I may have taken more photos eleven years ago today than on any other day of the trip. Maybe. At least in the top five. I will not inflict all of them on you, but you’re going to get a good selection.
I headed west from Big Spring towards the New Mexico state line on “a road so straight I swear they laid it out with a ruler. If it deviated more than a few inches from left to right the entire distance (about 80 miles), I’d be real surprised.”
After I crossed the state line, I noticed something bright orange way up in the air off to my left:
I arrived in Carlsbad, New Mexico, around eleven in the morning, having gained an hour crossing back from Central time to Mountain time when I crossed the state line. I used that hour (plus some extra) with a visit to the Living Desert State Park, on a hill overlooking the city. It’s sort of the desert version of Northwest Trek, a wild animal park featuring local critters rather than exotic ones, and where at least some of them get to roam relatively free.
They had just about every animal native to the deserts of New Mexico known to mankind, and I managed to take pictures of quite a few of them:
The only critter they didn’t have, which disappointed me, was an armadillo. They even had big cats and wolves, and, out in the area where they had room to run, they had bison, of all things, and deer, and desert bighorn sheep, none of which I managed to get photos of, unfortunately.
The view from the hilltop the park sat on was very nice as desert views go, too:
After my time with the animals, I went back down into Carlsbad in search of lunch, and once again Lonely Planet hit a home run. “The place was called Lucy’s and it was very good.” I ate way too many fajitas, and had twenty-five cent sopapillas for dessert.
“Then I headed 25 miles south of town to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This was a completely different world. I turned off the highway and mountains just sort of appeared. The road switchbacked up 1400 feet higher than Carlsbad’s 3000 feet, to a visitor center perched out in the middle of nowhere.”
I bought a ticket that would allow me to hike down into the cave from the natural entrance, and headed out.
“Words are going to fail me here. [I wrote, and then wrote about a page of them — bear with me because this place made an enormous impression on me] The path switchbacks below an amphitheater lined with stone benches:
“Then you come around a corner, and there’s a bloody elevator. A coffee shop, with decor straight out of the Jetsons. And restrooms. How they got the plumbing down there is beyond me. The elevator is the kicker, though. It’s like the bloody Twilight Zone.”