Traveling the flat brush country of northwest Texas to southwest New Mexico would have been isolated if it weren’t for vultures and hawks zooming down to clean up road kill. But as we got closer to Carlsbad traffic picked up. A harvest of natural resources was being pulled from the earth, and the drillers were after more. New oil or gas wells were popping up across the horizon. White trucks moved up and down the highway like a bunch of ants busily at work. I think they were transporting water. Maybe natural gas. They were too clean to be oil trucks.
Friday evening we stopped at Wal-Mart and found ourselves in the middle of some of Carlsbad’s culture. The store was packed with oil drillers who had come to town to cash their paychecks and buy groceries. We happened to checkout with a manager who was in town to help because that store was so busy. She shared that the men swarm in as they prepare for the weekend. Then Monday morning they’re back to buy frozen food to take out to the field for the week. What a sacrificial job. They reminded me of all the people that have to leave home to do their jobs. Thank God for faithful American workers.
We hadn’t traveled in New Mexico before so I didn’t really know much about the state. But I was quickly reminded that this is the area that reported alien encounters, had the first atomic bomb test, a great Indian heritage, an outstanding hot air balloon festival, and even snow skiing.
Of course, Carlsbad Caverns is one of the great treasures of New Mexico. If you like caves this is said to be the largest in the nation. They advertise eight different ways to enjoy the underground marvels. You can easily take the elevator that drops over seven hundred feet and enjoy a stroll through huge rooms of beauty where non-skid covered paths are wheelchair accessible. Or choose different layers of difficulty including some described extremely strenuous. They’re the ones that are dark with slippery surfaces where ropes, ladders, helmets and headlamps are used. You crawl on your belly for extended periods of time and free climb rock chimneys. We skipped those.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is about twenty miles southwest of Carlsbad in Salt Flat, Texas. It’s described as the newest and least visited park. There’s a reason for that reputation. The campsites have no hook-ups, it is mostly hiking trails, and there are very few roads with only one high clearance vehicle road to explore. So we got a key from the visitor center to open the gate into the land for access to the high clearance road which heads toward a mountain that is noted as Texas’s tallest at over 8,000 feet. The park worker said the drive was bumpy and he knew what he was talking about. The trail ran through what once was Williams Ranch. A house still stands where in 1906 a rancher built a place to bring his bride. He planned to raise cattle in the days when the area was green and had deep rivers running through big gullies. Living there would have been very isolated. The story goes that when his bride arrived she stayed one day and one night and then went back home. He did a good job building a strong house that is still standing although it did seem to lean a bit from the years of southern winds. We had a special treat on the way back. Four javelina (they look like wild boars) were spotted in the field.
While doing our laundry in town we talked with a lady who was staying near the park. They were boondocking. I had read about people camping on open range in Alaska so I knew the word.
She shared that there are places all over the country where we can park and stay for free. These people were full-timers who had gotten permission to stay on empty government land for fifteen days. They found the information on how to do it through many websites on the subject.
Jim didn’t think that was anything we would be interested in. He likes to plug in to electricity and water when we get someplace. But it is a good option if you just need to pull off the road and sleep overnight. I’m not sure about safety but they didn’t have any stories of being in danger. You know, like a bison butting the door. Many years ago my grandparents had bear scratches on their trailer while in Yellowstone. She was cooking something he thought smelled good enough to eat and wanted in. As far as I know they never tried to remove the souvenir paw print on their door.
Anyway, the electricity wasn’t a problem for this couple. They pull a fifth-wheel and have added solar panels across the roof to produce power to recharge batteries, so their generator is only needed if it rains.