The drive from Austin to our next destination, Carlsbad, was farther than we wanted to drive in one day, so we decided to stop for two nights at San Angelo State Park in, you guessed it, San Angelo, Texas. We weren’t expecting much – I had an idea of what to do with the kids while we were there, but the campground was so much fun that we just stayed ‘in’ – by which I mean, played outside the whole time. We lucked out and got a pull-through in a pretty empty area of the park, so the kids had tons of space. Thankfully, we didn’t have to unhitch because we were still using the manual crank for the landing jacks. Surprisingly, we had a little bit of wi-fi there, which was great – but of course, there were no sewer hook-ups. We both wished we’d stayed there a bit longer – San Angelo State Park was that nice.
As much as we really liked San Angelo, we were also thrilled to enter a new state – New Mexico! We had reservations at Brantley Lake State Park – another park with no sewer hook-ups, but we were pretty confident in our backing-up abilities by that point.
Then we pulled into the campground.
The road through the campground was pretty narrow, and when we found our actual site, I almost nope’d us right out of there. It was barely long enough for our RV (the back of the RV had to literally be touching the bushes at the back of the pad). It sloped down quite a bit at the back, which meant we’d have to raise the jacks pretty high. And there was an enormous tree at the corner of the site which threatened to knock off our air conditioner. We tried backing in twice and failed miserably, but then our neighbor – a retired professional truck driver, came over to help. He didn’t charge us anything, but I would have gladly paid him whatever he asked – he got us backed in nice and straight on the first try. Whew! But.. that’s where our trouble really started. At some point, the gearbox for the electric landing jacks broke – which meant the manual crank wouldn’t work. We (by which I mean, Doug) had to turn the bar between the legs with a pair of pliers. After a certain point, it became too difficult to turn the bar by hand. And here’s where our lovely neighbor came in handy again – he rounded up a few other retirees and got us a bottle jack to actually jack up the truck, which took some weight off the RV, allowing us to continue lowering the legs. THEN we got the legs fully extended and it still wasn’t enough. We all (our neighbor, me, and the kids) climbed into the bed of the truck to weigh it down a bit, and it was JUST enough to get the truck out from under. There was a moment there, though, when I was crouched between the bed of the truck and the bottom of the RV, that I thought I was about to get squished.
But look at that view! I mean, it was totally worth it (can you hear the sarcasm?) Thankfully, we were able to order a part to fix the gearbox – we just had to hope it would arrive before we needed to dump our tanks. Cue the frequent, tedious, and freezing trips to the campground bathhouse to avoid filling our tanks as fast as we usually do.
Our plans for the week were to do the Living and Desert Zoo just me and the kids, then Doug was going to finish up work early one afternoon so we could drive up to Roswell, and then we’d hit Carlsbad Caverns on Saturday. Well, I managed to make it to the Walmart and laundromat the day after we arrived, but then the next day when we got up, we noticed the minivan had a flat tire. Seriously, what more could go wrong?! I ended up spending three hours at Walmart while they replaced the tire, and we had to cancel both Roswell and the Zoo. But we did get the flat tire sorted out, and the part arrived which made it possible to use the motor again on the electric jacks, so that worked out alright in the end.
Thankfully, Carlsbad Caverns was awesome enough to make up for all our troubles.
So at Carlsbad Caverns, you have two different options for descending 750 feet – a steep, 1.25 mile hike, or an elevator. Then once in the cavern, the Big Room tour is another 1.25 miles. Obviously, I opted to take the elevator down, and Fiona decided to come with me. Just the boys took the Entrance Trail!
Fiona and I spent about a half hour looking around at the exhibits, then rode the elevator down. Near the elevator is a seating area with a cafe and souvenir vendor. We sat at the tables and she worked on her Junior Ranger booklet. After another 20 minutes or so, the boys arrived. They were pretty tired, so we took a break before heading into the Big Room.
The big room was pretty amazing. It felt really surreal to be walking around this huge cavern, full of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, straws, etc, etc. It’s pretty chilly down there – about 58 degrees year round – so dress in layers. I was cold at first but towards the end of the hike, I was glad to be able to take my jacket off. There is a handicap accessible portion of the big room trail that is fairly level, but if you do the whole Big Room trail, there are some pretty steep ramps – so keep that in mind if you have mobility issues. It was manageable, but towards the end there, I was ready for it to be over.
For more of our adventures in Carlsbad, check out our video!