Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Park

After Franklin we headed up towards Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We went through some pretty middle-of-nowhere stretches of road to get there. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn at White’s City, which may be the only hotel in town. We woke up to a sunny but cold day, with temperatures in the 40s, and picked up fixings for PB&J at the little grocery store (if you can call it that) before heading over to the caverns.

There are several tours offered at Carlsbad Caverns, though we opted to explore by ourselves and learn about the formations by reading the informational placards placed throughout the walkways. For the more adventurous you can even do tours in the complete darkness that require you to crawl around army-style. I was tempted, but one of the caves was called Spider Cave, so I figured they weren’t for me. We took the elevator down, planning to walk back out (most tourists do this the other way, as it’s a steep 750 foot climb out, but we wanted the exercise). Once underground, you emerge into a gigantic room with a one and a quarter mile long path on which you can explore a massive display of stalagmites, stalactites, columns, soda straws, draperies, and popcorn in constant 56° temperatures and 99% humidity.

We took our time exploring as the caverns are really quite a spectacular sight and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It’s easy to forget you’re nearly a thousand feet below the ground. Also impressive there is a cafeteria and full-blown restroom facility down there. The walk out was a quick ascent and you definitely work up a sweat if you walk it as briskly as we did (not to mention the humidity).

One of the biggest draws of Carlsbad Caverns is the viewing of the Mexican free tail bats that live in the caves from March to October. Each night at sunset they leave the cave in a mass exodus to eat (up to half their bodyweight in a night) and mate, a process visitors can watch from an amphitheater built at the cave’s natural entrance. We had fingers crossed they’d be late to leave for the winter, but unfortunately the bats stopped coming out just a few days before our arrival. On the plus side, it meant to we could do the caverns in the morning and head over to Guadalupe Mountains in the afternoon without worrying about sticking around for sunset at Carlsbad.

Onward we went and back into Texas to check out Guadalupe Mountains National Park. There are several entrances to the park, which are not super close to one another, and we were torn on which one to use. We ended up using the Pine Springs entrance and stopped at the visitors center. Having not enough time to do the entire 8.4 mile, 3,000 foot elevation gain hike to the peak, we decided to do the first few miles of it up to this spot the ranger had recommended where you get a view of a canyon on each side. Much of the elevation gain was in the first few miles anyway, so it was a great workout with rewarding views.

Our annual pass saved us $10 each at Carlsbad and $5 each at Guadalupe.

On the drive out we stopped to snap some photos of the mountains, and the views were great, which further solidified our position on being happy we entered the park through Pine Springs.  In fact, the views were pretty stunning for miles, which was welcome entertainment since there are no services for a 130 mile stretch of highway. I’d love to spend a day with someone from Dell City, TX… see what they do all day, for a living, for fun. 130 miles of no gas, food. It’s got to be such a different life. Anyone? Know anyone there?

We stopped for gas in El Paso which seemed like a rough place. We eventually made it back into New Mexico. It was on this drive that we got stopped by Border Patrol for this first time on our trip. I had no idea they stop people who aren’t actually crossing the border. Pretty serious I guess, there were even canines!

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