Travel Dates :: March 9 – 12, 2016
After a fun few weeks in San Antonio, Austin and Lake Conroe it was about time to jet west and wrap up our time in Texas. We had planned to stop in Fredericksburg for a couple days but were watching a series of storms headed for Texas and decided to skip it and head west early. We had plans to get into Phoenix by at least March 23 to meet up with family, so we were on a bit of a deadline.
The drive from San Antonio to New Mexico is looooong and uneventful. We stopped in Fort Stockton for a couple days to break up the drive and didn’t do much there besides catch up on school and work but it was a good stopover spot. We had beautiful views from the Hilltop RV park we stayed at.
It was our last stop in Texas before heading to New Mexico. . .
We headed north to Carlsbad, New Mexico for a four night stay at the Carlsbad KOA so that we could explore Carlsbad Caverns National Park and other local attractions. I’ll share more about that the Carlsbad KOA in a later post (we LOVED it).
We got into Carlsbad early in the afternoon and decided to head to the nearby town of Artesia to explore. I love small towns. The first place we went was the Artesia public library. . .small town libraries are one of our FAVORITE things.
And this is one of the most beautiful public libraries we’ve ever seen. This amazing Peter Hurd mural (pictured above) in the Artesia Public Library was rescued from a downtown Houston building slated for demolition. The mural was moved as one piece after removing the entire back wall and exposing the 3/4 inch plaster it was painted on. It was then stored for a couple years while the library in Artesia was being built. It’s 46 feet long and 15 feet tall and weighs 50,000 pounds. In 1951, Hurd wrote about his design, “sweeps of landscape, timeless in their forms and yet alive with the activities of man at work improving and developing its natural resources for the present and the future.”
Isn’t it beautiful?
We spent a couple hours at theArtesia public library reading books, playing chess . . .
And doing puzzles in the kid’s library area.
Doesn’t it look like an amazing library? I felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in the Carlsbad area.
Then we walked around downtown Artesia a bit. There wasn’t much to see – not many shops or restaurants at all, which surprised us. But we found this beautiful public walkway with amazing murals and fountain features.
It was a beautiful night and the kids had so much fun running around the public space. . . sprinkled with cherry blossoms. It was awesome.
Our next day in town we headed to Carlsbad Caverns National Park! This place is incredible.
You drive up a winding road up so high that you can see for miles. It’s a beautiful setting.
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park visitors center is really well done. We spent more than an hour just exploring the visitor center and displays . . .
and the kid’s completed the Junior Ranger program (read more about Junior Ranger Programs here).
Then we walked down to caverns! The elevator is currently broken at the caverns, so you have to enter through the natural entrance – a nearly 800 foot descent that stretches 2.5 mile round trip.
The park ranger said it’s the equivalent of taking the stairs in an 80-story building. The path consists of many switchbacks and is paved and well marked. I thought it was well designed – it looks ominous but there are rock walls along the side and handrails most of the way. It seems like you’re walking downhill FOREVER into the depths of the caves.
But as soon as the daylight is gone, the caves really come alive with the lighting. It’s incredible to see all the formations. Here are a few photos. . . .
The water is sooo clear inside the caverns!
There are educational displays throughout the caverns that are very well done. This is the third set of caverns we’ve visited on our travels and we still learned new things! (We also toured Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana and Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas).
Honestly, the photos don’t do it justice. It’s so massive and impressive that you really have to see it for yourself to fully appreciate it. We hiked all the way down to the Big Room at the bottom – the largest single cave chamber (in volume) in North America – another mile loop.
The we hiked all the way back up. I was so proud of the kids – who were troopers and didn’t complain at all. It helps when you have awesome scenery to distract you as you climb 800 feet back up and there are lots of benches for resting if needed. I actually preferred the hike up more than the hike down because it wasn’t so hard on my knees (I have a torn ACL from a wedding reception dance floor in Hawaii. . .long story for another time). It was a wonderful workout and I was grateful the elevator was broken because we felt so accomplished after hiking in and out.
The following day we went to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens which is also in Carlsbad. If you are in town, don’t miss this place! It’s a state park but it’s unlike any other state park we’ve ever seen because it is a zoo and garden! It’s very education and the displays are beautiful.
It’s about 1.25 mile loop through various exhibits outside. The exhibits have more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of plant species native to the Chihuahuan Desert.
Some of the exhibits are inside buildings and they have some great educational displays.
Well hello there, snake. Thankfully we didn’t see any snakes on the trails. This snake was in a display inside the reptile building. The park ranger said it’s a new building/exhibit and we thought it was really well done.
They have a large prairie dog exhibit and we stayed and watched these guys for a solid 20 minutes. They are so funny and the way they interact with each other kept making us laugh out loud.
The prairie dogs had just been fed and it was fun to see them eating (and fighting over their favorites). The kids didn’t want to leave this exhibit, they were too entertaining!
The views are beautiful because the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is located up on a hill (similar to the way the caverns are).
And all around the loop we had gorgeous views of Carlsbad, New Mexico . . .
I’d recommend going early in the day when it’s not too hot. They do have shaded viewing areas along the way, but we were grateful that we went in the morning.
And that wrapped up our time in Carlsbad, New Mexico! We really enjoyed the area and especially enjoyed the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. We learned a lot about the caverns and the Chihuahuan Desert.
From here we head West . . .but I’ll share more about that soon!
We like to do a lot of hiking and our kids use these CamelBak Kid’s Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Packs! They are the perfect size for a couple snacks and they hold plenty of water for the kids. Definitely worth the investment if you’re out with your kids hiking or on the go. They use them with and without the water insert, depending on what we are doing. We have adult Camelbaks that we take as well and again – they are worth every penny not having to lug around a water bottle or in my case, a purse.