Before dawn on Wednesday, November 14, Sean nudged me awake. We were curled up in a nest of pillows and comforters left behind by Adam, Phil, and Sylvan who, not keen on another night of freezing temperatures, had decamped to a nearby hotel. “Nearby” is relative here. Adam had texted Sean the night before that there were no available rooms in Carlsbad, New Mexico an hour away so they’d continued on and found “the last available room” in Artesia, New Mexico an hour and a half away.
Lying there in the blankets, Sean nudged me and handed me his phone. It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing in the texts from Adam. Around midnight, a truck had driven through the wall of their hotel room.
Incredibly, no one was hurt. But they were shaken.
The truck (or car?) crashed through the wall into the bed that Phil and Sylvan were sleeping in. Adam recounted that he jumped up as soon as he heard the crash and instinctively somehow knew what had happened. He was dressed, so he scooped up Sylvan while Phil pulled on pants and a shirt.
Adam rushed down the hall to the front desk with Sylvan (who had gone from silently stunned in surprise to screaming) and told the night clerk to call the police.
Phil joined them and they determined that everyone was fine.
Meanwhile, the truck had fled the scene. So it was a hit-and-run of a Best Western.
Even more incredible was that the guys’ room was on the back of the hotel from the street. So the truck had had to enter the parking lot, go around back, and then gun it into the wall. We all assume that it was either a guest or visitor of a guest who was intoxicated and trying to park. The driver must have stepped on the gas instead of the brake and in a panic continued pressing the gas until Phil and Sylvan’s bed stopped the vehicle.
In addition to collapsing part of the wall, the force was strong enough to send the nightstand flying across the room. It is insane that with the impact and the collapsing wall and debris that no one was hurt.
Adam’s texts had come in while we were sleeping. So Sean texted him back not expecting an immediate response. He wrote that we were happy to go to them.
We climbed out of the tent, and I started coffee. The temperature was in the twenties, which was better than the teens the previous morning.
Shortly after the sun rose over the flat eastern horizon, Adam called. He reiterated that they were ok and filled in some of the story. He also said that they were keen to return to the Park and would love to have breakfast in camp. Sean asked if they were sure, and Adam said yes. Cooking out was in fact Phil’s favorite part of camping, and they were looking forward to a hearty camp breakfast. Adam said he’d let us know when they were on their way.
I suggested to Sean that while we waited we hop into the car and drive over to some good points along the highway to see the monolith of El Capitan and the southeastern escarpment of the range in the morning glow. So we took our thermos and some bottles of kombucha and headed out.
Our first stop was just along the side of the highway for a brilliant side view of El Capitan.
Behind us, Hunter Peak glowed also.
And a lone little mustang had his breakfast across the road.
A little farther along the highway, Guadalupe Peak (8,749 feet) came into view above and north of El Capitan (8,085 feet).
We stopped at a large picnic pullout south of El Capitan. It was a classic viewpoint for the Guadalupes, and we had missed its view on the way to the Park on Friday because of the mist and clouds. But on this morning, the view was glorious.
Out beyond the Park, the sun’s glow was just reaching the lower ranges.
We drove on and dropped down from Guadalupe Pass onto the salt flats southwest of the range and the Park for yet another grand view.
Then we turned around and headed back to camp.
On the way back in, we stopped at the not-yet-open visitor center to use the family restroom, which was heated and left unlocked at night.
We had some more coffee and tidied up our belongings in the car and in the tent while we waited for the guys. Sean made friends with a fence lizard sitting in a cluster of sotol leaves.
Adam called and said that they were going to be a bit longer because the hotel’s owner wanted to talk to them before they left.
When the visitor center opened, Sean and I walked over on the short trail from the campground.
We saw some scat on the sidewalk near the parking lot. At the time we thought it was Coyote, but it likely was Ringtailed Cat. Neat!
At the visitor center, we chatted with Ranger Michael about our backpacking adventures and about the story of the morning’s hotel incident. We also chatted with the fellow who was on a western road trip and asked me why I chose to spend my birthday in this Park.
The guys arrived around 9:30 with donuts!
We fried up some bacon and scrambled up some eggs while we munched on donuts, sipped coffee, and heard more about the insane early morning events.
Adam said that the hotel’s owner, who had been in the business for thirty years, said that she’d never experienced anything like this. The closest she’d come was years ago when a car had nicked the corner of a wall. She was horrified, and had moved them to the honeymoon suite for the remainder of their stay, all of it for free of course.
Phil quipped that of all the things that he was anxious about in life, getting hit by a truck while sound asleep in bed had not until then been one of them.
The night manager had given them a general tip that if they wanted the best and cleanest rooms in a hotel to ask for one on an upper floor away from the elevators because those are less-often requested and therefore less-often used. Interesting.
Sylvan had taken it all in stride and played with his monster truck while the grownups did morning KP and prepared for the day’s further adventures, a hike to a slot canyon.