Skip to main content

2016 Cross-Country Road Trip Part 3; Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and the desolate expanse of US 180/62

After entering southeast New Mexico I passed through the cities of Hobbs and Carlsbad on US 180/62 westbound on New Mexico State Route 7 to Whites City where I reached the Guadalupe Range.  My next stop was at the end of NM 7 at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.


Carlsbad Caverns actually has an onsite kennel to drop animals off at.  After dropping my dog off I made my way through the visitor center to the natural entrance of the caverns.





Carlsbad Caverns is a series of limestone caverns underneath the Guadalupe Range.  The primary attraction is the Carlsbad Cavern which one of 119 caverns located at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Carlsbad Cavern contains the fifth largest cave chamber in the United States which is known as the "Big Room."  Carlsbad Cavern the surrounding caverns are known for their calcite formations which were formed when there was a high ground water table in the Guadalupe Range.

Carlsbad Caverns National Monument was created in 1923 but it was later bumped up to National Park status in 1930.  Carlsbad Cavern does have a 750 foot elevator which descends from the visitor center that opened in 1932.  However, the elevator was down and I had no intention of using it anyways given the hiking trail was something I familiar with from a previous visit in 2012.  I quickly made my way through the switchbacks into Carlsbad Cavern.





Upon the descent from the switchbacks the depth of Carlsbad Cavern is obvious as it stretches downward into the darkness.  Carlsbad Cavern is very well lit and the descending trail is paved all the way to the bottom.





Looking back upwards at the cave entrance the last glimpse of sunlight can be seen.



The trail downwards is fairly easy.   I want to say it took me only about 40 minutes to get to the bottom even stopping to get photos of the calcite formations.













The terrain of the Big Room is obvious due to the cavern terrain flattening out.






The Big Room has walking paths around the perimeter of the room which displays some of the best calcite formations.






I particularly liked the limestone pools given they had perfectly clear water.




After spending about four hours down in Carlsbad Cavern I made my ascent and picked up my dog before heading back to US 180/62.  US 180/62 dips back into Texas near the boundary for Guadalupe Mountains National Park.







Guadalupe Mountains National Park consists of much of the Guadalupe Range which isn't part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  The Guadalupe Range stretches 65 from western Texas into southeast New Mexico.  The Guadalupe Range is the highest mountains in Texas with the highest peak being Guadalupe Peak at 8,751.  Back in 2012 I hiked Guadalupe Peak but the weather was looking really bad over the range.  I had planned on stopping to walk to the ruins of the Butterfield Stage Station but I passed it up due to the possibility of a snow shower.  I made my way westward to lower elevations on US 180/62 but stopped to see the overlook for the 8,045 foot El Captain.







US 180/62 between Whites City in New Mexico westward to El Paso is one of the most desolate highways in the Continental United States with an approximately 120 mile stretch no services.  West of the junction with TX 54 along US 180/62 in Hudspeth County is the ruins of the community of Salt Flat.  Salt Flat was settled in the 1920s to service the new highway between El Paso and Carlsbad.  US 62 was extended to El Paso in 1932 and US 180 was added by 1944.  Salt Flat apparently had as many as 50 residents at one point but all that remains today is crumbling buildings that used to service travelers.




Salt Flat is named after a nearby dry lake which is at the foot the Guadalupe Range.  There is a series of gypsum sand dunes on the northeast side of the Salt Flat that are within the boundary of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  The Salt Flats were the location of the 1877-78 San Elizario Salt War which claimed over 25 lives.





After crossing the barren wastes of US 180/62 I stopped for gas in El Paso and took the recently completed TX 375 to I-10 near the New Mexico State Line.



Heading west on I-10 westbound I reentered New Mexico.  I pulled off of I-10 onto the I-10 Business Loop in Las Cruces for the night.








Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 190; a Trans-Sierra Highway that could have been

This past week I decided to take a small scale road trip on California State Route 190 from CA 99 east to the unbuilt section over the Sierra Nevada Range.  While I was in for what turned out to be a fun drive following the course of the Tule River watershed what I found researching the back story of CA 190 was one of the most complex and unusual stories of any California State Highway.  Given that I had a ton of older photos of the eastern segment of CA 190 in the Mojave Desert of Inyo County I thought it was time to put something together for the entire route. The simplified story of CA 190 is that it is a 231 mile state highway that has a 43 mile unbuilt gap in the Sierra Nevada Range.  CA 190 is an east/west State Highway running from CA 99 in Tulare County at Tipton east to CA 127 located in Death Valley Junction near the Nevada State Line in rural Inyo County.  The routing CA 190 was adopted into the State Highway system as Legislative Route 127 which was adopted in 1933 acc

I-73/I-74 and NC Future Interstates, Year in Review 2022

Another year over, already? 2022 turned out to be quite the year if you are a fan of new interstate routes, and it wasn't bad for some long standing favorites. As per the tradition, I will review what happened with I-73 and I-74, and then the other new and future interstate routes in North Carolina... Work continued on the one segment of I-73 under construction, the I-73/I-74 Rockingham Bypass. As of the beginning of December, work was getting close to being 2/3 complete at 60.1%. Progress could be seen from US 74 on constructing of the future interchange at the Bypass's southern end. Here's a look from US 74 East in September from Google Maps Street View: Here's a photo from US 74 West taken last week by David Gallo: Work is now scheduled to be completed in October 2025, though the road itself could open earlier that year.  Progress on I-74 earned more publicity in 2022 with the opening of 7.5 more miles of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway from US 311 (Exit 49) to NC

Interstate 605

Interstate 605 is a 27.4-mile freeway located in the Los Angeles Metropolitain Area.  Interstate 605 begins at Interstate 210 near Duarte and terminates at the Interstate 405/California State Route 22 junction to the south near the boundary to the city of Long Beach.  Interstate 605 is known as the San Gabriel River Freeway and has three unconstructed miles which would extend it south to California State Route 1 near Seal Beach.  Much of the corridor of Interstate 605 was built up from what was the original California State Route 35.  The blog cover photo is taken from the July/August 1964 California Highways & Public Works which featured the initial segment of Interstate 605 to open between Whittier Boulevard and Peck Road  Part 1; the history of the San Gabriel River Freeway and Interstate 605 The origin of what is now Interstate 605 begins during 1933 with the addition of Legislative Route Number 170 (LRN 170) to the State Highway System.  The original definition of LRN 170 was