The Places I’ve Been: New Mexico and Carlsbad Caverns

Jordan and I took this trip without really knowing where we were going to stay for some of our destinations.  We brought along sleeping bags and a tent so we could camp in a few places along the way.  The only place we camped was New Mexico and wouldn’t you know it; it was freezing. Our first stop in New Mexico was in Las Cruses. We camped at a KOA there, which was pretty nice.  They had showers and nice little campgrounds. The ground was cushy with grass so sleeping wasn’t so bad there.  It was cold, but I managed to get a bit of sleep that night.  We were up around 7am and made our way to Roswell.
Roswell is the most overrated place I’ve ever been.  I was sorely disappointed. You’d think that with their reputation they would capitalize on that fame with museums, cafe’s and the like. Not at all.  It’s as if the little town is trying to forget anything ever happened.  Besides a handful of crappy t-shirt shops, the one UFO Museum and a cleverly named coffee shop there was absolutely nothing remarkable or even campy about this place. Jordan was looking forward to having an alien burger or something along those lines, but nary a themed cafe existed in the town of Roswell. The museum was interesting enough, but not child friendly at all.  There was tons of information, but it was all in the form of plaques on the walls. I’m glad I went so I encourage others not to go.  Not because it’s terrible, there’s just nothing really to see.
We wanted to go see the Carlsbad Caverns that same day, however we’d had a bit of a later start than we’d planned and we got lost in Roswell.  How we did that I have no idea.  Once we reached the Carlsbad KOA, got our tent set up (in 40 mile per hour wind I might add) it was past the time they were letting folks down, so we got the oil in the car changed and browsed around a Wal-Mart. I’m not usually a frequenter of Wal-Mart, but it was the only place we could find that had a lube shop open. We were punished for it anyway, by our oil change taking two hours.
We finally left with a happy, well oiled car. The wind wasn’t blowing nearly as hard when we got back to the KOA, but it was getting colder by the second.  I bundled up in everything I could but was still awake by around 5 or 6am.  The biggest difference between this KOA and the first was the ground.  Las Cruses, as I said, had some nice springy grass that was halfway tolerable to sleep on, especially with the blanket I folded under my sleeping bag.  The ground in Carlsbad was hard as a rock.  Even setting up our tent was difficult, not only because of the wind, but because we couldn’t get the stakes in the ground without pounding them in with a rock.  I tried my folded blanket trick again, but it was still uncomfortable. The ground was ridiculously hard and it was much colder with a slight breeze blowing every now and then.  I probably got about 4 hours sleep at the most that night.
The next morning we got up and went off to the Carlsbad Caverns.  These caverns were something that had been added to our itinerary only a few days before.  While we were staying with my friend Danielle in Palm Spings we watched an episode of Planet Earth on Discovery Channel.  It was the one about Lechuguilla Cave. Jordan found out we couldn’t actually visit Lechuguilla Cave, but we could go see the Carlsbad Caverns.  So we added that to our trip.
The Carlsbad Caverns are so beautiful.  We arrived at the park just as the cave entrances were opening to the public. The tour we were interested in taking was full of course, but there were other options.  We rented a couple of audio tours and took the elevator down about 750 feet.  We could have taken the natural entrance hike, but it’s a pretty steep and strenous hike, so I thought being with child and all, I should opt for the elevator.
The caverns were amazing.  They were specially lit, by a broadway lighting designer to highlight certain formations.  It was so interesting and helpful to have the audio tour.  It paced the journey out really well and I didn’t get tired out even though I knew we were down there for quite awhile.  We were some of the first people down there, so it was very quiet and still.  You could hear the water dripping into little pools, other than those tiny pindrops of water it was silent. It was so peaceful and relaxing to be down there virtually alone.  There were a few rangers here and there that would spout off information if you asked and three other people who’d come down in the elevator with us. But other than that, it was just us.  After we’d been down there for at least an hour or so more people began coming down and it got a little less peaceful, but we were on our way towards the end anyway.
The caverns are difficult to describe, it’s really something you have to see.  Here’s a few recommendations if you go. If you can, get on a tour, there were some really neat looking tours that have you crawling around on your belly. Those tours looked really neat, unless you’re claustraphobic. In that case rent an audio tour and take the elevator down.  The caves are really spacious and open so as long as you don’t think about the fact that your 700 feet underground you should be ok! Go early. You miss a lot of the crowd and get the caves and formations to yourself for awhile. Don’t be afraid to take pictures. There are some really amazing things in these caves and you could end up capturing some beautiful things. If you want to show up better in your pictures wear a white or light colored t-shirt or sweatshirt. Also take a jacket or sweater down with you, it’s chilly and damp in the caves.
We spent a ton of time in the caverns. I was sure Jordan wanted to set up camp and just live down there.  This more than made up for our crap trip Roswell the day before. So New Mexico had a saving grace for us and it was 700 feet below ground.

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One response to “The Places I’ve Been: New Mexico and Carlsbad Caverns

  1. Dude stop hating on Roswell, I know that it wasen’t cool but it makes my heart sad that isn’t like the show. 🙂

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