Arches National Park

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Visited:  June 2016

Duration: 2 days

Accommodations:  Moab Under Canvas

Arches National Park.  Park #1 of National Park Trip Season 1.  This is where it all starts.  This was my first visit to a National Park, the rest is history.  We picked a perfect park to begin at.  Arches is a drive-able park with a few trails to hit off of the main road. This is a great warm up for my kids to start their hiking careers. This year we had my mom with us who had purchased a Senior National Park pass for $10.  Good for life and lets us all in to the parks.

First stop Visitor Center.  My mom found the National Park Passport books and talked us all in to getting them. They looked fun so I bought into it.  I didn’t know how much fun they would be until later on in the trip. Good call on these Mom!! I am officially addicted to my Passport as I am typing this 2 years later.

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Passport sticker and cancellations

We watched a short film on the geology of Arches National Park, grabbed a park map and headed out. As stated above Arches is a drive-able park.  One main road goes through the park, with a couple of roads to turn off and see arches.  Most Arches are within walking distance from the road.  Our first day we did the pull offs and a few of the Arches right off of the road. The second day we did some short hikes to several of the arches.

First day main road pull offs:

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Park Avenue Viewpoint

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Three gossips pullover

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Sheep Rock and Tower of Babel

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Balanced Rock from the parking lot

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Balanced Rock

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Overlook on the Balanced Rock Trail

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Rock piles found along trail. They mean stay on the trail.

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Skyline Arch from the road

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Skyline Arch trail. Really easy and fun trail

We turned around on the main road and headed back south.  We took the turn off for Wolf Ranch and headed to Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint.  We walked the path to the viewpoint and then headed back to the vehicle. We were tired and really hungry.  There is no lodging or food in this park so we headed south to Moab, a few miles to get some dinner before heading back to our tent.

Day 2

The morning began with a relaxed breakfast on the porch of our tent at Moab under canvas. We enjoyed beautiful view of the Moab desert and mountains while eating our apple jacks and fruit loops 🙂

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We headed to the park pretty early and the parking lots were filling up quickly.  We started our morning off by heading out to the arches we didn’t get to yesterday.  Double O arch and the windows arches.

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Double Arch from the parking lot

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Double Arch on the hike

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Kids LOVED climbing on the rocks.

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Parade of elephants

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Landscape Arch

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Double O Arch

We were done with Arches by lunchtime.  It was getting hot and we were getting hungry.  We headed back to Moab and went to Quesadilla Mobilla (recommended by TripAdvisor).  This lunch was spectacular!!!  Well worth the wait it took.  While we waited we put our stickers in our Passports and organized them, the time flew by.  We decided to head over to Canyonlands National Park to end out our day.

Arches was fantastic! We did miss a few things from not being National Park connoisseurs (yet).  3 things we will do on our return trip to Arches that we missed this time.

  1. The Fiery Furnace Hike (need to plan this ahead of time).
  2. Delicate Arch hike (not just the viewpoint)
  3. Junior Rangers (we did grab the books we just didn’t do them)

Have you been to Arches? What were your favorite spots?  Anything I need to add to my return visit?

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

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Duration: 2-3 hours

We arrived at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument around 8 am.  We were one of the first cars in the parking lot. We entered in the South part of the park coming from Hwy 22.

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At this part of the park there are 2 Trails; Cave Loop Trail (1.2 miles) and Slot Canyon Trail (1.0 miles) with steep climbs and caverns to crawl through.  We did both trails and neither one was a disappointment to us. As a matter of fact this place was “in tents”.  Geology puns never get old!

It took us maybe an hour to 1.5 hours to do both trails, taking our time and taking lots of photos.  You can’t take a step without picturesque views.  This place was amazing.  We really enjoyed ourselves here.

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Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional Keresan language of the pueblo. An important part of this area’s geologic story is the formation of the cone-like, vertical tents called “hoodoos”.  We love hoodoos and just couldn’t miss this park on our trip. We fell in love with them at Bryce Canyon National Park, and this place was a great reminder of why.

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Hoodoos are products of volcanic eruptions and erosion.  These eruptions happened 6 to 7 million years ago leaving pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick.  If you look close at the formations you can see small, black, glass fragments in the layered deposits.  These are obsidian or called “Apache Tears”.

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Over time wind and water erosion have cut into these deposits creating what we see today.  Isn’t nature awesome!!

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After our hikes we headed back to the car and picked up some Junior Ranger packets out of the information stations located near the parking lots.  The kids filled these out while we ventured back to the Cochiti Visitor Center at the corner of Hwy 22.  There, we were able to find a magnet and were told that we could earn our rangers badges and cancellations back at the ranger station we just passed. Oops. 🙂

We ventured back to the station and the Rangers were thrilled to see us.  We got passport cancellations, and patches for the everyone (including mom and dad).  The rangers were very fun and we really enjoyed getting our badges and chatting with them.  Great group of people. Awesome patches!

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Overall we really enjoyed our time at this stop.  This park isn’t listed in the National Park Passport book, we lucked out by reading blogs online or we would have never found this gem.  It is like a mini Bryce Canyon. We recommend stopping by for a hike and great pictures if you are in the area.

Have you been to Kasha-Katuwe?  What was your favorite part??  We loved it all.

Petroglyph National Monument

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Duration: 2-3 hours

For the next stop on National Park Trip Season 3: Spring Break edition we traveled north to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Petroglyph National Monument is located just off to the west of Albuquerque, directly north of I40.

We headed straight to the Visitor Center to pick up our Junior Ranger booklets and find a great trail to discover Petroglyphs.  We watched the short film, picked up some goodies in the gift shop, talked with the rangers and headed out to Boca Negra Canyon.

There are actually 4 hiking spots at the Monument:

Boca Negra Canyon: 3 short trails, restrooms, picnic area, water and ~100 petroglyphs

Rinconada Canyon: 2.2 mile trail, no water, no restrooms and ~300 petroglyphs

Piedras Marcadas Canyon: 1.5 mil loop, no water, no restrooms and ~ 300 images

Volcanoes: 1-4 miles of hiking, no water, restrooms, and no petroglyphs

Boca Negra Canyon was just less than a mile up the road from the Visitor Center.  The city charges you parking ($1 on weekdays, $2 on the weekends).  We found a place to park, filled up on water and headed out on what was a sunny, warm and beautiful day.  Luckily we have had plenty of those on this trip.

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It doesn’t take long before you discover the petroglyphs.  The kids and I had a great time finding them and guessing what they were and what they could possibly mean to the people that left them.

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We hiked all three trails: Cliff base trail, Macaw Trail and our favorite, Mesa Point Trail.

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The top of Mesa Point Trail gives you this stunning view.

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We spent a little over an hour out at Boca Negra before sitting down at a picnic table and finishing up the Junior Ranger booklets. We headed back to the Visitor Center just before closing time to do our pledge and earn those badges and patches.

Boys are pretty proud of them 🤓 This was a really fun Junior Ranger program to do.

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We got another cancellation (stamp) for the Passport book ❤️❤️

Petroglyph National Monument “rocked”. Whats not to “lava” about it? 🤪 Have you been there?

New Mexico (revisited)

You really just can’t beat New Mexico!  It is a gorgeous state.  We chose to do Spring Break here because we LOVE to visit National Parks every summer but I just don’t want to do it in 100 degree weather.  We headed down in March hoping for some warm but not sweltering temps.

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Our state line sign stop was on Hwy 285 coming back from Guadaloupe Mountains National Park, heading north. We had already gotten a New Mexico state line stop from National Park Trip Season 1 but we didn’t have one with dad in it. So we stopped. So glad we did. I love it!

Our National Park Itinerary in New Mexico includes the following stops

(please hover over each for a link to that particular blog post)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

White Sands National Monument

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

Pecos National Historic Park

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Fort Union National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Traveling through New Mexico should always include a visit to Roswell, New Mexico!

Who doesn’t love being creeped out by the thought of alien encounters?

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We stopped in Roswell to stretch our legs and see if we would have any encounters?  We stopped at the Space Alien Museum and walked around. We watched a short film on interviews from people that witnessed the Roswell encounter.  We then headed out into the town to see what else we could find.

This town is great! Everything is alien themed, right down to the light posts.  1/2 block east of the museum is a little gift shop with a black light tour that the kids thought was pretty groovy, it was cheap enough and they enjoyed it so I would say do it.  We got some souvenirs and headed down the road.

A good place to get out and spend 1-2 hours if you are on your way to Carlsbad and need to take a short break.

Until the next encounter.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Welcome back, the next stop we made on our Spring Break National Park trip was Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.  There are four different sites to visit at this monument: Abo, Quarai, Gran Quivira and the Headquarters/Visitor Center located in Mountanair, New Mexico.  We had time to visit 3 of the 4.  Looks like we will need to come back to get the 4th someday.

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We started at the Abo Ruins since we were coming in from the west.  There was not a park ranger there and contact station wasn’t open.  With no one around for miles we took extra time here to enjoy it. This place was gorgeous.

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“Abo was a thriving community when the Spaniards visited the Salinas Valley in 1581. Franciscans began converting Abo residents in 1622, and by the late 1620’s the first church was finished.  A second church was built with a sophisticated buttressing technique  unusual in 1600s New Mexico. But the good times did not last.  Battered by the disasters that struck the other Salinas pueblos, the people of Abo left sometime between 1672 and 1678 to take refuge in towns along the Rio Grande.”

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Next stop was in Mountanair at the Visitor Center, where we picked up our Junior Ranger books.  We watched a the short film, and did a few of the Junior Ranger tasks to earn our Headquarters and Abo badge and ribbons.

 

 

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We headed out to the Quarai site. This site had a very informative and helpful ranger at the Contact station.  There is a small museum and beautiful walk around the site.

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At Quarai there are springs of clear cool water fed by melting snow from the mountains.  The Tiwa Indians were dry land farmers, planting corn, beans, squash and cotton. They mined salt from salt lakes which they used to preserve meat: to eat and trade.  This village was built around 1300 AD and about 600 people lived here.  They manufactured pottery and traded with nearby pueblos.  However, like all of the Salinas pueblos, drought and famine left them to abandon their homes in the late 1670’s never to return.

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We finished up our Junior Ranger but didn’t get our ribbon for this place because they were out. I will need to have it mailed if I ever get around to that.  The kids thought this set up was pretty cool.

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We ate a picnic lunch here and headed North to Albuquerque.  The Salinas Pueblo Missions were fantastic.  I highly recommend them if you are traveling through the area.  Great history and low crowds, it doesn’t get better than that.

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Another National Monument checked off of our list √

White Sands National Monument

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Boy are you in for a treat at this place! The boys both agree that this was the highlight of the trip. I wasn’t expecting this much fun after trying to sand sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park. The difference was astounding.

We pulled into the parking lot around 10 a.m. and it was already packed. We headed into the visitor center and decided to take our time getting out and into the park. We grabbed the Junior Ranger books, walked through the museum, we watched the short film and then did some shopping. We bought the sleds at the shop and headed out to try this sand sledding thing again. The girl who sold us our sled said the best sledding is between miles 5 and 8. Sleds cost $20 and they give you $5 or $10 back (I can’t remember) we found some people at the visitor center looking for sleds and sold them ours for $15 when we were done with them. Lol!!

We headed out to Dunes Drive. This is an 8 mile drive from the visitor center through the heart of the dunes, it’s gorgeous. You don’t really appreciate them until you get out and walk them and see how far they actually go. The 16 mile round trip drive would take you around 45 minutes, but do yourself a favor and stop, this experience was amazing.

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Look at how beautiful this sand is up against the San Andres Mountains!! We had a gorgeous day out to enjoy, the blue skies added to the beauty of this place.

The sand here at White Sands is very smooth making this sand sledding experience worthwhile. The sand is actually gypsum that has been dissolved from the mountains by rainfall and snow melting. It then settles in the lake that is present here. When all the water evaporates the dissolved gypsum recrystallize and form selenite. Selenite is very brittle and the wind breaks it up into very fine sand, perfect for sledding on.

We went sand sledding for hours, the kids built ramps to jump over and met so many fun people while we were there. A younger couple was teaching the boys to sand board on their sleds.

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The kids helped another family to build ramps for the little kids to sled over.

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Even Mom and Dad got in on the fun!

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We had a picnic lunch at our sledding site, finished up our Junior Ranger books, got in a few more passes down the slopes and headed back to the Visitor Center for our badges!

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What an amazing day! I would put this place as a must do if you are venturing through New Mexico. A day we won’t soon forget.

Have you been here? Did you love it as much as we did??

Chamizal National Memorial

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After putting in a couple of days near Carlsbad we got in the car and headed to El Paso Texas. We actually had a front hub assembly go out around mile 10 of this trip so we were busy making plans to get that fixed once we got into town.  We headed to get the car fixed and the lovely car dealership gave us a rental so we could get to our destination.

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Chamizal National Memorial.  We knew nothing about this place and found it quit interesting.  Its name was derived from the chamizo, a four wing saltbush that grows along the river.  The people and neighborhood that lived on the disputed land were called the Chamizal.  This National Memorial is here to commemorate the diplomatic settlement of a long-standing border dispute between the United States and Mexico.  Here you can learn the history of Chamizal, its people, and how John F. Kennedy and Adolfo Lopez Mateos began the diplomatic negotiations that brought about the lengthy resolution.

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Stop into the Visitor Center and grab a Self-Guided Trail Tour that will take you around the grounds and explain several stops.  The visitor center was closed for renovations when we were there but they had some displays in a hallway off to the side. We were able to watch the short film and complete our Junior Rangers while we were there.

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This is a short but informative stop if you are in the area. Great paintings, murals and you can see the border of Mexico!

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Junior Ranger Badges earned, Passport Cancellations done, magnet purchased and we are off to White Sands National Monument, but first we need our vehicle back 🙂

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Check back for more National Park stops.  Have you been to Chamizal?

 

Texas

The first time we stopped for the state line sign in this state, it was on a trip to my brother’s for Thanksgiving.  The State line sign was pretty impossible to get so we happen to locate this rest stop with this cool Texas cut out.  This one is located on I-35 South coming from Oklahoma, just north of Gainsville.

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On our Spring Break National Park Trip, we again got some more Texas State line photos.  These were on Hwy 285 South heading from New Mexico into Texas.  These turned out great.

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National Park Season 3 (Spring Break Edition) stops in Texas were as follows:

(Please click on link to get to posts)

Guadalupe National Park

Chazimal National Memorial

Alibates Flint Quarries/Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

 

While passing through Texas on this trip we decided to stay a night right outside of Wichita Falls.  Coyote Ranch and Resort was our pick because we have a 10 year old that loves Yogi bear.  I was parent of the year when we rolled up here.

We rented a cabin but weren’t in it much.  There was loads of stuff to do here. Check it out.

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If you are in the area or just passing through I highly recommend staying here, you won’t be bored.  They have something for everyone, even campsites if you are in an RV or have a camper.

Have you been here?  What were your thoughts?

Guadaloupe Mountains National Park

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Just a few miles south of Carlsbad Caverns is another great National Park, Guadaloupe Mountains.  We planned for a whole day here but the weather was windy and cold, so we got it done in an afternoon.

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We started at the Visitor Center, very small and packed when we got there. We grabbed our Junior Ranger packet and headed into the museum area.  We watched the film and then wandered the visitor center.  This Junior Ranger was pretty challenging, lucky for us a couple of college girls finished theirs up and gave my kids a pamphlet from the McKittrick Canyon Geology Center, luckily this answered the questions we couldn’t find anywhere. Thanks girls!!!!

We learned a ton here. This National Park celebrates the Guadalupe people, the desert environment, its beautiful canyons and the highlands. We took a short stroll around the Pine Springs Visitor Center, it was very windy and cold so we wrapped it up quickly and headed out.

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We stopped off at the Frijole Ranch to do some hiking.  We parked in the lot and headed out. Dad stayed in the car to study so it was just the kids and I.  It started to warm up a little and once we got moving we were able to shed our coats.  Trails are a little rocky and uneven.  The park map states this trail, the Smith Spring trail is a moderate (I agree) 2.3 mile roundtrip trail. It was a great easy trail to get out and get our blood pumping.  Kids and I enjoyed this hike, must needed fresh air break!  I wish we could have done some more hiking here. We might need to revisit in a warmer month.

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We did manage to earn our Junior Rangers and not only did we get the badge we also got this sweet patch to go with it.  I LOVE when we earn patches.

 

Guadalupe Mountains was a beautiful park, we really enjoyed our time here.  I think you could do this park in 1/2 day to up to 2 days depending on how much hiking you are interested in.  Gorgeous area, have you been here??  What was your favorite hike?

We are heading to El Paso in the morning!  Up next Chamizal National Memorial. Check back on the blog for more.

Carlsbad Caverns

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Next stop on Spring Break 2018 (National Park Trip Season 3.1) was Carlsbad Caverns.  We have visited a couple of caves on our other National Park trips but nothing of this magnitude. This place was gigantic.  The trick at this park is to get here early!!  We walked in the door to the visitor center at 9 am and there was already (what I thought at the time) was a long line of about 20 people.  We have a park pass so we chose to do the Big Room Tour.  This is a self guided tour that is an easy to moderate 1.25 mile loop.  Approximate time is 1.5 hours.

We got our tour tickets in hand,  we grabbed some Junior Ranger books and headed over to the gift shop.  Got all of our souvenirs we wanted (this was perfect because later in the day this place was so packed you couldn’t walk through it) and walked over to stand in line to take the elevator down to the cave.  Here is where the wait was, the elevator can only hold so many people and because some people had tour times for guided tours they would let people in front of all of us line standers.  Kids worked on their Junior Ranger books and we probably stood there for all of 20 minutes or so.

A quick 5 minute rules about the cave from a ranger and we were on the elevator heading down into the cave!!!!

Once down in the cave it is easy to navigate around.  Well lit trails and signs give you directions for your self guided tour.  The Big Room is 8.2 acres, the trail is relatively level with signs to stop at for different features along the way.  The Big Room has many large and famous features like Bottomless Pit, Giant Dome, Rock of Ages, and the Painted Grotto.  I think our favorites were Lions Tail, Mirror Lake and the “caveman” at Caveman Junction.

Had I thought about it before descending down 750 feet, I would have changed the settings on my camera and figured out how to take good pictures in a cave. Instead I stumbled around just switching modes until I found one that would take a picture.  I need to learn what settings to use and figure my camera out for next time. If anyone has any pointers I would love to hear them.  So heads up set your camera up before going into the dungeon.

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The Big Room tour

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Mirror Lake

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The boys enjoying the cave

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Cave monster top left

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Family caving

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Making our way out

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The Cave Monster

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Another pointer I will add is there is a stamp at the little food court in the cave, that you can put into your passport book. It says “Mailed from 750 feet below the surface”.  Pretty fun if you are into the whole passport thing (which I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be??).

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Kids and adults in this group really enjoyed our trip to this park.  We saw pretty awesome cave formations here like stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, draperies, flowstone, columns, cave pearls, cave pools, popcorn, helictites, aragonite crystals and rimstone dams. We would have loved to spend all day here and do some more exploring.  It was so cold and windy out here the day we visited that we decided against it.  We can always come back 😉 Last stop Junior Rangers Badges.

So we give this park a thumbs up!  We loved it! Don’t worry if you are claustrophobic it is so big in the cave that I don’t think you would have any problems at all.  Get here early, get to the gift shop early and have your camera ready.  We also ate lunch here in the cafe. Good sandwiches, not much for a picnic when its 35 degrees out.  Off to Guadalupe, let’s hope the weather gets a little nicer??

Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns?  What was your favorite part?