South Eastern New Mexico is stark and barren. This is desert flat country with large stretches of varying hues of beige punctuated with small shades of green from junipers, desert palms, prickly pear cactus and brown mountains in the distance. In one of these mountains is Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The National Park, one of the earliest, is remote but once inside it is every bit worthy of its designation and the trek. The National Park Service has out done itself with a fantastic 2.4 mile trail and just the right amount of lighting to accentuate the features. This place is of such uncommon grandeur and so other worldly that its description is defies my vocabulary. On at least two occasions I turned a corner and literally lost my breath, something that has never happened before. I have been in other caverns, so the subterranean world was not completely new, but this was an overwhelming visual overload.
Hall of Giants – Carlsbad Caverns National Park
After driving through the bleak areas and towns of South East New Mexico, including Roswell which was not as funky or as cool as I had imagined, we turned west and soon were greeted by picturesque vast expanses straight out of old western movies. This was Billy the Kid and Stagecoach Express Country, the vistas, plains and prairies are vast. There are still vestiges of little towns from the 1800’s, and it is not hard to imagine being a pioneer in this land. It is amazing to see places with so little human impact. Just out side of one of these towns is a unique 172 square mile lava field, Valley of Fires Recreation Area.
The Wild West
We camped at Valley of Fires on top of a hill surrounded by a 5000 year old lava field. This is not a typical lava field as the source was through multiple vents not a large looming volcanic mountain. The field is young enough to distinctly see motion, and old enough for desert plants to find root. This created a one of a kind juxtaposition to the surrounding country with prairie and snow capped mountains in the distance. Valley of fires is adjacent to the White Sands Missile Range, famous for the detonation of the first Atomic Bomb, perhaps that explains the loud boom we heard that shook our RV at night in the middle of nowhere.
Valley of Fires Recreation Area
Both Carlsbad Caverns and Valley of Fires are places of strange and unique beauty that caused us to step back and marvel at nature’s design.