About half the sites at the state park are reserveable and half are first come, first serve. Most sites have a view of the lake and are well separated from each other. A covered picnic table and a BBQ are at each site.
|Our view from site #11.|
|Another view of our site.|
Our first full day we drove about 45 minutes South to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This cave system contains the fifth largest chamber in North America (The Big Room) and the choice of self-guided or ranger-led tours. You can purchase audio guides for the self-guided portion.
We chose to explore at our own pace without the audio tour. We logged about three miles total by entering through the Natural Entrance where you drop, sometimes steeply, about 750 feet into the cavern system. After exploring all the trails open to those without a guide, we returned to the surface via elevator. There were restroom and snack and souvenir facilities down in the cave making it easy to spend several hours underground.
Though the cave system is subtley lighted for walking and to enhance some of the more extraordinary cave features, it is nice to have an additional source of light with you to view some of the dark corners throughout the cave.
|On our drive in we spotted a herd of at least 20 big horn sheep on a distant hillside.|
Look for the faint brown spots scattered horizontally.
|This cactus wren built its nest right next to the trail leading to the Natural Entrance.|
|Down, down, down!|
This was only the beginning of a long, long drop into the earth!
Once inside my camera did not perform nearly as well as Hans' cell phone so these cave photos are courtesy of Hans. There were many fabulous formations inside the cave and we were amazed by the enormous size of the rooms we walked through.
On our second full day we visited the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Carlsbad. This is a small New Mexico State Park that showcases the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert.
|One of the more natural animal enclosures.|
|Mural in the new reptile building.|
The Pecos River runs through the area though much of it is diverted to an irrigation canal. Near the center of Carlsbad river water is dammed to create Carlsbad Lake and nice walking trails line both sides of this oasis in the desert.
|I wish I could have seen the little turtle make its way up to its lofty sunning spot!|
Brantley Lake was a very peaceful place to spend three nights. There are not many trails in the park and the lake loop is no longer a loop due to the high water level, but walking the grounds mid-week was pretty and calm with those great long distance New Mexico views that often include lots of puffy white clouds.
|This road used to go to the primitive camping area...it must have been in the trees that are now water bound.|
Next up: Roswell, NM.