It’s time to say goodbye to Las Cruces and hit the road again. The Motel owner advises us to take the route through Alamogordo to Carlsbad, it would be much nicer than over El Paso.
So we drive back to Alamogordo and there take SR 82 East over the mountains. We reach elevations of over 8,000 feet (2,500 Meter) again and find ourselves in lush green, alpine looking mountains once again. It is beautiful up here and we really enjoy the sight of so much green after the last few of days.
In Artesia we turn south and stop for an iced latte at McDonalds. We then continue all the way past Carlsbad to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Miles long, a winding road leads up to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but there is now a change of scenery as compared to our last visit in 2003. Black charred land, wilted cactuses and the smell of smoke now surround this tourist destination. Mid June 2011, 30,000 acres (120km2) of brush went up in flames in 72 hours.
Shortly after 4pm we arrive at the Visitor Center and are told that the last guests are allowed to go down into the caverns at 4pm.
The only other alternative, the 9.5 miles gravel road is closed due to the fire, so we don’t really have any other option than going back to town, find a hotel and have dinner.
We soon find the Continental Inn, with rooms available at a good price and then have dinner at the China Buffet a few miles further into town.