Day Nine: Carlsbad, New Mexico

We had a short drive to Carlsbad from Fort Stockton yesterday giving us an arrival time of 12:30 pm to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Not knowing how crowded it could be seeing as they had only been open for two days and limiting both the number of people allowed in and their hours, we wanted to get there as soon as we could. The drive up Guadalupe Mountains through the Chihuahuan Desert was gorgeous! The views were amazing. When we reached the top there were less than 20 cars and RV’s in the parking lot. And it was HOT, 102 hot!

The entrance to begin the drive up
Here we go
We made it to the top!

Will went to check out the process of getting in as online it stated you would be given a time to go down into the caverns, while Betise took Pawley for a walk and Eli and I made lunch. When Will came back he said it was empty and we could take our time, but we did have to check Pawley into the kennel. Not having his shot record on hand, we called the vet back in Richmond, who immediately emailed me a copy (which is now saved to my phone for future use). Thanks Dr. Z!

After our quick lunch we walked into the visitor’s center to get our tickets. Anna Cate is eligible for the US National Parks Disability Access Pass. US citizens and permanent residents who have been medically determined to have a permanent disability are eligible to receive a free lifetime access pass to the pass holder and the accompanying passengers in ONE motor vehicle into over 2,000 National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and National Forests. Looks like we will have lots of places to visit in the future after this trip!

After learning more about her new pass and getting our ticket time to go down to the caverns we were escorted to the elevator to begin our journey down 750 stories where the temperature drops to 50 degrees (and felt so good!). These caverns were our family’s first caverns to visit. When we travel it is important to us we find as many wheelchair accessible attractions as possible so we can experience the outing together. We know there will be times we will have to divide and conquer, but yesterday was not one of them.

We are DOWN here!

The Caverns were amazing! WOW! You will see we took many pictures. We took the Big Room tour in the caverns which is a 1.25 mile self-guided tour, which lasted about an hour and a half. We passed by the Lion’s Tail, Temple of the Sun, Fairyland, and the Rock of Ages. It was relatively level and well lit making it ideal for a wheelchair or those with difficulties walking. Since the caverns were basically empty with people visiting, it made it rather eery underground. There was one area once we hit the Lower Cave that the grade was too steep for the wheelchair, so Will and the kids continued on while Anna Cate and I turned around to meet them back where the paths connected. Anna Cate and I returned first and it was another seven minutes (but felt like twenty!!!) until we saw them emerge around the corner. It was freaky! They said with some umph we could have made it happen for Anna Cate. We continued on the Big Room Trail completing a large circle when right after we passed the Crystal Spring Dome we hit another “steep grade” area. This time, we took AC out of her wheelchair and Will walked her up while I pushed the wheelchair. She was so proud of herself! I love when we overcome obstacles like these…take that Rett Syndrome!

The main map
Off we go
Formations and Features
The path in
Getting ready to round the corner into the Big Room
The facts
Formations and features
Looks like a drip sand castle
Formations and features
Formations and features
The kids. Anna Cate is still getting used to everything.
Me and Eli (I think he keeps growing on this trip!!!!)
Me and the kids
Anna Cate after conquering her hill to the top by the Rock of Ages.
The best views are always after the hard climb.
Inside the caverns

Not only was it incredible to see these gigantic subterranean chambers, fantastic cave formations and extraordinary features, but it was equally as fun as we were finding our own features within the formations giving them names like Jabba the Hutt, a Nativity and a bearded man to name a few.

The Lion’s Tail
Hall of Giants
Betsie and Anna Cate in Fairyland
Temple of the Sun
What do you see? Can you name anything? What does the formation to the far right look like to you?
Me and Will (yes that is his face mask around his neck!)
Me and Betsie
All of us taking it in!

As we were walking back to the RV, I noticed that the tire I thought looked a little low a few days ago looked a bit lower today. Will agreed this time (what is it with men not agreeing the first time…sorry I had to say it….it’s kinda like not asking for directions!…and don’t worry, I will throw myself under the bus too later in this post….just trying to keep it real for everyone!). I called one RV service center to see if we could drive by to have them check it out for them to refer us to another place as they didn’t do tires. Will called and off we went to Elite Tires in Carlsbad. The young man who came out to take a look and told us it was actually the inside tire (we have two tires in the back on each side) that was low, so the outside tire was taking on more weight so it made it look like that tire was low. He gave it more air and said he didn’t see anything. Knowing we will be at our next stop for more than one day, we are going to have someone really check the tire, before we go on further.

I “literally” threw him under the bus!
Our friend at Elite Tires

After that little bit of excitement, we headed to find Carlsbad RV Park to check in as you could not check in past a certain point. This was the first time we checked in and didn’t stay. Remember I said in an earlier post, you never know what you are going to get. The website looked nice and the reviews people left were good; however, everyone has different levels of “standards”. We can do basic. And we can do simple. But at the end of the day we also have to feel safe and be smart.

I didn’t even take a picture to show you the entrance, but the guy who was to “escort” us to our site, took off without us leaving us to find it ourselves (which was fine, since we had a map). Maybe the Lord, wanted us to get left behind as it lead us to not only see how far the bath houses (there was only one for this huge park) were from our campsite but more importantly a pit bull was not on a leash! It seems that he escaped his RV and his owner was bringing him back. They have leash rules for a reason and I want to feel comfortable that all people with dogs are following the rules for everyone’s safety. We have even noticed that many RV parks do not allow certain breeds of dogs.

You may be asking….did we change RV parks. Yes. But not right away. We pulled into our campsite and hooked up so we could enjoy my birthday dinner before Will wanted to go back to Carlsbad Caverns for the nightly Bat Flight. Before we even got out of the car, we called the KOA in Carlsbad which was about another 15 miles down the road to make a reservation for the evening. While I finished prepping the final touches on dinner to get it on the grill, Will took a call, Eli made dessert (Key Lime Pie….my favorite!) and Betsie helped with Anna Cate, as well as, other odds and ends.

Our dinner was delicious! I picked to have salmon with a honey garlic sauce cooked in foil wraps on the grill topped with a fresh mango salsa and on the side we had a vegetable rice medley from Trader Joe’s. At this point, I could have simply just gone straight to the KOA campsite to relax and enjoy dessert there and the rest of the evening (this would have been the perfect way to end my birthday). I was tried. But taking one for the team, I didn’t express this loudly after hearing “you don’t go to Carlsbad and not see the Bat Flight”. We asked the park ranger when the bat flight usually happens and he said at sunset between 7:45-8:15 pm. At 7:05 pm we were on the road heading back up the mountain. Our ETA was 7:40 pm. I joked that we would probably be the only ones up there since it was so empty during the day. I was close as there were maybe five other families. The ranger led bat flight at the amphitheater was closed, but there was an area where you could watch the thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out in a mass exodus at dusk for a night of feasting on insects. Sounds exciting doesn’t it!?!?

We waited. And waited. I was okay up until 8:30 pm when I said I don’t think the bats are flying out tonight and if we continue to wait it will be so dark we won’t even see them anyway. Knowing we had a longer drive to our new campsite (remember I said it was 15 miles past where we originally were) I just wanted to leave to possibly enjoy dessert. This is when I started to become rather salty! Finally I walked back to the RV with Anna Cate and shortly thereafter when it was beyond “dusk” and everyone else was leaving it was “okay” to leave. We should never have trusted the “bats” as due to them the world entered a pandemic! If you are ever in Carlsbad and visit the Caverns, I would HIGHLY recommend the caverns, but you take a gamble with the bat flight.

The sunset was pretty
Anna Cate wondering where the heck the bats are!
Look closely you may see one or two bats!

One hour later, and many salty, cranky comments by a very tired mom, we arrived to KOA Carlsbad. It was pitch black so we couldn’t see anything, but that didn’t matter as we hooked up and went to bed.

Now that it is daylight the campsite is SO much better than where we originally were. It’s remote, spread out, peaceful, each campsite is well kept, very clean bathhouses, there are trees, huge rabbits, every dog that has gone for a walk is on a leash (like at other RV parks) and it simply feels different. I don’t know how to truly explain the difference without you being here with us.

The entrance in
Eli getting ready for our next stop!
The area
Our campsite
Sign by the bathhouse

When I woke up this morning Betsie and Will had placed the Happy Birthday balloon banner they had planned to set up during dessert time and my cards were all laid out for me. Apparently, I get a birthday redo without turning another year older! I don’t need a redo, I would simply like a relaxed evening at an earlier hour.

Cheers to 44 years!

Eli just woke up (its 8:20 am) and the girls are still sleeping. Will is working on our patio and I am wrapping up this post, before I enjoy some time reading my book (if time allows).

Will’s outdoor office

Our first stop today is only forty-five minutes away before we check into our Airbnb for the next two nights. Four bedrooms to spread out and a laundry room here we come!

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