Summer is coming to a close…only two weeks left for us (but who’s counting?). I always try to find something to do during the summer for my boys. We love to take camping trips to National Parks like the Grand Canyon or local places like Kitchen Creek. It doesn’t really matter as long as we get out and do SOMETHING. Well, this summer we decided to trek all the way to Carlsbad, New Mexico to show the boys the famous Carlsbad Caverns and to visit my husband’s brother. My brother-in-law lives in Oklahoma so New Mexico was a good “in-between” spot to meet up and share a few days. While I wasn’t looking forward to the 14 hour car drive, I was excited to share the caves with my boys since it’s something I remember seeing when I was a kid.
This trip was QUITE the ADVENTURE!
We set out at 1am on a Sunday morning. My husband had this crazy notion that by leaving in the middle of the night, then the boys would sleep. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
So 1am, on my 12th wedding anniversary, we set out on our 14 hour long road trip.
The trip out was relatively uneventful. Anthony and Nathan never fell back to sleep in the car so they were fighting with each other around 4am. All I can say is “Thank God for iPods!”
We arrived at the Brantley Lake State Park around 5pm It was hard to find a campground near to the Caverns. There really isn’t a lot out there which is a shame. I had searched on TripAdvisor and looked around the internet for some inclination of where we should camp and this was the best option I could find. Unfortunately, it was about 30 minutes outside of Carlsbad, NM and a good hour away from the Caverns.
Brantley Lake is a beautiful campground! Clean showers, lovely view, well maintained playground. Even though it was far from our actual destination I am happy we stayed there. As I mentioned, we arrived about 5pm. I still had to go back to town (30 minutes) to get our groceries since we didn’t take them with us (trying to save space). We quickly set up the tent and I drove back to town. We had spotted an Albertsons so that’s where I went.
Albertsons in Carlsbad New Mexico SUCKS BUTT. I was SHOCKED to see how the prices of groceries were almost double what they were in CA. Who ever says that the cost of living out there is cheaper is a lier. The shelves were half empty, I couldn’t find anything on my list and the substitutions I could locate cost a fortune. I called Bob in tears. It was getting late, the boys needed to eat and I couldn’t find the supplies I needed/wanted. I finally checked out and since it was almost 9pm I opted to pick up some pizza for dinner.
On my 30 minute drive back to camp it started to rain.
Once at camp, the boys chowed down on pizza and I put the groceries away. The wind was picking up. I was still on the verge of tears. Being awake for going on 20 hours was taking it’s toll. After pizza we climbed in our tent to try and sleep. The wind was blowing SO HARD. Then a giant ass tarantula came scurrying through.
There I was, standing in my tent, trying to hold it off the boys so they could sleep, googling with my iPhone any nearby hotels, crying.
Unfortunately, the storms that were about to hit us had already blazed through Oklahoma and my Brother in Law never made it to us. The storms made it too dangerous to ride his bike 8 hours. Bob was very disappointed.
/End of Day 1
Needless to say, we survived the night. Mr. T (the tarantula) went on his merry way and the wind died down enough to allow us all to sleep. In the morning, we all woke up happy to be heading to the Caverns!
The boys were up and dressed, momma showered, breakfast eaten and we were in the car by 10am heading to the Caverns. It was raining and cold.
Did I mention I didn’t pack a single warm thing to wear? It was the desert for goodness sakes…it was supposed to be HOT!
After our 30 minute drive into Carlsbad, we stopped for gas. Bob realized he left his wallet in the tent. Because he was convinced that one of the three other campers at Brantely Lake was going to break in and steal it….we drove 30 minutes back to fetch it.
I was not happy.
Around noon (two hours after we started) we arrived at Carlsbad Caverns.
The boys were THRILLED. If you have never been to the Caverns you MUST. It is one of those amazing natural wonders that you can’t even describe. My pitiful iPhone camera photos do not do it justice. We walked in through the natural entrance which was about a 2 mile trek down a 20% grade. My calves paid the price for that for three days! It was just stunning. The boys, and Bob (who had never been) were just awe struck.
I highly recommend signing up for and paying a little bit for one of the special tours. We went on the Kings Palace Tour and it was amazing. We got to go back off the trail and hear stories of when it was first discovered. They even turned the lights out for us and we sat in complete darkness. The darkness and silence can’t even be described.
Because we were behind schedule (thank’s Bob for the wallet incident) we never got to eat lunch. Our food for the day consisted of sprinting to the car, through the rain and then shoving a banana, some cheeze-its and beef jerky into our face before the tour started. Needless to say, by 5pm we were starving. I really really wanted to watch the bat’s fly, but they weren’t coming out until almost 9pm that night so we opted to go home and eat.
It was a peaceful and beautiful night. The rain had stopped. We barbequed. We slept.
/End of Day 2
Day three was gorgeous weather wise. We got up, made pancakes, drank coffee and headed out to Roswell, New Mexico so Bob could search for aliens.
The Roswell UFO Museum was, for lack of a better term, underwhelming. Bob and I were more interested only because we could read the displays. There was a lot of newspaper articles and written reports that were framed on the walls. The little boys could care less about reading through all of it. They did enjoy the animated alien and ship scene but after about 10 minutes they were about done.
Did I mention that the museum was 30 minutes away from camp?
We spent some time in the museum, got a couple shot glasses from the gift shop and headed to lunch at a little diner in Roswell.
That evening, it was beautiful at camp. We barbequed hot dogs, played at the playground, drank some very expensive (cheap) wine.
/End of Day 3
We took about 5 seconds to decide to just pack it up and head home a day early. We had no other plans except being outside and that wasn’t going to happen. We had been through enough, we were tired and now we were being dumped on. I fashioned some rain ponchos out of trash bags and we proceeded to pack up and head home.
We had purchased one of those “car top carriers” to make sure we had enough room to take all of our stuff. While I 90% LOVED this thing…it was big, easy to pack, kept our stuff dry inside….packing it while raining is NOT a good idea! Because I don’t have a roof rack, the bag straps thread through the inside of the car. Because the straps were being rained on, hard, it started wicking water INTO the car. We got packed and were happy to be out of the rain, only to sit down on soaking wet car seats and have to hold paper towels, clothes,etc on the straps to keep the water from just continuing to pour into the car from the roof top carrier straps. It sucked.
I drove for about 3 hours straight through the pouring rain.
This was our view, looking back towards the Guadalupe Mountains from El Paso, Texas. That is the storm we spent 3 hours trying to escape. I thought our car might wash away in Carlsbad since I don’t think that city has a single storm drain.
On our 14 hour trip back, we drove through a monsoon, high winds, pounding rain and a sand storm in Arizona. I had never been so happy to arrive home as I was at 1am in the morning.
So, this long ass blog post is the story of my three day vacation. It was WILD, but I think the boys will remember it for a while because of all the crazy that happened! It wasn’t nearly as eventful as Kathleen’s 50 Day Camping Adventure, but I’ll take what I can get!
What have you done with your kids this summer to make it memorable?