Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks: Going Home

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Monday, November 19 dawned cool and cloudless in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and we were heading home. This was the twelfth and final day of my wonderful fortieth birthday trip to two National Parks. Although we were saying goodbye, we intended to make a quick stop at Guadalupe Mountains National Park as we departed.

Adam, Phil, and Sylvan were already up and about getting packed up when Sean and I emerged. Showers were taken. The fridge was cleaned out. And the house was generally tidied and put back in order.

Once we were done, I did a final walk around to make sure everything was secure and ready for checkout before locking the doors and closing them behind us. Then I texted the AirB&B host to let her know we were all set.

Although the guys were heading on into Texas (San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas) for various Thanksgiving week visits with Phil’s family, it wasn’t quite time to say goodbye. They were headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park too so that they could get a stamp in Sylvan’s new National Parks passport.

As we left Carlsbad, we stopped at C&T Donut, where the guys had picked up donuts and pigs in blankets as they drove back to camp the week before.

C&T’s Donuts

C&T’s Donuts

Guadalupe Mountains

Back on the road, we were headed toward the Guadalupes for the final time.

Guadalupe Mountains

At a rest area across the state line in Texas, I pulled over. I realized I didn’t have photos of the eastern escarpment of the range and Frijole Ridge like I had for the western escarpment.

Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains. Image: Sean M. Santos

Pine Canyon

When we arrived at Pine Springs Visitor Center, it was very busy…far busier than it had been any day the previous week. Apparently the holiday week was having the effect of raising visitation numbers.

The guys were there, and Adam had already gotten Sylvan’s stamp. They had been wondering where we were. Between stopping for gas in Whites City and stopping to grab the photos from the rest area, we were about fifteen minutes behind them. They were getting their car resettled for the long drive to San Antonio, so Sean and I went into the visitor center.

Inside I exchanged a shirt and picked up the stuffed animal for Carlsbad Caverns National Park: a Wild Turkey. (We get one stuffed animal as a souvenir for each Park…but it has to be a species we actually saw in the Park. I was ever so slightly heartbroken not to be going home with a Javelina.)

Hunter Peak

By the time we were done, the guys had had to get their drive underway. So we said our formal goodbyes via text message. We’d see them again soon, on Christmas Eve actually, at my parents’ house in suburban Detroit.

In a way, it felt sort of right that although we’d had wonderful friends join us for the trip, Sean and I both arrived in and departed from Guadalupe Mountains National Park with just each other.

It was time to begin the drive to El Paso.

We couldn’t help but stop at the overlook for El Capitan. The low ranges of West Texas were misty that November morning, but the heights of the Guadalupes were clear against an astounding blue sky.

El Capitan

El Capitan

El Capitan

Farewell, El Capitan.

Guadalupe Mountains. Image: Sean M. Santos

Down out of the range, I pulled over along the two-lane highway to snap a few photos from the salt flats west of the Guadalupes.

Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains

Salt Basin

Salt Basin

Salt Basin

Salt Basin

We turned from the salt basin and the receding dream of the Guadalupes and drove west toward El Paso.

Image: Sean M. Santos

in an hour and fifteen minutes we were entering El Paso. We gassed up the Santa Fe and returned it to Enterprise. We had to fill out an incident report since a crack had developed in the windshield. But the insurance through our credit card handled it.

Once we were checked in and through security, we shared a beer and a burger (with green chiles).

El Paso

Soon we were in the air.


It was Monday evening. On Wednesday, my parents would arrive from Detroit for their annual Thanksgiving visit, and the holidays would commence.

On the ground at Chicago O’Hare, we got margaritas in to-go cups to sip while we waited for our luggage.

It took us a bit of time to get home in the cab because of Monday evening traffic on the Kennedy Expressway. It was cold, and there was some light snow falling as we pulled our bags out of the cab and headed upstairs to greet Elsa. We had a bag of treats ready so that she would think we had gone out hunting.

As usual, Elsa was very happy to see us.

We all three went inside and had a quiet evening of delivery Mexican food and episodes of Stark Trek: Discovery and Doctor Who before bed.

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