Guadalupe Mts NP/ Carlsbad Caverns NP/ Carlsbad

Trip Start Feb 09, 2013
Trip End Jun 30, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday & Friday, March 28 &29 – Last night as George was walking down the road in the Davis Mt campground three Javelinas walked right in front of him.  He came back got the camera and took their pictures (the pictures were terrible).  Now we have heard a lot about them and to be careful if you have small pets because they will attack and kill them for food.  It just so happens when we stopped at the Carlsbad Caverns the ranger did a talk and picture show about them and this is what we learned.  They look like pigs and are related to them but it goes way back and they came up from South America and now you find them just in the southwest as far north as Flagstaff, AZ.  Most of them weigh about 60 lbs compared to wild boars that roam free that weigh about 250 lbs.  They like to eat small animals but they live on the Prickly Pear Cactus.  The scientist at the Observatory said they call them suicide pigs because they run across the roads during the day and night and there are more car accidents on the road hitting these animals.   They are blind as a bat but they have a keen sense of smell and hearing and they stink!  The packs identify each other by their smell.  They can run about 21 miles per hour.  If you see one be prepared to see more, they normally are in a group from ten to twenty but have been seen in groups of 40 and up and in Roswell, NM there is a group of over 100.  If you see one, then he is old or sick and the group has isolated them.  They are ugly and scary!

   Now back to our trip.  We left Davis Mt. State Park and headed north through the Davis Mts. to Kent to get to interstate 10 heading west.  Now our GPS did not want us to go this way and wanted us to drive back to Marfa or even east to reach the interstate.  I had asked at the observatory about the road north of it and was told that it is beautiful and a really nice safe drive even with a 25 ft RV.  We saved over 50 miles driving by taking this road and it was one of the most beautiful drives we have been on.  Mts, great road and ranches all along the drive.  Best of all we saw one other car on the whole time!

  Once we got on I-10 west, we only drove about 35 miles and got off at Van Horn, TX.  Purchased some gas and headed north to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park on the border of TX and NM.  Along the way we drove by a salt basin and through the Apache Mts.

   Guadalupe Mts National Park has over 47,000 acres protected as a wilderness so only primitive camping and hiking are allowed.  The other half of the park of the same size lies in the southern part with two Visitor Centers, two campgrounds without hookups, an historic ranch and trails for hiking all over.  The ruins of the stagecoach stop Butterfield State still remain near the Pine Springs Visitor Center.  This is very easy to drive since the road through the mountains lies south of the highest Mt peaks with double lanes.  We stopped at the Visitor Center for a movie and some great exhibits.  Leaving we decided to check out the campground here because we had considered staying here for one night for $4.00, when I was planning the trip but since it is Easter weekend we needed to get to a place for two nights.  Walked the trail to see the ruins of the stagecoach station.  In this National Park there are the canyons, the highlands and a desert and it was home to the Mescalero Apaches.  It is considered having the best examples of ancient marine fossil reef.  When the sea evaporated from here the reef was buried in a thick blanket of sediments and mineral salts.

   Leaving the Visitor Center, we continued to drive along the road on the southern part of the park driving pass the Frijole Ranch and History Museum and the road for McKittrick Canyon where there are hiking trails, picnic areas and another Visitor Center.  Drove about 35 miles before we entered the state of New Mexico and headed to Carlsbad Caverns about another 25 miles down the road.

    We were going by Carlsbad Caverns (now both George and I have been in the caverns before and since I am becoming a little claustrophobic we decided not to go down below the ground in an elevator that goes down more than three Empire State Buildings), but we wanted to view the exhibits and movies and to see the views.  Well, we forgot it was seven miles in on a curvy road winding up, up, up the mountain.  This actually is an extension of the Guadalupe Mountains.  This National Park is situated in the Chihuahuan Desert and is an underground world of gigantic subterranean chambers, fantastic cave formations, and extraordinary features.  It is beautiful up there with stunning views and tons of tourists.  Most of the caves now are self-guiding but they limit how many can go down per hour and tickets must be purchased and reservations would be the best.  Now, the rangers are located below to assist tourists and to move the lines along.  There are a few ranger guided tours like for the Queen's chamber and there are some tours where you are almost on your hands and knees.  It was here that we watched a film about the caves and also attended the talk on the Javelinas (pronounced begging with an h). 

  What I wanted to see was the entrance to the cave where they have seating to watch 300,000 to 500,000 Mexican  free-tailed bats emerge at dusk in the summer only to eat insects before coming back to the cave during the early morning hours.  They can fly for ten hours at 60 miles per hour and travel 150 miles per night.  These bats winter in Mexico and come to Carlsbad June, July and August to give birth and protect their young until they can fly on their own in six weeks.  Interesting.  If this was June we would have bought tickets for this and stayed just down the road at White’s RV Park.   Now, the entrance is totally blocked off and the ranger only lets those with tickets go in.  When the bats come out the rangers have to warn everyone that they must be quiet and no cameras, or camcorders are allowed.

   Left the Caverns and headed back down the road and headed north to Carlsbad where we spent the next two nights.  I originally wanted to stay at the state park north of the town but when I tried to make reservations they were totally booked six months ago so we had to stay at a private one.  We had a discount with Passport America the first night and a small one the second with Good Sam but this was the most expensive park we have stayed at and not worth it.  We had some nice neighbors but this park has a lot to do but it needs to be updated.

  On Friday we went to the New Mexico Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park about six miles north of our campground.  Very interesting.  It is on top of a mountain with nice views.  There were exhibits in the Visitor Center and an outside exhibition center that was over a mile long.  It was set up as a trail to follow that was very well set up like a desert garden with wild animals.  1.  We went through the Sandhills with mixed vegetation and sand dunes.  Plants common to the area like the Honey Mesquite (roots go down 150 ft to get water) were planted.  2. Aviary - housed a collection of native birds of prey such as hawks, golden eagles and owls and of course the roadrunner which is the  NM state bird.  3. Desert Uplands – Here was a gypsum sinkhole. 4. Arroyo – a dry riverbed streambed typical of the Chihuahuan Desert.  Arroyos after thunderstorms quickly funnel rainfall resulting in flash floods.  Water then becomes trapped in rock pools and stays for months providing drinking water for wildlife.  The Javelina’s use these cavities and pockets formed by floodwaters for shelter.  5. Pinon Juniper Zone – found in elevations close to 6,500 ft.  It is the gap between the desert and the mountains.  This is where we viewed badger, porcupine, black bear (not seen it was too hot and he was sleeping in a cave), birds of prey and a number of the Mexican Wolf (Lobo).  6. Nocturnal Exhibit – shows the adaptations of plants and animals that can survive in the desert especially the spiders, reptiles and  the ringtail cat.  7. Reptiles – We saw 6 types of rattlesnakes and 14 other snakes and the famed Gila Monster.  8.This was the next to the last stop where we saw Elk, Mexican Wolf, Bison, Pronghorn and Mule Deer.  There was a big cat section which had a Mountain Lion that was sleeping on his back next to some rocks and look like a big kitty.  Everyone said they are so quiet that you can not hear them coming and then they will leap over 20ft and attack.  We also saw a sleeping Bobcat.  Actually we were here in the middle of the afternoon for over two hours and most of the animals were well fed and just wanted to take a nap.  Even the Javelinas were just sleeping and did not budge.

  At the end of the trail there was a huge Greenhouse that had Cactus from all over the world.  I do not remember most of the names but it was really fascinating.  Many of the Cactus just bloom at night.  We were glad that we stopped here.

  Enjoyed a stop at a Chinese Buffet before we headed back to our campsite to do some laundry and get ready for our drive tomorrow.  One last thing – the weather.  It has been hot here in the daytime and cold at night and the campground host told me at check-in that in a month the heavy rains come in.  She said they are really bad and that is when they have flash flooding.  Most of the roads we have been driving have flash flooding warnings and bars in the ground showing that they can go up to 5ft or more.  So we are really lucky that we are here now and that in a month we will be in AZ or even Utah before these rains come in.

Thursday & Friday, March 29 & 30 Carlsbad RV Park and Campground, d Carlsbad , NM

We stayed here for two nights because it was Easter weekend and many of the other parks in the area don’t take reservations.  The rate is $44 but they do offer Passport America (1 night only) and Good Sam discounts.  Right on the main drag with gas stations and restaurants and it is about 22 miles to the Caverns from here.  Check in was fast, informative and very friendly.  Now the campground it has many things – laundry, cable, clubhouse with game tables, full hookups, horseshoes, pet area, playground, indoor pool, showers, store and Wi-fi.  The sites are on gravel and right next to each other and the bathhouse (needs updating), and laundry are right next to the office so it is a walk from some of the sites.  This was the most expensive campground we have stayed at in the last two months so I think the rates are high.
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