Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Whites City, NM. (Wikipedia says the 2010 population of Whites City was seven!)
Here’s an easier one: have you heard of Guadalupe Mountains National Park?
We hadn’t heard of either place, which is nuts because Guadalupe Mountains National Park is insanely gorgeous. Our original trip plan had us staying in Carlsbad, NM on the way from far southwest TX to Santa Fe, visiting Carlsbad Caverns, and moving on. Fortunately for us, we arranged to meet up with Darius, a friend from Charlottesville, and his travel companion Trevor, who are midway through visiting all 59 National Parks in 59 weeks to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks Service. They were hitting Carlsbad and Guadalupe on the way to Big Bend from the Arizona parks, and they had already set up camp at Whites City Campground, so we joined them.
The campground was awesomely hilariously ghetto. We were thiiiis close to our neighbors, but on one side we had a super laid back family from Texas with a beer-drinking dad who let us use his grill, and on the other side a super laid back family from Maine with an Airstream! Internet was fine, and in retrospect, after having had crap for internet in the last two campgrounds since Whites City, it was great. But the location of the campground was unbeatable: it was a stone’s throw from the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and a 25 minute drive to the visitor’s center at Guadalupe. Whites City itself is a block long, with a tiny grocery (no beer!) attached to a gift shop, a restaurant, and a gas station. Other than beer, it had everything we needed for a brief stay.
After setting up camp, we drove up to Carlsbad Caverns and ran into Darius, just back from a hike, at the visitor’s center. It was pretty wild to run into a friend that far from home, even when we knew he was in the area. We made plans for them to come over to our house for dinner later that evening, and then drove the scenic loop through the National Park. Don’t bother driving the scenic loop if you go. The good stuff at Carlsbad Caverns is underground.
We were super excited to host our first guests in the Airstream! For dinner, we made burgers, steak, tomato and avocado salad, my go-to spinach and chickpeas, quinoa, and chia pudding. Those boys ate SO much. All they do is hike all day everyday, so that’s understandable. It was so fun to have friends over, and we made plans to meet up for an afternoon hike the next day.
In the morning, J and I (with Bugsy snoozing in the cool, comfy car) arrived at Carlsbad Caverns right when they opened to avoid the crowds. We would have gone insane if stuck behind a mob of children on the narrow passage. The elevators are out of commission until May (which we saw as a good thing–to keep the crowds down, and to get some exercise), so if you don’t like walking 1.5 miles pretty much straight up, wait for the elevator to come back online before your visit. We did a super-fast two hour trip through. It was gorgeous and so different from the other scenery we’ve been gawking at on this trip, which was fun. If you do it, I can’t recommend enough that you get there when the park opens.
We had to rush a little to meet Darius and Trevor at McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe for our afternoon hike, so figured we’d grab sandwiches at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Visitor’s Center. They don’t sell food. Lucky for us, Darius and Trevor have an arsenal of food in the back of their truck, so we grabbed some snacks and headed out. The hike is 4.5 miles up to The Notch, which was spectacular, and since Bugsy was waiting patiently in the car (this was a National Park trail), we jogged most of the trail.
All four of us are UVA grads, and the Hoos were playing Butler in the NCAA tournament that night, so the boys came over to our house for dinner and basketball. After an exciting game, including the satellite dish trying to crap out on us, we parted ways, with plans to meet up again in Utah next month.