Petrified Forest National Park
We stayed at: Crystal Forest Museum and Gifts
We trekked across New Mexico and back into Arizona to visit our next national park - Petrified Forest. I have to say that this was not as mindblowing a park as say Zion or the Grand Canyon. Though getting out of the car and walking the trails does put you up close to some pretty cool sites. The petrified wood (wood/organic matter that has absorbed minerals and has bascially turned to rock) was interesting and very colorful. More info on the full story of petrified wood. But my favorite part was hiking through the Blue Mesa Badlands - I've never seen purplish (is that a word?) hills like that!
State: New Mexico
White Sands National Monument
Where we stayed: Alamogordo KOA
So we've been in Alamogordo, NM for about 5 nights now. Truthfully I have a really hard time keeping track of the days. Is it Sunday? Thursday? When did we get here? Homeschooling M-F helps me keep track, but now that we're starting winter break (yay!), I'm sure I'll really be lost! Or maybe I should just remember to look at the new weather/date/clock we got!
With Matt's back tied up in knots, I tried to let him rest and took the kids to the place Jack's been most excited to experience - White Sands National Monument. We grabbed some sleds from Sandy, hostess with the mostess of Alamogordo KOA where we're staying and headed over to check out the sand dunes.
With every new place we visit, I'm amazed at how outstanding and unique all these national parks are. This white sand was so white and clean, gorgeous mountain ranges in both directions... just awesome. The gypsum sand was so much easier to walk on than our beach sand. You don't sink into this sand as much as you would at the beach, You can see from the photos how the sand will even hold the detailed prints of a sneaker. Like any trip to the beach, we did accidnetaly end up bringing a ton of it home in the car and in our shoes. Matt was feeling a bit better the next day, so he rallied for a mile hike and even a sled ride!
State: New Mexico
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Friday we packed up the RV and headed out of Santa Fe since the temps were supposed to drop and snow was looking likely. We decided to drop down to Albuquerque since elevation was lower and temps were a little bit warmer. Since the drive was so quick, we decided to travel separately. I left a bit earlier and scoped out a parking place off the highway so that Matt wouldn't have to drive the RV up to Tent Rocks. We parked the RV in a nicely paved, very empty parking lot for a Mormon monument. I've only seen one episode of Breaking Bad, but I did have visions of some drugged out wingnuts breaking into our RV and running off with it while we were gone. But good vibes at the Mormon monument and our RV was still there when we returned.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (let's just call it Tent Rocks) is AWESOME! This has got to be one of my all-time favorite hikes. It's got a narrow, slot canyon that's fun to squeeze through, sides to climb up, hoodoos... all kinds of eye candy. It's especially great because the kids could do it on their own too with no major cliffs for them to fall off.
We had a bit of a rough start, but everyone made it back to the car without having to be carried (too long).
State: New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Where we stayed: Whites City RV Park
We stayed at the only rv park in the area - Whites City RV. Our first mistake was to pull in after dark to a place we had never been before. After making a wrong turn which led to a little offroading in the rv (holding on hoping we wouldn't tip over during each bump), a few phone calls to the office and the use of my handy dandy cell phone flashlight feature, we found our way into a campsite. If you are only going to be in town for a couple days and plan to just go to the caverns, then this is the place to stay. It's about an eight mile drive to the visitor center. We did drive drive twenty miles to the town of Carlsbad, NM to do some grocery shopping. It was the saddest Albertson's I had ever been to, and driving through I was happy not to be staying in town.
Our first day in town, Matt took the big kids on a special 5 hour tour of Slaughter Canyon Cave. A deal at $7.50 for each kid. This tour was an hour's drive from the visitor center, requried a hike to the cave and then they spent about two hours in an unlit cave (they wore headlamps to see). Unfortunately for Emmett the Explorer, the minimum age was eight, so he had to stay home with me doing laundry. A huge thumbs up from Matt and the kids.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Where we stayed: Whites City RV Park
After our morning hike and rock collecting at Rock Hound State Park, we headed out toward Carlsbad Caverns. Matt booked the last tour of the season for Slaughter Canyon Cave so we had to rush to get to Carlsbad.
Below is a pic of us heading east toward Las Cruces, New Mexico. Those are the towering Organ Mountains in the distance.
The rangers and volunteers at Saguaro National Park take their job overseeing the junior ranger program very seriously. I read in one trip advisor review that the ranger was nice to spend an hour with her son going over his junior ranger booklet. An hour?! That is nice attention if you don't mind hanging out in the visitor center all afternoon (especially if it's 110 degrees outside and the ac is pumping inside). The weather was great and we only had a few hours to enjoy the park and we were trying to get down to Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum before they closed. We had to stress this to the ranger so that we could get out in under a half hour!
We cut it a little close and with only an hour left until closing time and pricey $20 adult tickets, we decided to save the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum for another day. Instead we opted to head back into the national park to do a beautiful hike along a wash and up the side of a mountain for some great sunset views.
Thanks to the two random, drum-carrying, twenty-somethings hiking down the path for taking this picture of us. It only cost me a few gummi worms. :)
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
It was fu-reezing and windy, but since we had driven an hour to get here, we all rallied to get out of the car and try a hike (yes, candy was involved at every turn). The ground here was so different - black volcanic rock that crunched under foot.
Wupatki National Monument
From Sunset Crater to Wupatki, it's only an eighteen mile drive north. But ahhhhhh, I was so much happier stepping out into the sunshine here. Wupatki sits at just under 5000 feet elevation, about 2000 feet lower than Sunset Crater.
Lincon City, OR
Lincoln City KOA
House on wheels. The sixty minute drive from McMinnville out to the coastal town of Lincoln City, OR was our first adventure with everyone in the rv and with our tow car attached. Matt drove it like a rock-star. I, on the other hand, tried to keep my eyes down on my phone trying not to look at how much of the lane we were taking up. At one point going across a narrow bridge, it looked like we had two options - go up a 6 inch curb on the passenger side or lose a side view mirror on the driver side. Ack! Somehow Matt managed to save our tires and mirror and I returned to looking at the map.
I'll be sharing our travel plans, some reviews, cooking ideas (because I know you are all jealous of my easy-bake oven), and ... oh who am I kidding?! I'll be lucky to get our photos posted!