• Donna

Trip Report: New Mexico

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

November 17 – 22, 2017

“One, two, six, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, nineteen. Eme, wake up! I have something for you.” Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Yep, it’s nap time here at the Happy Homestead. Emerson is sound asleep on the dinette-turned-couch and Darwin is in the crib, verbalizing each thought that comes to mind.

The wind is blowing at 20mph but since we hitched the trailer to the car this afternoon, we’re quite stable. We’re heading out in the morning, leaving New Mexico and heading for Texas. We’ve had a good time here.

Our first campground in New Mexico was Valley of the Fires Recreation Area. It only cost $18/night for water and electric hookups, and we were perched on a ridge above a lava field. Our campsite was also large and the sunsets were beautiful.

Campground at Valley of the Fires Recreation Area, NM
Our campsite at Valley of the Fires

Then we traveled to Brantley Lake State Park. The campground itself is decent, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I booked it in an attempt to find something close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. There’s no camping in the park and the closest place to stay is Whites City, which has horrible online reviews. The best I could find, while sitting on the couch in Los Angeles, was this state park 40 miles away. Seemed like a good idea though, for a mere $14/night.

Along with that price comes an odor reminiscent of methane and sewage, an opportunity to use a stainless steel prison toilet with no seat, and the pleasure of a free push-button shower where the water magically aerosolizes before reaching your lower body. If these things appeal to your sense of adventure, I highly recommend booking this park.

In all seriousness, I actually am glad we stayed here. We drove past the Whites City RV Park yesterday and it looks horrible. The sites are really close together, with shared picnic tables pushed against one another, and some of the sites were literally at the side of the road, almost as though they’re part of a turnout. We don’t like it here at Brantley Lake State Park, but it seems a lot better than the alternative.

Site 16, Brantley Lake State Park, NM
Even though the Brantley Lake campground was a bust, sunsets over the lake were beautiful

Whatever knucklehead planned this trip had us traveling to Texas on Thanksgiving, so we decided to leave Brantley a day early. So we’ll head out in the morning. Besides, we’re all finished here. We visited Carlsbad Caverns yesterday and were wowed by the enormity. Strollers aren’t permitted, and we didn’t think backpacks were either, so we let the kids walk the mile-and-a-half trail that runs through the caverns.

The first 20 minutes were amazing! The kids were fully engaged, with Emerson enjoying the walk and Darwin finding dinosaurs and dragons in the structures. Then they got bored and we were in a pickle. One of the rules of the caverns is to whisper because the echo of voices ruins others’ experiences. So we figured a toddler tantrum (or two) probably wouldn’t go over well.

So when Emerson began emphatically stating that he wanted to “leave the cave,” Wendy and I couldn’t just tell him to suck it up while we finished the tour. Instead, she picked him up and finished the trail as fast as she could, practically jogging some of it because her arms were getting tired.

Darwin and I continued moving forward, albeit slowly, for a while before she, too, decided she’d had enough. “Dar tired,” she told me.

“You can sit on my shoulders if you want,” I told her. She weighs more than 40 pounds and it’s the only way I can carry her for a prolonged period. She didn’t want to do that though, so continued walking—even more slowly—for a little while longer. Eventually she agreed to sit on my shoulders, at which point I picked up the pace to catch up with Wendy and Emerson. Then she wanted to get down, then back up. And she wanted to hold onto my thumbs while sitting on my shoulders, but the thumbs had to be up near her face.

I would generally decline such demands, countering with a distasteful alternative, like “we can do it mommy’s way or you can ride over my shoulder [like a sack of potatoes]—your choice.” Sometimes she decides my way is best; other times she chooses to travel like a sack of potatoes, which she immediately regrets, resulting in a few minutes of crying until she calms down and decides mommy’s way isn’t so bad after all.

But in that cavern, where remaining quiet was the primary concern, I raised my thumbs in the air  and carried my triumphant toddler on my shoulders for what felt like six miles before finally meeting up with Wendy and shedding my sweat-soaked flannel shirt. Then we took the 9.5-mile “scenic drive” along a gravel road, where we saw a huge water tank, cell phone tower, and five very yellow butterflies.

After picnicking above the caverns, we said goodbye to the park and ran errands at UPS, Walmart, Tractor Supply, and Albertsons. Then we went home and devoured Philly cheesesteak Hot Pockets while watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

This time tomorrow, we’ll be in Texas.

Read the last trip report: Texas to Maryland


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