Can you believe we made it from New Jersey to New Mexico in 2 days? When we woke up on our third morning, we headed to the Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, NM. We were pretty excited to compare these caverns to the Mammoth Cave, KY cave we visited two days before. One of the advantages of the Carlsbad Caverns vs. Mammoth Cave was we could do a self guided tour instead of being stuck in a big group. It was nice being able to go at our own pace through the cave!
Why the Carlsbad Caverns? The cave is famous for its bats and when its warm out, you can watch the thousands of bats fly out of the natural entrance! We missed out on that experience since we went in December, but I did get to see a single bat flying around the inside of the cave. If you know me, you know I get super excited about any “wildlife sightings” so I was pretty pumped!!
We entered the cave through the natural entrance and walked down a steady slope. I can’t remember how long our walk was, but the website says it’s a 1.25 mile or 750 feet descent.
As we walked around, they had signs explaining what we were looking at with spot lights showing different parts of the cave like the pictures below. We finally made it to the “bottom” and had the option to continue in a loop, which was flat, or exit. We had a little more time, so we continued on the loop for another 45 minutes or so and saw a bunch of different versions of the cave. Every corner we turned, the cave looked completely different. We joked that it was like we were on an alien planet! Luckily once we finished the tour, we were able to take an elevator back to the top instead of walking back the way we came. The pictures below show the different types of cave/rock formations we saw during our tour!
We spent about 2.5 hours in the cave and enjoyed every second of it. The experience was much better than our time in the crowded Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
After our cave tour, we set out for White Sands National Park near Alamogordo, NM, which was a 3 hour drive away. We never expected to experience snow and ice in New Mexico, but as we were leaving the cave area, we hit some freezing rain and icy weather. Our route took us over a mountain and we saw the land go from desert to winter wonderland within an hour. The trees and ground looked absolutely beautiful. As we neared the top of the mountain, we came across a small sledding hill. We had packed a small sled to use at the White Sands National Park, so we decided to stop and go sledding!
The hill was pretty icy from everyone using it and I had the bright idea to go to the very top and sled down. BIG MISTAKE. I managed to go over a bump, got some air and smashed down on some very hard ice/snow and regretted it for the next few days, haha. It was really fun though and we all felt spontaneous for going sledding in New Mexico!!!
We continued on our way to the White Sands National Park and were back in the desert. Since the park is in the desert, the government sometimes uses it to test missile launches! They recommend you check the website or call ahead before planning a trip in case the park is closed due to the missile launches.
We drove around the park and picked a few sand dunes to sled down. Sledding on sand wasn’t nearly as fun as sledding on snow because the sled mostly sank into the sand as we tried to sled down. It was also very challenging walking back up the giant sand dunes, but we still had an awesome time!!
After the park, we headed towards Austin, TX. Our GPS took us along the Texas/Mexico border and we could see the lights shining in Mexico. The road we were on actually followed the border fence, which by the way, must have cost a lot of taxpayer dollars because it never ended! I had never been so close to Mexico before and was even excited that we had to go through border control!
As we drove through Texas, we hit another big ice storm which turned our 1.5 hour drive into 4 hours. We joked how ironic it was that we were driving on a highway with the speed limit at 80 mph and we couldn’t go over 30! We said a lot of prayers that night as we saw car after car in ditches, on their sides, flipped upside down and tractor trailers jack knifed. We had wanted to stop our drive sooner, but we were in the middle of nowhere and had to wait for the next big town to get a hotel room. We ended up getting the very last room at a hotel that night (still 6 hours from Austin!) and rested up for another crazy, icy drive the next day. You might be asking yourself, “what does the very last room at a hotel look like?” Here you go:
You can read more about why I just wanted to get out of Texas in my next post!
- Carlsbad Caverns – We spent $10 and at least 2.5 hours walking around this massive cave! I highly recommend going there, even if you have to go a little out of your way to get there. If you go when you can see the bats flying out of the cave, please let me know what it’s like!!!
- White Sands National Park – It was pretty awesome to experience so many sand dunes and to go sledding on them. If you’re looking for something adventurous, check it out! They have sleds you can buy or rent there. Also, you don’t need a car with 4-wheel drive! They have a road you can follow throughout the park.
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