5/15/2014 2:34pm a rest stop on Highway 10 headed east
Okay. Carlsbad Caverns are a must. An absolute must in terms of Nationl Park visits & cool freaking caverns. Easily the best caverns I’ve ever visited. Make sure you get there early because 1pm is the last tour and they stop letting people go in the natural entrance (this long winding switchback path from outside into the caverns) at 2:30 and the last lazy person elevator goes down at 3:30pm. I highly recommend the natural entrance, as it is rather fun to descend and see all the formations and have the natural light slip away. On the way down, I had a nice chat with another solo traveler who was headed to Austin and was in Zion at the same time I was! The giveaway was mutual rain in Zion anecdotes. Oh, and he lives in Portland. Small world.
I managed to get a few good photos of the caverns, can’t wait to post them. But oh so cool. Really just amazing. I spent a good two plus hours wandering around down there. Too bad they are so far from anything, but they are in the middle of going someplaces. Since I opted to head South to Texas, I was able to see them and continue on pretty easily.
Now here is the thing about Big Bend National Park: the GPS will tell you it’s 4 hours. This is to the park entrance. It won’t tell you about the additional ~30 miles to the visitors center nor the ~12 miles to the campground. And when you are driving in the dark with animals frequently deciding NOW is the perfect time to cross the road…well it adds a lot more time to your driving. Also I lost another hour due to time zone, so what was supposed to be a 9pm arrival, became 11. But there were plenty of campsites and it was $14 a night instead of $30. I paid for two nights and set up my tent and collapsed into what ended up being one of my best nights sleep yet.
Shorts weather has returned! Big Bend National Park gets points for expansiveness and birds (I heard lots of distinct bird calls, all of which Mom could probably identify). Points are deducted for being really, really far away from everything and just having to spend a lot of time driving to stuff. I flashed my annual member badge at one of the visitor’s center (so big, they have more than one!) and got my N.P. WPA post card. Then I saw a hot spring was on the map, so off I went! The road was narrow and winding and rough but worth it. But dang was it rough. The roughest one I’ve been on yet. I was glad to be in a little car. The hot spring was amazing. Just a little natural one off the side of the river (not the Rio Grande). There were a couple Bavarians in the pool, as well as a family. The young son of the family told me to check out Six Street in Austin.
Another note about Big Bend: by far the most amount of people visiting from in state at any National Park I’ve been too. Very few foreigners/out of stateians.
So I soaked in the hot pool and alternated swimming in the river. Cold hot cold hot. And I read Song of the Quarkbeast and soaked up some sun. I think my freckles are coming in nicely.
I got some ice cream and ice and returned to my campsite and took a nap. I hiked a little at a near trail, then tucked into bed and finished The Rosie Project. I’m getting so much reading done!
I slept in again after another pretty good night sleep. Warmth and not a lot of wind and no rain/snow makes for a pretty good night sleep, as it turns out. Haha.
I packed up and headed out at 10:20amish. Marathon, the nearest town to the park, is 70 miles from Panther Junction, which is the main junction & visitor’s center in the park. I went through Marathon and up north into Fort Stockton. I filled my tank, I got some food (celery and carrots and apples and Pringles) and plugged in Austin and… it’s less than 6 hours away! I was expecting a day of hard driving and a night at a rest stop. But nope! And through my friend Abbie I think I have a place to stay in the city so that is awesome. I’ve stopped at a rest stop, and soon I’ll hit the road with an MP3 player full of tunes.
Oh, and Roswell reminded me of Santa Cruz in some way. Just with aliens instead of Surfers. It’s thus far the first town I’ve breezed through that I would have liked to have roamed around a bit more. Checked out the museum. A town where a Starbucks is filled with old familiars is a town indeed.
12:51 pm a friend of a friend’s house in Austin
So much driving. But it went really well. Thus far I have experienced no Texan aggression at my car. But I also keep pace with traffic and I’ve never been an outright awful driver. My friend Abbie from school (a yoga buddy) works at Boudin Creek Café, so I had that plugged into my GPS. It was a busy time at the café, but that was fine. I got a mocha (which wasn’t wise as now I’m feeling tired but also wired) and a big big salad to stuff my body with some much needed greens. I nibbled and let my body slow down from all that driving. So much driving. 5 hours is actually quite a bit. When anything under 6 shows up on my GPS I think “oh that isn’t so bad” but yeah… it’s a lot of time to spend with your brain consistently active. It’ll be good to walk around tomorrow and do little things. I’m going to check out a doughnut place and see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. The Drafthouse is my #1 for Austin. I’ve gotten lots of food recommendations, and venues to check out, but I’m not good at random music shows and stuff. I’m not much of a foodie. I have a lot of boonie dweller habits that I haven’t yet broken. I sometimes feel that cities are wasted on me. On this trip, when I open my atlas I look for parks over cities. I know what to do with a tent. And when it gets dark, I read for a few hours.
I guess this trip is really making me think about what I do with my time, which is good because what I want to do should play into where I want to be. Hmm.