The first morning of our adventure, kicked off with breakfast at Tiffany’s (hah), before heading off to Aunt Maddy’s in Coppell, TX to meet Budro, the new puppy. Saturday evening found us snuggled in a cozy water-bed, not Ferdinand. The reality of the trip we had just embarked on seemed to escape us. Due to some last-minute errands our agenda adapted a bit; luckily it gave us an opportunity to check in with some friends and family before running off for the rest of the year. We also caught up with Oshà’s “favorite” uncle Brad in Plano, TX. Monday brought us to Sagerton, TX where we got a dose of the country we were craving. We spent the day hunting rattlesnakes and checking the cotton fields with great-uncle Larry and great-aunt Jill. Leaving Haskell county with one last hug from Nanny we finally felt our journey had begun.
Fields blew by our windows in our desperation to escape Texas. Endless dust and heat, only broken by the west Texas oasis of Balmorhea State Park; Just about the only interesting thing we could find between Sagerton, TX and Carlsbad, NM. What a feeling to float into this natural spring among the fish and turtles, rinsing away the sweat and dust of the road. Although we were grateful for the cool water, the pool is crowded with families and overpriced for the attraction; Balmorhea isn’t the kind of place you go out of your way for. Overbooked with reservations, we ended up camping at the nearby Balmorhea Lake. Poorly kept and again overpriced, we were glad to be hitting the road again in the morning.
Finally crossing into New Mexico we gained an hour and a few more mountains too. Turning from the desolate highway 652 onto the well-traveled 180, the hills pushed into mountains on our left and the plains stretched to the horizon on our right. We had arrived at our first National Park, Carlsbad Caverns. The road to the caverns is pretty neat itself; We highly recommend any plant-lovers or foragers stop at all the exhibits along the way! On a side note, this is one of the first places we prepared food/cleaned dishes out of the back of the van in a public place. We definitely felt a bit weird but I’m sure we will get used to it. Carlsbad is one of those places you really can’t portray in photographs. The path carved through miles of caves makes you wonder about the Civilian Conservation Corps who struggled and died to make these wonders available to the public. Creative artificial lighting fails to keep the cold darkness from pressing into your bones. Down Hundreds of feet below the earth incredible structures form. We were not prepared for the sheer volume of these caverns and the strangeness of the living rock and mineral formations. Our advise is to see it for yourself because there is no picture that could possibly do it justice.
Although the caverns themselves were pleasantly cool, the surrounding desert radiated heat. Anticipating exactly this, we explored Carlsbad early before driving up the mountain into Cloudcroft.
Cloudcroft originally drew us for the climate but it wasn’t long before we fell in love. This forgotten railroad town at the top of a mountain has a certain charm. The history its treacherous rail and the remaining trestles made for a great day hike from Trestle Recreation area. Oshà was excited to find some mesquite honey for her tea at a neat tea and honey shop. The area was so beautiful we stayed two nights. The first was a stormy wild night at Upper Karr Recreation site. Right when dinner came off the fire the sky started a rumble and downpour that wouldn’t stop till early morning; It was a relief to find we were more than prepared for the weather. If you find yourself heading toward Upper Karr, don’t forget to pull off and look down the canyon to catch a view of White Sands down below. Something about this place must have been really calling out to us because we found this neat coincidence…..
Bailey Canyon was a different adventure. Seeking something a bit more secluded we drove way out on this canyon road testing Ferdinand’s limits. The road was nearly impassable at one point but with a perfect fire ring and level pull off in view, we delved on. It was more than worth it. The forest hummed with wildlife and the nearly full moon cast shadows in the trees. This was the escape we were looking for.
After nearly stranding ourselves in Bailey Canyon, we decided it was time to leave Cloudcroft behind.
We knew from the start we wanted to camp overnight at White Sands National Monument but we hadn’t planned on being there during a full moon night. On the full moon the park puts on a concert for the public drawing visitors from across the state. White sands only provides 10 primitive camp spots and offers them first come, first serve. We plummeted down the mountain back into the 100 degree heat of desert just in time to grab the 7th spot. After a brief tour through the snow-like sand dunes, we could stand the heat no longer and drove back to Alamogordo to wait it out. Getting back into the park around 5pm, the sun still beat down on us as we hiked the mile out to our spot. These guys aren’t joking around about primitive camping; The site consists of a marker in the form of a post…. and that’s it. Walking back out to catch the music we were greeted with the most glorious and otherworldly sunset.
The mountains acted as a backdrop to white dunes casting blue and orange shadows. Darkness never came due to the early rising of the full moon. You could see bodies silhouetted on every dune around the small stage, like spirits attracted to the wave of country music flowing from bellow. Laying in the cool sand under the bright shine of Jupiter, we felt fulfilled in our first leg of journey.
Thank you Isaac and Jamie for tagging along and keeping up the positive attitude!