Day 4: Carlsbad Caverns

My last day of my Texas and New Mexico trip started with another early wake up so I could get to Carlsbad when it opened at 8 am. It was about 30 minutes south of me, so I left around 7:30 to get there in time.

The drive back into the canyon and then up onto the mountains is quite pretty. It’s dry and full of cacti but still has great views. I wandered around on top of the mountain and took pictures to the South where you can see Guadalupe National Park in the distance. After taking photos, I went into the visitor center to purchase my ticket into the caverns.

You can purchase a ticket where you can hike about a mile and a half down into the caverns (800 feet) or you can take an elevator. Even though I’d been here before with my Dad and brother about 12 or so years ago, I decided to do the hike down into the caverns.

I don’t regret choosing the hike, but holy hannah was it steep! My toes kept hitting the front of my shoes from moving slowly on the slippery path down into the cavern. What you see above is a small fraction of the entrance into the cave. From there, you still descend about 600 feet into the cavern to even get where the elevator drops people off. It takes about an hour to descend so take that into consideration when you visit.

There’s a large room inside the cavern where most of the path is. You can fit two capitol buildings inside of it which is pretty wild. I personally disliked most of my time in the cavern. I did it because i wanted to visit again, but I was sweating, had huge anxiety, and basically ran through the cavern so I could get out sooner.

Not necessarily my idea of a good time. You can see in the photos above how steep and dark the trail is and also how it weaves in between and through pieces of cut out rock. Again, cue the anxiety.

After sprinting through the cave, I took the elevator back up to the top and had lunch in the cafeteria area with an overlook of the valley. On my way out of the park, I took the scenic road that winds about 9 miles through the back country and then back out onto the main road. If you have time, it’s got great view. Just be mindful that nobody is driving toward you on the one way road like a lady did to me. She must have missed the signs saying do not enter, and drove her charger on a one lane road of rocks toward other cars. I think she realized pretty quickly that was not the best route to travel the road.

The drive to the airport from the National Park was about 3 hours. I drove through what felt like no man’s land for a while and then ended up back in oil country (aka the Permian Basin). There were oilfields and drilling rigs as far as the eye could see. And, lots and lots of white pickup trucks. Pretty much every oil or petroleum or natural gas company worker had some sort of white pickup. They were everywhere as well as the tractor trailers hauling the things from the various rigs.

I stumbled upon an interesting article about oil in West Texas that’s linked here. One of the quotes from it describes the dessert I drive through between Carlsbad and Midland quite well.

About an hour’s drive west of Odessa, Loving County is 673 square miles of desert sand, home to 106 full-time residents and 1,059 producing oil wells. Despite its wealth of oil, Loving has long held the title of least-populated county in the contiguous United States. There’s no grocery store, hospital, bank, beauty salon, honky-tonk, church, school, or movie theater—not even a cemetery.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/permian-basin-booming-oil-cost-west-texans/

West Texas is a place unlike any I’d ever seen. The article above explains it best, but the boom of oil and the technological advancements to get more oil from the ground even as oil prices drop is shocking. The trailer parts, RV parks, lack of infrastructure, but presence of workers was so surprising. I’m curious to see what will happen to that area of the state after the boom stops booming.