If anyone would like to know the routes we’re traveling, I’ll update this map from time to time. It doesn’t include any little side trips, but it’s pretty close to the actual route. This is Chapter 1 of the Great Curiodyssey: the route we took from Loveland, CO to Spring Branch, TX.
Day 8 (4/15) – We drove from Alamogordo south past Carlsbad to camp at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which contains the tallest peak in Texas coming in at a whopping 8751 ft.
Our campsite was nestled right near the trailhead for multiple hikes, and once again I forced Marc to do way more hiking at this spot than he was excited about! First hike was up to a rock formation called Devil’s Hall.
A good deal of the trail was over rocks in a river wash, and we got to experience this little pissed off critter on our way down. You wanna see grown adults jump 3 feet in the air? Yeah, that rattly sound will do it!
That picture is pretty blurry considering we didn’t want to get too close!
Day 9 (4/16) – Today’s to-do list included hiking to the “Top of Texas,” and I regretted the scoffing I had done at the measly 8751 feet that it contained. This hike really kicked our butts! We will not underestimate Texas again. The views from the top extended as far as the hazy skies would allow.
The hike took about 6 hours and we were pretty much beat for the rest of the day. Wind gusts were up to 40 mph at times, so we hunkered down and had wine and movie night from the comfort of the camper!
Day 10 (4/17) – You guys! If you have never been to Carlsbad Caverns, put it on your list right this instant! I’ll wait, go get your list and write it down. You didn’t really do it, did you? You should. This was one of the most surprisingly awesome places we have been. We showed up around 9:15 and bought tickets to the 10:00 tour, but they said usually they want people to allow about an hour to get down into the caves by 10. Well, we weren’t deterred and figured we could make it. There are elevators that will take you down the 750 feet below the ground, but they have been out of service and pffffft! Who needs elevators anyway?
This is just the opening of the cave. It goes on for what seems like forever and ever, and although our legs were screaming (remember the 6 hour hike we did the day before?) it was so worth it and we made the 10 o’clock tour with time to spare.
There just is no way that any of the pictures we took inside the cave can convey how cool this is. So, I’m not going to post many more, and you are just going to have to trust me and go there some day to witness it for yourself! There are about 30 miles of discovered caves with more that have yet to be explored.
Day 11 (4/18) – We drove to Davis Mountains State Park with a plan to camp there for the next 2 nights. In the afternoon, we roamed the grounds of the old Fort Davis that was in operation 1854-1891. They had done a fantastic job restoring some of the buildings and bringing it back to life.
Day 12 (4/19) – One of the reasons that we wanted to stop here in Texas was to see the McDonald Observatory, home to astronomers doing leading research from University of Texas. We toured telescopes during the daytime, and learned of the history and specs of some of the biggest telescopes. The location is situated in an area great for studying the sky as it has some of the lowest amounts of light pollution in the US.
The best part came later that night, when we returned for a Star Party, where they showed us different constellations, and then let us view different objects in the night sky through some of their telescopes. We saw jupiter and 3 of its moons, a close up view of the moon, several different star clusters and the Orion nebula. It was one of my favorite things so far. They did such a good job and to be able to see those things was just wonderful.
They don’t build ’em like they used to! Rustic stone construction, original wood trim, 7 quaint rooms, sleeps at least 40, large family gathering room with excellent acoustics, natural ventilation, protection from the elements while maintaining terrific views, faces south for solar heating, ample parking, includes private water source, conveniently located within Gila National Forest.
We visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings tucked away in southwestern New Mexico’s Gila National Forest on Tuesday. Sarah spotted it on a map the day before and, after a bit of research, we decided to check it out. We’re really glad we did.
The dwellings are part of a small cave system carved into the side of a cliff high up in a narrow canyon bluff. The caves were inhabited centuries ago by different groups, most notably the Mogollon people. For more info about the Cliff Dwellings, check out the National Park Service: Gila Cliff Dwellings website.
We camped about 1/4 mile from the Cliff Dwellings trailhead at a free campground inside the park. This is a fairly remote area and there were only two other groups around so it was pretty serene. There are signs everywhere about bears and other wildlife, plus earlier that day we were informed of a bobcat sighting nearby, but the only wildlife we encountered was a few wild turkeys, which gobbled periodically through the evening.
Now, I’m not sure what you’ve been taught about New Mexico, but if you grew up with a similar education to my own, I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed. I always thought New Mexico was all hot and all desert. Happily, that is not the case. I already mentioned the diverse landscape of the state. Yes, there is desert covering much of the area, but there are these pockets of incredible scenery, beautiful mountains, and awe-inspiring geological anomalies. Oh, and it can be COLD!
When we arrived at our Gila campsite, it was rainy, muggy, and quite balmy around 50 degrees. That night the temps dropped to somewhere around 25 degrees. Inside our little camper we got rather chilly, despite being layered in long johns and 5 blankets. In the morning we were pretty quick to get packed up and on the road, headed east toward White Sands National Monument…coming soon.