Guadalupe Mountains/Carlsbad Caverns

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Saturday, April 18, 2009

Approaching the Guadalupe Mountains was awe-inspiring.  The looming, rugged mountains are the product of an ancient fossil reef that was later uplifted.   From a distance, they appear monochromatic and austere.  But nothing prepared us for the brutal winds that assailed us the night we camped at Pine Springs.  When we arrived in the late afternoon, frequent gusts were already hitting the campground.  We noticed that many of the tents already pitched had rocks anchoring down the stakes.  While searching for a site, we came across two travelers who knew each other and unknowingly had both reserved and pre-paid for individual sites.  Since they'd decided to camp together, one offered his site to us for free, which we gratefully accepted.  It got cold as the sun went down, and then the 75+ mile per hour winds began to broadsided our tent from around 8:30pm to midnight.  With the wind came silt from the high desert that blew into our tent.  It was a dusty, exhausting night.  Poor John was continually up and down, in and out of the tent, trying to better secure it.  In the end, our little tent was unscathed, just dirtier than it's ever been.  

While the winds had died down by morning, we decided to leave and move on to Carlsbad, first the town, then the caverns.  The Blue House Café and Bakery was a good breakfast place, and weary after the night we experienced, we eagerly sought the promise of creature comfort.  Bolstered by hot chocolate, breakfast and an interesting conversation with local geologist and avid caver, Michael Queen, we went to Carlsbad's Forest Service Office to inquire about a permit for backcountry caving in Lincoln National Forest.  We were told that a high clearance vehicle was required to reach (even hike in distance) the caves.  The Sentra was definitely not up to it.  However, Roger at the Forest Service gave us fabulously detailed information on local backcountry camping.

We initially planned to spend several days in Lincoln National Forest, however, after walking the Natural Cave Entrance route of Carlsbad Caverns (amazing!), we were spent and decided on a motel stay in town instead.  Hot showers, a bed, and clean laundry gave us a much-needed boost.  Re-focusing on our primary aim (enjoyment vs. drudgery), was also helpful.  It's all too easy to get caught up in the rigidity of a pre-planned route and budget.  With that in mind, we departed for El Paso the next day, drove on through when we didn't feel like staying and continued on to Las Cruces.
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