This day was quite a doozy even though we started it with the best of intentions. The plan was simple; visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and then head down to Guadalupe Mountain National Park to camp and hike up Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet. Carlsbad Caverns National Park was amazing. I had only vaguely heard of it before, and so there were very little expectations as to what we would run into.
It is hard to really capture what was so amazing about the caverns, and it was almost impossible to take a quality picture. The one posted below was the only one that came out alright, and it is still pretty dinky compared to the real thing. The spaces underground were massive and it felt like you were walking through some sort of discarded set from a science fiction movie.
We took the elevator down 800 feet, walked around through what is called the “Big Room”, and then walked back out through the natural entrance, which is how the first explorer, Jim White, came down into the cave at the end of the 1800’s. It emerges into a massive opening that somehow blends into the rolling desert hills around it.
After we left Carlsbad Caverns, we took off for the short drive back down into Texas to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, situated two hours east of El Paso. Once again, I refer you back to my previous “Texas is big” diatribe. Our plan was to camp out in the park, but when we arrived the campground was getting hammered with a consistant 40mph wind that was gusting as high as 70mph. We might have been able to keep the tent up but it would have been a miserable night. After chatting with the park rangers we decided to keep moving to El Paso, TX and then back up into western New Mexico. I made some coffee on our little camp stove and then we pushed on.
At that point, the weather really started to deteriorate. What had just been a strong wind turned into a blowing rain, and then before we knew it we were in full-on blizzard conditions. Fortunately, the ground was still warm and none of the snow was sticking to the ground but visibility was very limited. We spent almost 3 hours driving the 100 miles from the Guadalupe Mountains to El Paso, before pulling off at a gas station to fuel up. The snow just kept howling around us non-stop, so we pulled off at a Starbucks and spent an hour sipping coffee and checking different weather forecasts on the internet. The storm looked like it was dying out, and so we hit the road for Las Cruces, NM, 40 miles away.
By the time we got to Las Cruces, NM the storm was gone, the roads were clear, and we were feeling good, so we decided to push on for another hour west to Deming, NM. This would prove to be a bad mood, as we discovered upon arrival in Deming that almost all the east and west-bound traffic on I-10 had pulled off and sought shelter on this stretch of the road when the storm was rolling through western New Mexico hours earlier. There wasn’t a single hotel room available in Deming, or in Lordsburg, yet another hour of driving westward. We ended up having to drive almost two more hours to Willcox, AZ and didn’t get in until 1:30am. We literally got the last room at the Holiday Inn Express in Willcox, and promptly dragged ourselves upstairs and went to sleep. It was a bit more driving than we bargained for at the beginning of the day!
Mileage: ~1800 miles driven.