The best part of this trip is getting to see wild Aoudad/Barbary Sheep families and experiencing Carlsbad Caverns. It's a long day of travel from Baca Campground in the Lincoln National Forest to Carlsbad, New Mexico.
This time there are two videos below to see.
In the short video you get to see what we think of as being the "best" parts: Carlsbad Caverns and wild Aoudad Sheep (aka Barbary Sheep), without the footage of our travels.
The long video takes you through the wide variety of landscape and weather during our day of travel in addition to the wild aoudad sheep and Carlsbad Caverns sights at the end.
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The terrain and weather diversity during our day of travel is simply outrageous. During about a 2 minute span near Cloudcroft, New Mexico, we encounter dry weather, rain, sleet, small hail and snow.
On the day as a whole we experience everything from moutains with pine forests all the way to the desert high plains.
above: horses grazing in the mountain forests in the Cloudcroft, NM area
Temperatures range from 39 degrees F (during the snow) to 89 degrees F (in the desert). Then there's the wind... We witness everything from calm skys to high winds with gusts of up to 70 mph.
Our initial plan is to overland (off-pavement) as much as possible along the way then camp in the Dog Canyon Campground of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Everything is going along pretty much to plan with the exception of the sky. During the desert crossing portion of the trip, the sky becomes increasingly dark and the wind increasingly strong. At first it looks like rain clouds then we realize the sky is dark because it is filled with dust.
above: Crossing the desert on 506 in New Mexico headed toward Dog Canyon Campground at the northern part of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park of Texas.
Upon arriving at Dog Canyon Campground the sky is brown. The trailer camp sites are in the middle of a parking lot looking area. One brave soul is in the campground... in a tent. It's walk-in only tent camping among the trees on a lower level - just off a bluff, from the trailer camping and the parking for the tent camping. We check the bulletin board of the campground and the week's weather is posted. For today and tonight the forecast is the same: "High and dangerous winds with gusts up to 70 mph." Oh my gosh! Noooo.
We decide it isn't safe to stay at Dog Canyon Campground because of the high wind and all the dust that is already in the air and may likely become worse.
We drive to Carlsbad, NM. All along the way, the sky is so dirty that the sun looks like a lightbulb behind a tan colored sheet. Wind and air conditions are so bad that we stay in - dare I say it - a hotel. Oh, that was not the plan. Though I will say, I don't know that I've ever been so happy to have a hotel room to stay in. The night's sleep is much better than it would have been in a rooftop tent over 5 feet up in the air.
The next day we drive to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. On the way to the Caverns, Bill sees something running around in caves on the cliff-side way across the way from the road. They're sheep! We find a small pull-off parking area a little bit down the road and walk back until we can see the cliff-side caves. There are bunches of sheep, little ones and big ones running all around. Bill gets some video with his cell phone but the sheep are so far away. I start taking photos with my large zoom lens. I keep snapping and adjusting for the light. The sun is fairly high so the cliffs are bright but it's dark inside the caves. We are lucky. The sheep run and jump around long enough for us to get some nice pictures in spite of the distance, their motion and the challenging light.
As we purchase our tickets for the Caverns, we show the park rangers some of the photos and the critters are identified as Barbary Sheep. We had not heard of Barbary Sheep before. Later research reveals another name for them is Aoudad (ahh-dad) Sheep. That we have heard of.
Carlsbad Caverns are spectacular. I had not been before and wasn't real sure what to expect. Bill had been once when he was a little kid. The caverns are massive. In the video there are some shots including people (as silhouettes) that help give a sense of scale. There is so much to see it is overwhelming. The lighting is amazing. While it is cool in the caverns evidently all the walking keeps me warm 'cause don't need to put on my sweater. Do take a sweater with you just in case.
It's been such an amazing day. Carlsbad Caverns are magnificent. Seeing the Barbary/Aoudad Sheep families play is the cherry on top.
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