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

Old US Route 40 on Donner Pass Road

While completing California State Route 89 between Lassen Volcanic National Park and US Route I took a detour in Truckee up the infamous Donner Pass Road. Generally I don't dispense with the history of a roadway before the route photos but the history of Donner Pass is steeped within California lore and western migration.  The first recorded Wagon Crossing of Donner Pass was back in 1844.  The infamous Donner Party saga occurred in the winter of 1846-47 in which only 48 of the 87 party members survived.  Although the Donner Party incident is largely attributed to poor planning and ill conceived Hastings Cutoff it largely led to the infamous reputation of Donner Pass. The first true road over the Sierra Nevada Range via the Donner Pass was known as the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road.  The Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road was completed by 1864 to assist with construction of the Central Pacific build the First Trans-Continental Railroad over Donner Pass.  The websit

Old Stage Road in Tulare County and Kern County

Old Stage Road is an approximately 30-mile rural highway comprised of Tulare County Mountain Road 1, Kern County Mountain Road 447 and Tulare County Mountain Road 109.  Old Stage originates at Jack Ranch Road near Posey and ends at the outskirts of Porterville at Deer Creek.  Old Stage Road notably is comprised of two 19th Century stage routes.  From White Mountain Road northwest to Fountain Springs, Old Stage Road overlays Thomas Baker's 1860s era stage road to Linn Valley (now Glennville) and the Kern River Gold Rush Claims.  From Fountain Springs to Deer Creek, Old Stage Road is comprised of the 1853 Stockton-Los Angeles Road. Featured as the blog cover is the northward descent on Old Stage Road along Arrastre Creek to the town site of White River.  What became White River was settled along a spur of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road as "Dog Town" when gold was discovered nearby.  By 1856 the community had been renamed Tailholt.  A stage road from Tailholt to Linn Valley w