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National Parks - 2012 Trip - Day 9

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Start Location: Alpine, TX
Ending Location: Carlsbad, NM
Miles Today: 237
Trip Miles: 2919
States Visited: 7
National Parks: 5
National Monuments: 1
Low Temp: 74.2° F
High Temp: 112.7° F
Min Elevation: 3107'
Max Elevation: 5755'

Route Map:


We started out the day backtracking the route we took yesterday by going from Alpine, TX to Van Horn, TX.  The ride was 100 miles and no more interesting today than it was yesterday.  The only thing we saw was the same bomb we saw yesterday only today it was pointing in the opposite direction.  We determined that it is probably an inflatable.  Anyway we got another picture of it as well as a picture of the sign on the gate.

We made a quick stop in Van Horn for gas since we would not have any for another 100 miles and also picked up some food for lunch later on.

From Van Horn we headed north on Texas route 54.  The next 50 or 60 miles we saw exactly 5 horses and 5 vehicles - going in either direction.  This is apparently not a well traveled road.  Linda noticed that there were signs along the way for various ranches and the entire distance was lined with fences on both sides of the road but the 5 horses were the only sign of any type of activity.  We also saw about 50 signs warning us to watch for flooding and water on the road.  They even had flood gauges along the side of the road to see how deep the water was.  The gauges went up to 5 feet but, if you were in 5 feet of water, you and your vehicle would probably be submerged anyway.

We were appreciative that the folks of Texas were constantly reminding everyone to "Share the Road" with us.  Although Linda is not sure we were really in Texas.  Even though we saw almost no minivans and many pickups and SUVs, we saw very few pickups with gun racks.  Nonetheless, I still thought of the closing scenes of Easy Rider every time a pickup passed us on a desolate road.

Around 12:30 we arrived at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Visitir Center - and that's about all there was for us to see.  Like I mentioned yesterday, most of the park is only accessible for hiking and backpacking.  Since there is really nowhere to drive, there was no entrance fee for the park.  We viewed the exhibits at the center with one or two other folks, took some pictures, ate our lunch, and headed out of Texas.

We got to Carlsbad Caverns National Park at around 1:30 and parked in our special spot.  Although the park wasn't packed, there were considerably more people here than the last four parks we visited combined.  The only tour still left for the day was the Natural Entrance Lantern Tour.  The tour was at 2:30  and the last tour of the day.  They turn off the lights in the cavern and each person carries a candle lantern.  The idea is that you see and experience the cave the same way as the early discoverers did - with the exception of the paved paths and stainless steel handrails.  It was pretty cool since there were only Linda and myself, three other visitors, and the ranger on the tour so we got a lot of information and were able to ask a lot of questions.  The tour takes you all the way to the bottom of the cave system at 754 feet below ground level and to the Big Room at the bottom which is a truly massive chamber.  The best part was that we could take an elevator up instead of climbing back out.  The tour took about 2 hours and was definitely worth the time.  This was by far our favorite National Park of this trip so far.

From there we headed for Carlsbad and a welcome stop for the night.  Another good thing is that we are now on Mountain Time so we gained back one of the hours we lost a few days ago.

Tomorrow we head north and west but have not chosen where exactly to go next although we are considering a stop in Sedona.  We'll see how it goes.