Even though our stay in New Mexico was short lived, it was enough to leave an impression. The “Land of Enchantment” is just that – enchanting and surprising in the best way. We drove from Marfa early one morning and headed straight for Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I’ve seen some caves in my day, including Mammoth in Kentucky, so I wasn’t prepared to be so overwhelmed by the magnitude or beauty of Carlsbad!
We chose to hike down into the caverns instead of riding the elevator. The 800 foot descent offered over a mile of twists and turns as you drop into the cave. Once you reach the bottom, there are several options for “trails” that tour the Big Room. We chose the longer route, which weaves around the Big Room floor. A photographer I’m not, but I did try to get a couple of pictures as we walked.
We opted to take the elevator back up ,in the interest of time, of course! Coming out of the 56 degree cavern and back into the 100 degree New Mexico desert heat was shocking!
We hopped into the car and started for White Sands National Monument, which was about 3 hours away on the scenic route. Our route took us across some surprising mountains, at 8,000 feet elevation! We arrived at White Sands around sunset – just as I’d planned. White Sands has been described as “other-worldly” and I would agree. Driving in, you can’t see the dunes, so it is a complete surprise as they rise dramatically around you. We were positively giddy when we stepped out and kicked off our shoes to start climbing.
Funny story: Once it started getting dark (the park closes at 9:00) we decided to head back to the car. It turns out that sand dunes all look the same. We walked and walked, thinking that the car had to be just over the next dune. Finally, we gave into panic and remembered that I had left my phone in the car. We were able to GPS the phone and find our way back just before thunder and lightning started in the distance. Did I mention we had no shoes on? Ahh… adventure.