Day 4 – Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands
Soon after the breakfast, I headed to Carlsbad Caverns. It was only 30 mins from the Carlsbad city. Outside temperature was rising rapidly during morning itself and I was hoping the caves would be comforting. Sure, it was but the strenuous trail down the cave made me sweat.
There are guided tours available which is recommended if you want to know more about the cave. The 1.25 mile and 750 ft deep and dark trail is pretty steep. It takes around 45 mins to reach down. Without proper shoes it would be difficult to walk down the trail. During briefing, the ranger told me clearly that it’s going to be tiring. However, there are few elevators if you prefer that way. Hiking up was not even an option for me, I would rather wait 40 mins for the elevator, which I did. Although I saw a handful of brave hearts avoided the elevators. A big salute to their stamina.
My recommendation would be, to take the Natural Entrance Trail (I know I said its tiring but worth it) and continue to the Big Room (another 1.2 miles on flat surface).
It’s amazing how the cave has been decorated with the natural formations. They seemed to be man made but they are not.
Big Room formations:
Some more clicks
White Sands National Monument was the last destination on my list and you can guess why I kept it that way. It was a killer finisher of this trip and left a lasting impression.
I have no words to describe how I felt being there. It’s more like an endless, water-less sea. A ‘sea’ where you can hike, rest and sleep, if you want. Huge dunes and the mountains in the backdrop created a perfect frame – a dream for every photographer. It was surrealy real.
During Summer, the park area gets extremely hot. So, in case you are planning, make sure you plan during evening. You do not want to miss the sunset from here. Pack appropriately (sled, beach chairs and shade umbrella) and prepare to spend few hours till sunset. Hike and get lost (not literally) – that’s what people do mostly.
Do not worry about your car, you will be driving on the sands but road surface has a good grip, so you will be just fine.
Although it was hot, even during the evening, the dune shades were surprisingly comforting. Everything was so white that you definitely need a sunglass, trust me on this.
I was patiently waiting for the sunset. Too bad, you can not go there to watch sun rise as the park opens at 8 AM (and 9 AM during winter). Finding the right spot to watch the Sun go down was not tricky. I drove to the end of the loop to avoid the crowd and hiked several dunes to get an unobstructed view. Honestly, I was little nervous going too far and getting lost in the dunes is pretty easy. There’s no trail, no sign board and no guides -just endless dunes. So take precautions accordingly.
Sunset was breathtaking, as I was expecting. As the Sun was going down slowly behind the mountains, the colors rippled through the dunes. Every moment was so fascinating. As someone wise said – Joy comes in sips, not gulps.
I wanted to stay there till it becomes totally dark but then I heard the park rangers, asking everyone to leave the park. They are open till ‘Sunset’ only. I noticed no one wanted to leave the park but the rangers kind of forced everyone to 🙂
So at the end, all the cars started leaving the park together forming a convoy. More than 50 cars were returning through the sands at night – an impromptu convoy to remember.
This is the time I feel exhausted when the trip ends and I am on my way to home. I did not want to drive 10 hours that night so stayed overnight to Hobbs, NM. It was a 4 hours of drive from White Sands via US 82. This route passes through the mountains and deserts so be careful and fill up your tank before taking this route, especially at night. I had to drive real slow as there were lot of wild animals crossing the roads. Anyways, next day I started from Hobbs and reached home around 7 PM.
The excitement that gradually builds up while planning a trip is the best moment ever. And when you finally decided to take the plunge and begin the trip – time flies like a rocket and the trip is over before you even realize it. Then the battle of post traveling blues and Monday morning begins, as always.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” they say