“Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Ch. 1


As is the tradition, our family went on a road trip on Thanksgiving.

Destinations:  Petrified Forest National Park, AZ + Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM + Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Vehicle:  2002 Toyota Sienna

The fellowship of the van:  Dad, Mom, me, and my little sister Hanna (my grandparents didn’t come this time)


Petrified Forest National Park

Here, everything looks like a dry desert…  However, there are logs scattered about.  More importantly, these logs are not wood but crystals!  Basically, hundreds of millions of years ago, this desert was a swamp with lots of trees and water.  When the trees fell and got waterlogged, minerals from the water got into the wood.  And over a long long long long time, the trees became petrified.  Check out below these trees that saw basilisk:

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Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Then we drove to Sorroco, New Mexico to find motel, where we cooked up our Thanksgiving dinner:  Korean-style marinated beef (cooked on our portable gas range), plus kimchi and rice (brough our rice cooker of course).  Gosh it was so good.  Was your Thanksgiving dinner good?  Well, mine was better.  By the way, about 75% of the things we packed for this trip was food, which made us question whether the true purpose of our road trips was eating.

On Friday morning we went to Bosque del Apache for birdwatching. It was so cool that it was actually cold.  I have mad respect for all the bird maniacs camped out in the cold with gigantic cameras.

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Carlsbad Caverns

This cave was awesome.  The first half of the hike was going down into the cave, which was really steep decline so it was kind of hard (but definitely worth the energy).  The second part of the hike was a relatively flat loop at the bottom of the cave, which was also super amazing.  We couldn’t take very many pictures because it was so dark, but I felt like Bilbo Baggins walking through the caves (didn’t find The Ring though)!  The whole exploration took about 2.5 hours, and i enjoyed every minute of it.  I just wish this place weren’t so far away from us.

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Afterwards, we drove about 14 hours back and arrived home at 7AM on Saturday.  Whew!

Of course, it’s not a road trip if something doesn’t go wrong.  In the middle-of-nowhere in New Mexico, we were running out of gas.  After much drama and intense searching, we made a detour to this super tiny place (population of ~500 population) called Dell City, Texas.  We weren’t certain they would have a gas station, but we risked the 20-something-mile detour (that’s like me driving from home to LA to get gas) because we had no choice.  It was a super tiny gas station at night at some super deserted place but we found fuel!  Hallelujah praise the Lord!  Lesson of the trip: if running out of fuel coming back from Carlsbad, drop by Dell City.

When we returned, we all passed out soon after unloading and eating (and showering and pooping).  The Koh Family Thanksgiving Road Trip may happen less and less frequently, as I will be going away to med school next year and my sister is getting older/busier, so this trip was extra special.  I love my family so much and I’m truly thankful to have spent so many Thanksgivings on the road with them.


Simeon Koh