These 2 huge parks were the destination of our day trip from Balmorhea SP. The drive was very easy to navigate and not much to see but rabbits. We began the day at Carlsbad, just before lunch. Checking in, getting tickets, paying entrance fee, renting the audio machine, going to the bookstore to pickup the audio all took about 30 minutes. Once we were inside, down in the lunchroom, the kids worked on their Junior Ranger booklets, and we bought a few things including a sweatshirt. The self-guided tour was the option we took. It allowed us to go as slow or fast as we wanted. We didn't have to wait for a specific time to go. The self-guided tour shows you about 75% of the cave and it took us about 1.5 hours. The formations were just incredible huge. The open space in there was much more than I had expected. There was, however, a ton of lint on the formations. They didn't glisten with life, but were dirty. It was still well worth the long drive to see. When we returned to the surface, we went to the office to turn in the kid's ranger books to earn their badges, and we found a shaded picnic table at the end of the lot to eat our lunch. From the table, you could see Guadalupe Mountain.
We drove over to Guadalupe Mountains NP and arrived about 3. The kids completed the Junior Ranger program there and we took a short hike. The long hours in the car, the hiking, and hot weather was starting to take it's toll on the kids attitudes. We got back in the car and returned to Carlsbad for dinner and to see the Bat flight.
The bat flight was already included in the entrance fee for the park $6 / adult, $3 for audio thingie, bat show, free. I had never witnessed a bat flight before but had expected it to be loud with the chatter and fluttering of thousands of bats. It was rather silent and graceful. They whirled out the mouth of the cave and like a swarm of bees, wafted over the cap rock to feed on thousands of tons of bugs all night.
The drive back was a like a game of Frogger. The rabbits were running across the road every hundred feed on one stretch between the park and Pecos TX. Only 1 was killed in the making of this vacation.
The Junior Ranger program is something we really enjoyed because it helped our kids enjoy the park more by making learning fun. They proudly wore ALL their badges for the duration of the trip. Mine even got cocky and said "Look out people, junior rangers coming through". We had a little chat about being rude in front of the VC @ Carlsbad.
As we made our way back to the truck, one of the boys said, "Dad, why didn't you buy an RV like this one?" pointing to a class c. "We could go to sleep right now." As the dad explained, the owner of the class c mentioned he bought it for a song. The 2 were chatting for a few minutes. Turns out, those folks in the class c were being spontaneous and just going where ever they heard was nice. We told them about Balmorhea SP and they seemed interested.
The next morning, 2 sites down, was the class c. I had to go over and ask them where they were from. They just felt like San Antonians, but I had to be sure. Sure enough, South-siders. Crazy isn't it, you go 500 miles and run into someone who lives 30 minutes from you, and you can tell they're from SA. They did invite us over for brisket and beverages.
Guadalupe was very pretty and I would like to return to camp there. The Bear and Mountain Lion issues would concern me, but we could always sleep in the truck. It would be worth it.
Charcoal is a spice, dirt is a condiment, and there is no 3 second rule.