So, after visiting the “World’s Largest Roadrunner”, we headed NW on Highway 285, a nice and lonely two lane road over mostly flat country. The weather was clear, visibility unlimited, and few cars to impede our progress.
There was a roadrunner crossing the road ahead of us. Small bird (smaller than the picture), dark colored; had to look quickly to see it.
We got to Pecos, TX, which is the home of the western rodeo. And a very large cantaloupe farm (which we missed). A small town, not even a McDonalds. I wanted to stop at the museum, which is right off the main (and seemingly only) drag, but as we pulled up to it we saw the “Closed” sign. I forgot to take a picture of it, or the old railroad station next to it.
Around the corner was the Chamber of Commerce, so I stopped in for a quick visit. Picked up a few brochures, and a couple of metal “Sheriff” badges. Not much else to see, so it was back on the road, continuing on 285 to Carlsbad, NM.
Just before Carlsbad, we took a shortcut on a small country road (County Road 720, if you are following along) to head to Highway 180/62 to Whites City, the gateway to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. A 20 minute drive up a windy two lane road to the Caverns was our next destination.
The Carlsbad Caverns are located on a mesa about 800 feet above the flat New Mexico landscape. The view from the parking lot is impressive. Whites City is at about 3500′ elevation, the Caverns are at about 4300′, and you can see for about 200 miles (it seems).
The Caverns are quite impressive, and quite a hike. You enter through a very large hole in the ground about 100′ wide, on a paved path that switchback’s down into the cave. Eventually, you’ll go down about 700 feet along those switchbacks, steep in places. Your ankles and calves really get sore with all that downhill walking.
The cave wasn’t as moist as I expected, but quite pretty. The various caverns are quite large and somewhat colorful. I’d show pictures, but you can see better ones at your favorite reference web site.
At the end of the hike, down in the bottom of the cave, you can go on a 1 1/2 mile hike back up to the surface, or take the elevator (!). With my physical shape (round is a shape), we decided on the elevator.
They are overhauling the visitor center, so you just get a couple of large trailers of information. But it is worth a visit. If you stick around until dusk, you can sit in an amphitheatre at the cave mouth and watch several hundred thousand bats fly out of the cave. We opted instead to travel on.