Kathryn - The juxtaposition between these two New Mexican landmarks was extreme. One day we were at White Sands where everything is bright, loud, funny and surficial. The next day we were at Carlsbad Caverns, dark, quiet, serene and deep. It was amazing to be alone in the sea of white sand, kind of like standing in a bowl of icing sugar waiting to be stirred in. We drove along roads made of packed white sand which looked exactly like the wintery roads of home. I took it nice and slow driving the motorhome, worried about hitting the black ice which I knew must be just beneath the surface.
Walking into Carlsbad Caverns by contrast was like walking into a medieval cathedral. The cool dimly lit rooms of this natural house of god called for silence and reverence. Colossal statues of the saints lined the halls and occasionally a baptismal font would present itself ready to welcome sinners into the depths. We were there all day but didn’t get to walk all of the trails. As we emerged from the caverns I felt exhausted and unsatisfied. I don’t like to leave things undone however this will have to wait until the next time – hopefully we can time that trip to coincide with the mass exodus of bats.
Catherine - White Sands National Monument (www.nps.gov/whsa) is a US National Monument. According to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (ICUN) a monument has historic, prehistoric or scientific value whereas parks are inspirational, educational and recreational (www.gjforparkstatus.com). White Sands is likely more a monument because it lies within the White Sands Missile Range and is also beside an US Airforce Base. The park actually closes for a couple of hours a few times a week due to missile tests. Turning White Sands into a National Park would have political issues, activists and international pressure to stop the missile testing. What it does make certain is that you are not going to touch ANYTHING that looks unusual in the sand!
The white sand goes on for miles. What I found interesting is that although the sun beats down on the dunes, because of the gypsum sand, it stays cool to the touch and to walk on.
We overnighted for free in a small boondocking campsite on the air force base overlooking Holloman Lake. We found it on www.freecampsites.net. Free is always great, but free and right next door to where you want to go for the day is even better! Kathryn, Narnia and I have found a few great finds on the free campsite website. Because of our American the Beautiful pass our entrance was free.
Carlsbad Caverns is a National Park (www.nps.cov/cave/) and one thing we both know for sure is that we have to go back when the bats are there because they exodus on mass in the evening to hunt bugs for the night. Millions of bats flying out of the bat cave! How spectacular would that be?
We were there in December so the main migratory bats had already left to go south. The caves were still great. We took one of the tours offered. As a state park you get a ranger guide who is extremely knowledgeable. The tour was $7US. Because we had the America the Beautiful pass our entrance to the cave was free.
We overnighted at White City campground, which is at the beginning of the drive up to the caves. It is what it is. Full hook-ups, close and convenient with its main feature being 7 miles from the caves.