Weekend in the Lowlands: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Bottomless Lakes State Park, Sitting Bull Falls, and More
We kept our distance from people indoors as much as possible through the beginning on 2021 but once Tom was fully vaccinated I suggested we take a weekend trip down the mountain. My original idea was a day visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park (which is like a semi-outdoor activity since the rooms of the cave are huge) but we decided to add a couple additional stops once we realized we’d like to spend more than a day in the warmer temperatures of the lower elevations.
Our first stop was Bottomless Lakes State Park outside Roswell where we walked a few miles around the colorful brackish waters of the sinkholes. Most of the lakes are rather small and thus it’s easy to see more than one via a short walking trail but along the cliff edges the eroding limestone makes for some more challenging footing. The lakes and the rock of the escarpment edge were very pretty, but beyond the immediate area fed from an underground acquifer the land returns to brushy, dry desert making most photos of the park – mine included – not entirely representative of the area. Still, it was neat to see and pleasant place to walk for a few hours.
Arriving in the town of Carlsbad we did a little bit of exploring in the afternoon, stopping at the Pecos River Flume to see where the river “crosses itself,” the water being carried across the crumbling concrete aqueduct to feed thirsty crops in the arid Pecos Valley. It was an interesting enough short stop and a very good place to walk a dog, but not quite picture-worthy.
Our last stop of the day was, of course, a brewery. Milton’s Brewing Company was one of my must-stops since it’s named after the bumbling character in the movie Office Space. I loved this movie so much that when I worked in an office in the 00’s that I indeed had a red Swingline, because ya know, it doesn’t bind as much. The brewery had a Red Stapler Red Ale which I of course had to have a pint of but unfortunately no t-shirts with a red stapler which felt like a huge let down. Still the only thing I was actually disappointed about was my lack of bringing appropriately warm attire since I nearly froze sitting outside after the sun went down.
The next morning Abbs and I went out for a 2 mile stroll before her morning naptime after which Tom and I jetted down to the national park. We’ve both been to Carlsbad Caverns National Park before (Tom multiple times actually) so we weren’t looking at being at all completest during this visit; covid restrictions had the tours of special rooms shut down but we were just looking for a nice few hours stroll through the main cave area anyway. Please note that normally a half day would not be sufficient to see the wonders of the park. At the time of our visit the park service had limited, timed entries for the cave as a whole and a one-way system implemented wherein we walked down through the natiural entrance and then took single group elevator rides to the top. This resulted in a very uncrowded and quite pleasant experience and though we had masks on we were thus easily able to distance as well from other visitors which made us feel pretty good about the situation.
Returning to the hotel in early afternoon we grabbed Abbs and headed out to the Pecos Riverwalk in town, where we ambled along the waterway through parks and picnic areas. Not our usual deal but a very solid place for a relaxing stroll, one that was made nicer by the mild temperatures. And then it was off to Guadalupe Mountain Brewing for some beer and food! This time I brought extra layers in order to stay warm on the patio but I needed little of that since I selected the 10.0% ABV Dark Devious imperial stout (absolutely delicious – one of the best imperial stouts I’ve had) followed by the smooth, less-alcoholic Coconut Porter. All that dark beer kept me plenty warm — plus Abby helped out by laying next to my feet.
We departed Carlsbad the next morning, planning one last stop at Sitting Bull Falls, located 25-ish miles off roads near the southern terminus of the Sacramento Mountains. The cool waters and developed recreation area make this a very popular place for desert-dwellers in the warmer months but we were one of only two groups of people on an early winter morning. There are actually a few spring-fed falls flowing over the edge of the remnants of an ancient barrier reef but the largest is about 150 feet high – an impressive and unique place in the lowlands of southeastern New Mexico. We three investigated the area below the main falls for a short while and then Abbs I took a short, steep trail to the top where we viewed a few of the pools nestled in the rock formations. Though out of the way it was definitely a worthy destination.