We managed a reasonably early start and made our way towards the Guadalupe Mountains. The Park is about an hour away from Carlsbad. Its formation was fascinating. About 250 million years ago, the area was a reef growing beneath the waters of an ancient sea. That same vanished sea spawned the Carlsbad Caverns. There are still ocean-like fossils in the rocks of the Guadalupe. A NP Volunteer told us that a cavern, recently discovered in Carlsbad, likely connects all the way along to the Guadalupe Mountains NP – very cool.
We spent some time in the Visitor Center, watching the slide show and completing the Junior Ranger scavenger hunt. A large area of this NP is designated ‘wilderness area’, which means the only way to access the backcountry areas and mountain peaks is to hike or ride (many allow horses) the trails. We had found a great looking hike, unfortunately it was quite chilly and extremely windy and so after completing the nature trail out to The Pinery, we decided to call it quits.
We learned about the Butterfield Stage out at The Pinery. This was a major mail route from the east to west and, although it was short-lived due to the outbreak of the civil war, it is still hailed as one of the most innovative routes of its time. The Stage traveled about 120 miles a day with a team of 6 mules. The Pinery was used as a quick overnight stop for food, water, rest and mule team switch. Anyone traveling with the Stage would sleep in the coach. It was a risk to get off as there was no guarantee there would be any space on the next one coming through.
We took a drive up to the Carlsbad Caverns NP Visitor Center to collect Junior Ranger books and take a look around. Unfortunately the scenic loop trail was closed otherwise we would have taken a tour. The difference between temperature and wind chill was very noticeable, although we were still reasonably high.
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
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Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)