We left Texas at 6am and it took us a better part of 8 hours to make it to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Rad and I hadn’t slept well the night before so it was a task to stay alert, especially in the heavy fog for the first part of the trip. I am continually amazed at how well the kids and dogs travel. Usually 30 minutes into the drive, Mabry will ask, “How much longer do we have? This is taking a long time!” And then she won’t say anything for the remainder of the trip…except that she is hungry. We drove through the miles and miles of oil fields in Texas (which was quite a sight) and once we hit the New Mexico border, the landscape changed from flat to rolling.
There aren’t many campgrounds near Carlsbad of any quality and we didn’t really want to boondock but luckily we found a spot at Washington Ranch. This ranch’s primary mission is to serve people with developmental disabilities. They also rent their facilities out for events and are situated on the most beautiful 4000+ acres. They only have 3 RV campsites and only 1 used for transient campers (the other 2 are for more long term rentals which are mostly oil field workers). We were quite lucky to get the spot. But as I have said before, not all sites are great. We have seen tons of turkeys, deer, jack rabbits, a fox and we have amazing views! The kids have tons to explore around the grounds but this campsite seems like an afterthought. 3 RV/Campers crammed together, no fire pit, sand pad, and bathrooms that are not really set up to full time people using them. Not to mention one of our neighbors who leaves for work at 4am but must play Chinese fire drill opening and closing all his car doors about 25 times. And this is why we only plan a day or two in advance. Because, when it’s time to go, you know it. We looked at this campsite as more of a basecamp and spent the better part of our days exploring.
Of course our primary reason for being here is the world famous Carlsbad Caverns. We had no idea what to expect. The drive up into the park was surrounded by rock cliffs that were massive and so stunning. We went to the visitor center to learn more and get our Jr. Ranger packets (which all three kids completed over 2 days and became Jr. Rangers). Thankfully Rad signed us up early for the private Ranger guided cavern tour because it was sold out. We also took a self guided tour of the main cave. It was so amazingly beautiful and jaw dropping. There were no words. They asked everyone to only whisper as they walked the 1.2 miles of the main cave and believe it or not, it was quiet down there. The “Big Room” can hold 8 football fields in it! It was definitely like walking on sacred ground as you felt like you were walking through MASSIVE cathedrals. The guided tour took us into a private section of the cave and the ranger provided an entertaining story of how this natural wonder came to be and how it was discovered. Seeing this cavern will go down as one of my favorite memories of our trip. Gress and I decided to hike out of the cavern (vs. taking the 800 ft elevator, which we took down into the cavern) which was 1.6 miles long, 800 of elevation and 82 switchbacks. It was intense. Gress practically sprinted up the cavern and I must have sounded like I was hyperventilating because Gress kept asking me if I was ok. Usually it takes 45 min to an hour to hike out. We did it in 27 minutes. WOW!
We also took a tour of Guadalupe National Park which was just over the border in Salt Flat, Texas. Huge cliffs and wide expanse. We were pretty tired from the day in the caverns so we didn’t get out to explore and not to mention these parks don’t allow dogs (which the dogs were pretty sad). I did take them on a walk through the ranch (it was dark when we got home) and saw tons of eyes staring at us. There were deer just wandering everywhere we would wander! Wednesday (the 17th), we found a last minute spot at the Petroglyphs park (across the mountains toward White Sands) where we will camp for the night before heading to our next location after that for a few days.
It is currently 22 degrees this morning in Carlsbad so we are looking forward to 65+ degree weather just a few hours away!