Day four once again began hot and dry. We jumped in the swimming pool one more time, said goodbye to our family, then headed south toward Texas, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Truthfully, before planning this road trip, I had never heard of Guadalupe, as it is a small, quiet park that is tucked into the NW corner of one of our largest states. We arrived at the Visitor Center just before lunch time, and it had to be near 100 F already. The VC at this park is small, but packed full of amazing things to see and do.
In addition to a museum of natural history of the park, there is a small theater where they show the informational video, and have props for ranger talks. Since it was such a hot day, we spent plenty of time in the center! The ranger at the desk was very friendly and kind, and was able to answer all of our questions. This park would be a fantastic place to hike, on a cooler day with more time. The variety of plants and animals in the park was immense for such a small area.
Moving on after a quick picnic lunch under the awning of our camper, we headed towards White Sands National Monument. We did not arrive early enough that day to see the monument, so we found a campsite at a nearby KOA (not our favorite – review coming soon), and got to bed early, knowing better than to get out on the sand too late the next day.
Day five brought us to the White Sands visitor center shortly after it opened. Unlike Great Sand Dunes, the sand in this monument is more snow-like in texture, and so the gift shop here both rents and sells plastic saucer-style sleds for fun in the sun. Of course, being veteran sand sledders now, we decided we had to pick one up and give it a try. We also purchased a cube of wax to keep things moving.
The verdict: plastic saucers need much steeper hills to be effective. Calvin had a hard time going more than three feet per push from behind! Even on our steepest hill, about half way back into the monument, he was pressed to get up much speed. Linus seemed content with the slow amble down the steep hill, but we all agreed, it was nothing like using the actual sand sled at Great Sand Dunes NP!
It simply got too hot within about an hour after we started playing, so we checked out a local lizard, using the shade of our camper to cool off, and headed north toward Albuquerque. Thus was the high point of the entire trip for me… if you know us, you know we are extreme Loony Tunes fans, and being able to “take that left turn at Albuquerque” was about as nostalgic as one can get to the days of Bugs Bunny and Road Runner!
We passed by Petrified Forest National Park and spent the night in Holbrook, a nice little town nearby, home of the famous “Wigwam” Motel that can be found in the movie Cars. As day six began the next morning, we were already in the habit of getting up early to beat the heat. Although the mid-day temperatures in this part of Arizona were to be about ten degrees cooler than those in New Mexico, that still meant 93 F! We headed into the park from the south entrance and stopped in at the Rainbow Forest Visitor Center.
Calvin and Linus had a great time uncovering “fossils” in their museum over and over. It was hard to get them back outside! We walked the Giant Logs trail here, and several more very short trails along the driving route.
The highlight for this park was the amount and quality of petroglyphs to be found! The landscape reminded us of home (Badlands), but it also made us realized that we missed the bison. We hadn’t seen any on the entire trip so far, and it caused a twinge of homesickness to realize there were National Parks out there that didn’t have them.
We grabbed lunch at the Painted Desert VC, which has incredible, fresh food at very reasonable prices. Organic chicken, free range beef, and natural ingredients made for an excellent meal before we headed off to our next destination, Grand Canyon National Park.
Even though we arrived at the Grand Canyon on Day six, we merely had time to meet up with my sister, make camp, and have dinner. It was another s’mores kind of evening, and we enjoyed some more family time. We were pleasantly surprised that Trailer Village RV Park, inside the Grand Canyon Park property, had not only full hook-ups, but cable TV! If you need your electronics fix, be sure to bring along your television.
Next up… in Part 3 we will explore Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks, and a few extra fun stops in between!