and then I was up. It started to look scary, only a 15??? drop but still intimidating to me. I???d never done anything like this. William helped me prepare and taught me how to use the gear. I started descending. William talked me through it and at one point I thought I might hit the wall. I didn???t and then made it safely to the ground. After everyone made it down into the cave, we took off exploring.

Checking Leads
I Survived

I had to get on my booty and scoot through some parts. We made it all the way to the back of the cave and found the Christmas tree formation. (Crazy how it really did look like a Christmas tree). I noticed a small opening near the back of the cave and Lee Ann told me I should check it out but I was a little nervous. Derek and Jaclyn went in and then I felt I could do it too. It was like a small room and pretty neat. After a while we crawled out and rested in complete darkness. We went back to the opening of the cave to have lunch making sure not a crumb fell onto the cave floor. Tammy told me that a fungus could grow otherwise. Before too long we were getting ready to ascend, Derek first, Jaclyn second and me third. William was explaining how to do it and I did my best to listen and understand. With one foot in a loop, I tried my best to get to the top. I struggled a lot and really felt like crying. But with encouragement from the others, I made it! After everyone was out we started our way back down the ???trail??? and I was a little nervous because I was scared I would tumble down the mountain. I almost fell many times but only once on my butt. We made it down and the flat trail back to the car was ???easy breezy.??? When I made it back to the parking lot, I was so happy and proud of myself for doing this. It was the most challenging, exciting, scary thing I???ve ever done. I told Lee Ann on the drive to New Mexico that I had never finished a challenge I started and that I was tired of it. And now look what I???ve done! I feel like a beast! YEH!