Farmington, New Mexico
It's pretty hard to describe this place, built into the vertical cliffs of Tertiary Ojo Alamo sandstone...
...overlooking the La Plata river valley some 300' below! The cave entrance is blocked in this image, but Don is seated on our "patio" for drinks and sunset.
First we met up with our host, Gayle at her home in Farmington. She gave us a walky-talky and we followed her truck on a paved road for 10 minutes. Then the fun began.
We were lucky our non-Jeep made it to the top of the dusty mesa. We parked next to the pipe/chimney, showing that we were on top of the cave.
The Hike Down
No rolling suitcases for this overnight.
We actually had to sign papers that we were up for all the risks involved in staying in our cave hotel. I was glad for the railing that guided us down the rocky pathway to the opening.
Up and Down Hike
We knew we were almost there, when we spotted the table and chairs sitting on the slanted, rocky "patio".
Gayle pointed up to the top of the cliff, and described how the furniture and appliances had to be lowered down years ago.
Even though the cave is manmade, this rock is obviously real. The little building that blends in like an ancient cliff dwelling, is actually a storage area. The tiny red glow? That's a hummingbird feeder.
There is something sort of comical when I look at the photos. It looks like a stage set for Fred Flintsone, The Musical.
But when you're inside, it does feel very cave-like at a constant 68-73 degrees.
Better Than a Cave
During my rugged college camping years, I slept in caves a few times.
They were damp and clammy, with more than a few bat and mud encounters. It was a treat to have bathrobes as an option, instead of coveralls.
Quite the Bathroom
Better yet, there was a real bathroom! One of my most surreal student teaching memories, was when I helped lead grade-schoolers on a 3-hour hike into a cave. I was in charge of carrying the plastic container, which served as a "potty" for our overnight.
So this bathroom was a bit of a luxury, with its waterfall shower. It was quite a climb into the stoney tub part... and that could be why we signed a release! There was an actual Jacuzzi option, but I wasn't sure how comfy that rocky tub bottom would feel.
When geologist, Bruce Black began building this cave house in the early 1980's, he planned on using it for his office. I'm not sure why he thought he needed 1,700 square feet of space, but it gave him enough room for a replica Kiva.
This must have been an inspiration from the Pueblo Dwellings not too far away in Mesa Verde. If only temps had been cooler, we could have lit a fire in the corner fireplace.
Instead of snuggling up for a fire, we got to go out and enjoy the warm evening while the animals feasted.
Gayle made sure to show us where the nibbles were stored for the critters. Sadly we saw no ring-tailed cats, but lots of squirrels and chippers.
Happy Hour Sunset
We had our own food and drink, but Gayle said the fridge was stocked for our use.
We climbed up the steps from the cave opening and out onto the flat rock.
Once again, I could see why we signed those papers. The little chain railing would not keep us from stumbling over the edge...
...if we happened to have one too many.
The show couldn't have been better.
The sun finally sank and the clouds continued to entertain us.
We woke to a beautiful morning with the moon still visible.
We watched the hummers and a few more critters before heading up to the top of the mesa.
Not only did we have the cave to ourselves, but the whole mesa as well.
What a treat to get up and hike the mesa after a restful overnight, underneath!
I've had this cave hotel on my radar for a few years and I can't believe we finally pulled it off and stayed here! It would have been a lot easier to have found another cave to camp in. Camping would have been cheaper too, since this stay was about $300.00.
Besides being costly, it wasn't exactly convenient... and it's pretty well booked the months when it's open. But the most memorable part for me was sitting out on that rocky ledge at sunset. That was the most notably indulgent part of the stay. No other guests, just us and the animals and the warm breeze. Pretty hard to top that!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!