We woke up and ate in Van Horn because even people with a cooler (and two bags) full of food don’t turn away from free continental breakfast. Well, he didn’t. (I brought my own high-protein bagel and vegan cream cheese in to toast and spread while he ate danishes and Texas-shaped waffles.
We explored Van Horn a bit, admired the awesome signage a bit longer, and headed north to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
We went for a brief hike, ate some dashboard burritos, and headed on up the road to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Where Guadalupe was hot and dusty except for a small spring, the Caverns are cool and damp (and crowded that time of year). If you wanted to take long-exposure photos, linger on the footpaths, or do some of the more hardcore tours, I’d recommend winter, a part of winter when everyone else is working or in school. Still, pretty awesome stuff.
By the time we got back on the surface, it was already getting late. Like dinnertime late, but we still had too many miles to drive to get to our next stay (camping at Santa Rosa State Park), so we grabbed some plain baked potatoes from a Wendy’s to add our own cheese and salsa to when we stopped again and headed on northward.
In Roswell, we stopped at a grocery store for a couple of supplies, waited in maddening Fourth of July cookout-supply crowds, and stopped at a rest area just north of there to eat and watch the sun set.
On the road to Santa Rosa, we caught the town fireworks show and once we rolled into town, it seemed we may have missed a parade. Cute little town, but also had a worn, sort of sad look. Then, we only really caught the parts along Route 66 before we headed up to the park so maybe we missed the shiny sections. Still, you know how I like dusty.
It wasn’t exactly easy getting the tent set up in the dark. All the other campers were settled in for the night, though the group at the RV across the lane from us played music on a small radio well into the night. Still, we used the headlights sparingly because we didn’t want to disturb anyone and flashlights are only so bright. If we hadn’t owned that tent for more than a decade and set the thing up in all sorts of places over the years, I don’t imagine we’d have managed to get it put together, the air mattress blown up, and everything else put away as tired as we were.
Sunrise made it all worth it, though. Totally gorgeous. The state park spot cost us about $20 and the park had showers and flush toilets. (If you aren’t familiar with the lingo, vault toilets are the kind that are essentially a hole in the ground with a porta-potty style seat and maybe sanitizer dispensers in lieu of sinks and running water.) If I’m out camping or hiking or something for a few days, I’m fine with peeing in the woods, vault toilets, and not showering, but since we planned to be in the car, stopping at various places some of which would be around other, non hikers, showering was kind of a must. My hair in humid climates is bridge-troll greasy eight hours after I’ve washed it. For some bizarre reason, desert climates make it even greasier.
I picked our camp spot when I paid almost a year before the trip. At the time, we were one of three campers booked for the night. By the time we got there to set up, the park was full. If we hadn’t had a reservation, we’d have been out of luck. As it was, because I booked so early, we got a great spot!