After a road weary fall, we decided to head to the Texas coast. We loved our stay there last year for Thanksgiving and two weeks at the National Seashore sounded like just the break we needed. We also wanted to check out some RV casitas we’ve been researching as an option for a winter base. Plus, there was a week of nice weather in the forecast. This meant we could hit up two more national parks, Guadelupe and Carlsbad, that we haven’t been able to visit because of their high elevation.
We arrived at Guadelupe Mountains National Park on November 3rd. The RV camping is basically spots in the parking lot so nothing special, but it put us right in the middle of the views. Guadelupe is a “desert meets mountains” sort of place so you have yucca and cactus alongside juniper and pine.
This parking lot was also the major trailhead so we saw a lot of backpackers getting their permits and heading out for multi-night treks. As the weather turned chillier and stormier over the weekend we were glad to be snug in our trailer!
Lucky for us we picked a beautiful morning to hike to Devil’s Hall. Being in the desert we’ve missed out on fall colors so it was a treat to see so much beautiful color on the trees along the way.
Before you get to Devil’s Hall You have to navigate the Devil’s Staircase.
I’m about half way up it here. It was even trickier coming back down. 🙂 The hall is a narrow passage between two cliffs of layered stone. It was pretty cool.
The color was just as amazing on our way back.
We also visited a couple of sights in the park. There are ruins of a Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach Stop, the highest on the route at 5,534 feet. Butterfield was the first transcontinental mail service. The coaches ran round the clock, covering the 2800 miles in 25 days or less. The stations were important to provide food and fresh horses.
We walked around the Frijole Ranch. The buildings weren’t open the day we were there, but we peered in the windows. The red building was once the schoolhouse. They also had an amazing spring-fed irrigation system that watered an orchard.
Guadelupe and Carlsbad are about 45 miles apart so we could have driven to the caverns, but we opted to move our trailer to a boondocking spot closer to the park.
By now you should know that caves are not really my thing, but I have to say Carlsbad blew me away. I had researched the options and found you could hike through the Natural Opening and down into the cave at your own pace. It didn’t look like there were any tight spaces so I thought I’d be fine and I was.
Turns out I was too enthralled by all the cool cave formations to feel claustrophobic, plus the rooms are huge!
Every turn brought another amazing view.
Often times it felt like we were on the set of Star Trek landing on a distant planet.
After walking the paved trail from the Natural Entrance, you end up 800 feet below the surface in the Big Room, which has a 1.25 mile loop trail.
This room is gigantic, the size of 14 football fields, and filled with formations.
By the end we were on overload and happy to take the elevator back up 38 floors to the surface.
If you only visit one cave in your lifetime, this is the one. What an amazing journey into a strange underground world. Even though I’m not a cave person I loved it. Although I do think I’ve now fulfilled all my cave needs for a lifetime. 🙂
Well that brings our grand total to 15 National Parks!