Trek Diary: Day Fourteen (10th July)
By 6:30am we had all flopped out of our tents and were eager to get going again. This was one of the days where we packed up camp with almost military precision, with everyone in silence from the lack of sleep and/or incoming hangovers.
There was to be no Walmart stop today, just a visit to a small chain store in Fort Stockton. Sausage pasta was on the menu for dinner and the only ones we could find were the of the frankfurter/hot dog variety. This lovely brand consisted of beef hearts, mechanically recovered chicken and some other horrid item. Not thinking, i read the list out loud to the group and was met with cries of “Oh my god, i am NOT eating that”. Everybody did though and with no complaints. I am ashamed to report that they actually tasted pretty damn good too. Ugh.
Although our group had quite…selective tastes when it came to meals, none of us were vegetarians which made life a lot easier! Although don’t believe for a second that dinner was a peaceful affair. With the majority of individuals being male, i already knew our culinary skills would be limited (no offence guys!) It turned out that the girls were also slightly challenged in this domestic area. Lisa was the only girl in her cooking group so i ended up helping her out on those days too. We may have had a few meal repeats and frustrated outbursts, but nobody got food poisoning – success! I did end up taking on the role of “mum” at times and not just at dinner. For example, the boys would get told off for running near canyon edges and i would administer painkillers and strepsils to anyone who was injured or feeling under the weather. I am actually turning into my mother and it is terrifying me.
Snacks of poor nutritional value were also purchased at this store, including a variety of pringles. We have some odd pringle flavours over here in the UK, but today we found some new ones. We had “loaded baked potato” which was…uninspiring at best, and “honey and mustard” which i am now suddenly craving! With so many tubes, we had a Pringle obstacle course between our feet during the majority of the trip.
About halfway in our journey, we stopped at the border or Texas and New Mexico on US Highway 285. We took photos of the state signs, complete with bullet holes from the drive by shootings – a compulsory task for an American road trip! Between the signs there was also an abandoned rodeo and we spent some time exploring the trailer and outbuildings.
We stopped for lunch just outside Carlsbad National park, where i used a weird toilet that had a shower curtain instead of a door. Well, at least it wasn’t a drop toilet – we had yet to come across these. Due to the summer heat, the park and surrounding area had recently suffered from fires and a lot of the scrub land had been burnt. This was the same for a lot of the neighboring states and during the trip i saw quite a few small fires on the sides of the highways. After filling up our water bottles, we headed down to the entrance of the caverns where we were met by one of the park rangers that gave us the low down on the trek ahead. Basically, do not go if you have knee problems…and i can understand this warning now. The first mile was a twisting downhill slope that was sometimes slippery in places. The whole way down we were walking in and out of different cavernous halls, through rock formations and stunning chambers.
Despite the beautiful surroundings, i was relieved to reach the bottom and walk along a flat path again! I had wobbly “Bambi” legs the whole time and had been tripping up every few minutes. We also walked around “The Big Room”, a limestone chamber that spans 30,000 square yards, hosts a “bottomless pit” and stalactites and stalagmites of various shapes and sizes. It was noted by a few that everything was very phallic shaped in these caverns. A boob rock was also spotted.
After our scenic workout, we arrived at our campsite on the outskirts of Carlsbad. With each camp arrival, Steve would hop out of the van and go and sign us in, often returning with leaflets about camp rules and regulations. This particular sheet had the usual content but also gave warnings about the local wildlife. Such critters to watch out for included; tarantulas, scorpions, rattlesnakes and skunks(?!) Luckily all we spotted were a load of ants that we fed scraps of food too and watched them haul it all away – true campsite entertainment. Besides the variety of dangerous animals, there was also a play park and a cold indoor pool. We were also sharing this camp with TrekAmerica rivals, “Suntrek” *hiss!* which is mostly used by old people and families.
The feeding of the ants was not going to occupy us all evening, so we all got taken to a place up the road called “Pat’s Fun City” or “fun citaaaaaay” as we liked to call it. Here they have Go Karts, batting cages and a mini golf course. Not feeling particularly adventurous or wanting to spend too much dollar, the girls opted for the mini golf. None of us paid attention to the score, we just lazily hit the ball around the course, chatting as we went. We also had ice pops and found the scenery rather…distracting! (Inside joke – sorry!)