0530 – The morning of our trip had finally arrived! As usual, I didn’t sleep much the night before; waking every couple of hours to see if it was time to get up yet. That didn’t matter now, since the anticipation of reaching our destination had once again energized my sleep deprived body. While loading a few last minute items, my buddy Willy arrived. We quickly loaded his gear and within minutes, were off to meet our mutual friend Mark on the road just out of town.
Heading to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is about a 7-8 hour drive from town. Now don’t get me wrong I love my home state of Texas, but… driving across it is not one of my favorite things to do. There’s this saying about our lack of topography. “Texas is so flat, if you stand on a penny you can see Dallas!” If you want to see anything higher than a mole hill in my neck of the woods, you’re gonna have to drive for a while. Fortunately, we were able to stave off boredom by planning our itinerary and excitedly discussing expectations for our excursion to the mountains.
1530 – We finally arrived at our destination! Passing the visitor’s center and making our way to the campground area; we found quite a few more campers than we had expected. We finally found two sites that were available, but unfortunately they were at opposite ends of the campground. The decision was made to head over into New Mexico and spend our first night on BLM(Bureau of Land Management) land instead. This worked out perfectly, as we had planned on visiting the Park’s Gypsum Cave area on the trip anyway. Furthermore, the following day would have been the only day for us to visit the caves. Unknown to us at the time, heavy rain was on the way and would have prevented us from even getting to the cave, much less exploring them had we gone later in the trip.
I just have to say this whole “public land” thing is so awesome! The opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful and natural resources your state has to offer is amazing. Coming from Texas where 95% of the land is privately owned, it still amazes me that you can drive onto BLM land and just pitch your tent! The drive from Guadalupe Mountains National Park to the Gypsum Cave Campground is a short commute. The park lies in the Chihuahuan Desert approximately 30 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns. As we arrived, the sun had already begun it’s descent behind the horizon. We took advantage of the remaining sunlight to pitch our tents and get dinner started. After watching a beautiful sunset, we focused our attention to the night sky which sparkled with what seemed like a million sequins. Sleep was not far away as we retreated to our tents, snuggled in, and quickly began dreaming of tomorrow’s adventure.
As the new morning dawned, we gathered our gear and made our way to the cave entrance. The mouth of the cave lies some 30ft. or so below the surrounding desert floor. The entrance stands about 5ft. tall, so we had to hunch down in order to make it through. A few steps in and I can barely contain my excitement as I’ve been wanting to visit these caves for a couple of years now. Moving in the first 10ft., we can feel the cool moist air which has an unmistakable dank smell to it. There is water on the floor of the cave; evidence of recent rains. In some places it’s almost a foot deep. The caves are prone to flash flooding during times of heavy rain as we were warned by signs placed on the enclosure entrance. Now I’ve been in several commercial caves in the past, but these caves made me feel like I was the first one to ever enter in there. No crowds, no path to follow, and no guide other than the beam of my headlamp to show the way. As Willy and I made our way forward through the water and gypsum rock, we marveled at the formations and texture of the rock. Some of the rock was made smooth by water and looked like wax, while other rock would glisten and sparkle as it caught the beam of our lights.
Making our way farther into the cave, we found a few interesting things. We found a dead rabbit carcass, a couple of critter nests, crickets and spiders. The cave held intricate features as well. There were some formations that had taken the appearance of coral. While other rock was made to look like tunnels, or tables and pillars. In a couple of spots, we found passageways that led off the main cave to destinations unknown. Willy tried heading down one and found that it quickly narrowed and could only be navigated by duck walking. We would save this for another trip when we had more time and were better equipped.
Of course we had to turn off our lights to see how dark it really was in the cave. The darkness was ink black. Of course the ultimate test to gauge the darkness did actually confirm that you indeed, could not see your hand in front of your face.
The rest of our time in the cave was uneventful, but not less exciting. The word “Wow!” must have been uttered at least a hundred times! We decided to make our way topside as we were on a schedule; needing to get to the National Park early enough to secure our campsites. This was an awesome first adventure into the world of caving. We will definitely return for a specific caving trip. My future plan is to join a local caving group and receive the proper training in order to safely enjoy this new found sport.
After returning to the campground, we quickly broke camp and decided to make our way to White’s City, NM for some lunch at the Cactus Cafe. This was our second time eating there and although it’s the only place in town, the restaurant is clean, the staff is friendly and the food is great!
We wished we could have stayed in the cave area a bit longer, but our main goal for the trip was to get some hiking in at the National Park… or so we thought…
To find out the rest of the story and see more of our caving adventure, watch the video at the beginning of the blog.
For more information on the Park’s Cave System, visit: http://thoughtsandplaces.org/2011SeekingHeaven/GypsumCaves/GypsumCaves1-2.htm
Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and watch the video!
Keep chasing that next adventure and remember… “Life’s an adventure so don’t just survive it, live it!”