2019 Road Trip: Days 7 & 8

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

I am going to be honest, I was not expecting too much from CCNP. Growing up less than two hours from Mammoth Cave, I thought, “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!” WRONG! Carlsbad Caverns was awesome!

On Day 7, as I stated in my previous post, I was going to explore Guadalupe Mountains, but there were bad storms in the forecast. I already had purchased a tour for Day 8, so I decided to do the self guided tour at CCNP. The self guided tour is free with your National Parks pass and took me about an hour to two hours to walk the entire path. I took the Natural Entrance into the caverns and the elevators back up. However, you can take the elevator both up and down is you do not want to walk 750ft down.

On Day 8, I woke up early and headed to start the Ranger led tour I had purchased. I decided to go on the Lower Cave Tour, and I am SO glad that I did! The tour lasted around three hours total and the Rangers were extremely knowledgable about the cave. For this cave, everyone is required to wear sturdy ankle boots (must bring your own), and a helmet with a headlamp and gloves (provided) the entire time.

To start the tour, you must use a knotted rope and walk backwards down 15 ft of smooth flowstone. After this, there are three sets of ladders that take you an additional 50 ft down. I did not have a problem with the rope or the ladders, but some of the other people on the tour did freak out a little bit because of the way the ladders were angled.

Once off the ladders, the tour begins! I am not going to go into detail of the tour, because it is something you all just need to get out and experience! I do highly recommend this tour if you are planning a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. There were no sections that required crawling, but there was an optional route you can take where you get to crawl, and of course we all did!!! A man on the tour also spoke highly of the Left Hand Tunnel Tour, which is another ranger led tour where everyone uses lanterns instead of head lamps.

I do not think you could wrong with any tour at Carlsbad Caverns! Just make sure you arrive early for the tours and wear the appropriate footwear, or they will NOT let you participate in the tour.

Until next time, peace!

2019 Road Trip: Day 6

Alpine, Texas to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

The drive from Alpine to GMNP was only 3-ish hours, so I took my time driving and stopped quite a bit along the way. I was looking forward to seeing the Marfa Prada, but there were several other surprises along the drive. The movie “Giant” was filmed in and around Marfa in 1956 and there is now a roadside pop art installation to pay homage to the film and one of its filming locations. The murals were painted by California based muralist John Cerney.

Now, nobody told me this (AKA I did not research this), but Marfa Prada is NOT in Marfa, nor is it really close to Marfa. It is a 35 minute drive northwest of Marfa on 90. Regardless, it is very cool and worth the stop to see!

Finally, I arrived to Guadalupe Mountains National Park! (I had planned on camping here but storms were rolling through the area the next couple of nights. This was the same time Texas was having some nasty tornados tearing through the state so I got an AirBnB). When I arrived to the visitor’s center, I overheard the park ranger telling other hikers that they did not advise to hike to Guadalupe Peak tomorrow (MY ONE PLAN) due to storms coming in during the early afternoon hours.

Well, now that I wouldn’t be able to really hike the next day, I asked the park ranger which hike was short enough for me to do that day. It was around 1:30, and she advised the Devil’s Hall trail. I am so glad I followed her advise, because it was an amazing hike! A lot of rock scrambling and towards the last half of the hike, you kind of make your own path climbing over rocks. This hike only took me around 2 hours and 15 minutes counting the walk to and from the visitor center parking lot. I would rate the trail easy with some moderate areas along the trail.

I really wish I could have explored Guadalupe Peak and more of the park, but hey, I can always go back! The rest of the day was spend getting into my AirBnB and meeting Mrs. Pauline and her two sweet puppies.

Peace.

2019 Road Trip: Day 3

Day 3: Austin, Texas to Big Bend National Park

Luckily, my Uncle John gave me an alternate route to Big Bend that would be more scenic than what I had already planned. I took I35 to San Antonio, then 90 through Del Rio to Alpine, Texas. There were a million places I wanted to pull over and take pictures, but I had a long day of driving ahead of myself. I did stop at a bridge to take a few photographs and take a break from driving.

I finally reached Alpine, TX and text my parents that they may no hear from me until the next day because where I was staying did not have service. Big Bend’s campgrounds do not have reservations and are first come, first serve. Knowing I would be getting into the park a little late in the day, I planned ahead and found this CUTE and FUN place called Tin Valley Retro Rentals. They have campers, boats, and even a car that have all been turned into little, simple “glamping” sites right outside of Big Bend National Park. Just look at the picture below, how stinking cute is this place!?

The Cozy Cactus @ Tin Valley Retro Rentals
© Savannah Hamlet

I get to the campsite after a long and slow drive down a dirt road and I am in love. It has the most gorgeous backdrop and is so perfect….until I step out of my car and it is 102 degrees. Yes, you read that correctly, 102 degrees. I walk inside the camper and it has two super comfortable cots and a little sitting area. I knew when I booked this camper that there was no air conditioning. I did not, however, know that it would be 102 and the low over night only be mid 80s. I got my battery powered fan and sat on the cot and realized…I couldn’t do it. Imagine sitting in your car with your windows cracked with no A.C. and it is 102 degrees outside, that is how hot is was inside the camper. As much as I hated myself for doing it, I had to drive back to Alpine (1 hour and 27 minutes) and get a motel. Before I go any further, let me say, I was BUMMED! I have been looking forward to staying in this cozy cactus camper forever. I also want to say I have NOTHING negative to say about Tin Valley Retro Rentals. If it wasn’t so hot, I would have stayed and I for sure want to come back during the spring or fall.

As I got to Alpine and had service, I found a promising looking motel, Antelope Lodge. When I pulled up, it wasn’t your typical L-Shaped, one building motel. This motel is from the 1950’s and looks more like little cottages spread about around a darling little courtyard. (They honestly could have turned this into an awesome Hostel, but that is just my opinion and it works as a motel as well). Y’all, this place is CUTE. Whoever is renovating this place needs their own T.V. show on HGTV. WATCH OUT CHIP AND JOANNA. I want to live here. Each room is a little different but has a bathroom, super comfortable bed, a TV, and a little kitchenette! The main office has an awesome open and welcoming vibe as well as a lounge room with couches and chairs. The courtyard has over-hanging lights and fire pits. This place is AMAZING!

All in all, everything works out for the best and sometimes you have to shove your anxiety down and accept that you can’t plan or control everything. And hey, you may find a cute, fun new motel along the way to share with people! Isn’t that the whole point of blogging?

37 days remaining!

Peace.

2019 Road Trip: Day 1 & 2

Day 1: Home to Hot Springs National Park

After a LONG drive from my home to HSNP (Hot Springs National Park), I finally arrived at my KOA where I was staying for the night. It was a fabulous campground and I had a great shaded campsite (YAY!). ALSO, DID YOU KNOW THERE IS WIFI AT A KOA KAMPGROUND!? I did not, and it was a pleasant surprise.

By the time I had my campsite set up and had a shower, I only had a few hours of daylight (and energy) to explore HSNP and grab something to eat. Traffic was horrible (I mean, it was Memorial Day weekend, I should have known better) and I finally made it to the free parking garage in town. After eating, I walked around for a little while and saw some of the Hot Springs. I also put my hand in one of the springs and YEP they are hot!

After seeing about all there is to see, and let me be honest, there isn’t much; I drove on the Mountain Drive/Fountain Drive in the park. At the top, there is a tower where you can take an elevator to the top for viewing, but I decided I would skip that part since it was about to close. However, there were some gorgeous views from a couple of pull offs that showed Arkansas’ beauty.

Overall, HSNP was nice and pretty in places. I definitely could see how amazing it was years ago, but a lot of the older, architecturally beautiful buildings are boarded up and forgotten. If Chip and Joanna Gaines could get a big ole crew into that area, MAN, it would be GORGEOUS.

Day 2: Drive to Austin

Okay, you guys, I KNEW Texas was big. I know it is the 2nd largest state and is basically (kind of, sort of) the size of Europe if you pushed them all together. But holy moly, Texas is HUGE. Also, people drive CRAZY, and I am a crazy driver so that is saying a lot. Maybe it was the 75 mph limit or the weird on/off ramps Texas has between Dallas and Austin, but I have never been so nervous driving on an interstate before in my life.

Anyway, I finally made it to my “Uncle” John’s house (He is one of my father’s best friends, so I have always called him uncle) in Austin after a long day of driving. I showered and John and his wife took me out to dinner. After that, we talked about places we have traveled, and then this old 29 year old went to bed around 9:30 to prepare for the drive to Big Bend National Park.

So, not exactly an enthralling couple of days, but the weather has been nice and I have enjoyed what all I have seen so far on my trip! Only 39 days left of my road trip, stay tuned!

Peace!

24 hours in Black Hills NF

In between Badlands National Park and heading to the Beartooth Highway, my friend, Sara, and I were lucky to spend 24(ish) hours in Black Hills National Forest. Was it enough time? Definitely not. Did we make the most of the 24 hours? Yep! Here are the top 5 things I feel everyone should see while in the Black Hills with limited time.

5. Mt. Rushmore

I debated putting this on the list. Is it something you should see in your lifetime, yes. Did I think it was cool, eh. Personally, I felt that we could have spent that time more wisely, but when in the Black Hills for the first time, you go to Mt. Rushmore.
https://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm

4. Sylvan Lake

Jumbo rocks and water, what’s NOT to love? We did not get to explore as much of the lake as we would’ve like for two reasons: There was a wedding in progress by the lake (#goals) and we had limited sunlight left. I definitely want to spend more time here when I come back to the Black Hills, on my Harley, of course.
https://custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/sylvan-lake-lodge/

3. Needles Highway

Holy Moly, what a drive! We took the drive up Needles Highway during sunset. I am sure the drive is still amazing with gorgeous views during anytime of the day, but when you go at golden hour, and the sun is hitting the rocks….that is something you can not beat! We had to park the Jeep several times because the views were too amazing to continue driving. You also get to drive through some awesome (and narrow!) tunnels!

2. Devil’s Tower

Okay, so technically, this is not part of the Black Hills, but if you are going to be in the area, this is a MUST. You are driving along a nice countryside in Wyoming, and then all of a sudden, BOOM, Devil’s Tower. You may have to wait a few minutes to get in due to limited parking at the base of the tower, but it is worth the wait. Once you do get in, there is an area where you can stop on the way (you must) and see prairie dogs. If you read my previous post about the Badlands, you will know ya girl loves some prairie dogs. Anyway, back on topic here, go to Devil’s Tower. There is a nature walk that goes around the whole tower so you can see the Tower from many different view points. In my opinion, the best view is when you pull off to see the prairie dogs. If you are feeling super adventurous, you can obtain a permit and climb the tower.
https://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm

1. Crazy Horse Memorial

A lot of people may disagree with me, or maybe not, but we had the BEST time visiting Crazy Horse Memorial and seeing history being made. We did arrive a little late in the afternoon and missed the bus that takes you all the way to the memorial, bummer! We did get to take a short ride closer to the memorial, however, and hear the history of its beginning and future plans. After the bus ride, we toured the museums on site. After walking around for a while, we were beginning to leave when we received the best news ever: if you come back before nightfall (times vary throughout the year), you could re-enter the site and watch a Legends in Light Laser Show which is projected on the Crazy Horse Memorial mountain side. I wish I had pictures that could serve the laser show justice! I am glad I don’t though, so you can see it with your own eyes! Fun fact: They have the largest lasers used in the laser-show industry. If you would like more information on the Legends in Light Laser Show, here is a link to their website, it also gives approximate times when the show will start throughout the year: https://crazyhorsememorial.org/visit/special-events/legends-in-light-laser-show

Honorable Mentions

  • Dinner at Hitchrail Bar and Restaurant in Pringle
  • Sturgis
  • Scenic US – 16 (Biker’s paradise)

Just a Jeepin’

During the summer of 2018, my best friend, Sara, and I took a 3 week road trip of a life time. We drove in a 4 door Jeep from Tennessee to South Dakota to Wyoming to Montana and then back down to Wyoming. We were able to visit 4 National Parks, 3 National Forests, 2 National Monuments, and many more spectacular places. I will give a brief overview of where all we went, and have more detailed blogs in the near future of each location we visited.

Our first stop after two LONG days of driving was Badlands National Park. I was extremely excited about Badlands National Park. I personally feel that the Badlands do not get enough credit. C’mon guys, look at the views!

Door/Notch Trailheads parking area
© Savannah Hamlet

Next, we headed to the Black Hills National Forest. We only had one night in the Black Hills, so we made the most of it. Within 24 hours, we saw Mt. Rushmore, drove the Needles Highway at sunset, saw a laser show at Crazy Horse (SO COOL), visited Sylvan Lake, visited Sturgis (our dads, both bikers, were extremely jealous), AND went to Devil’s Tower. Needless to say, we had a blast and saw A LOT.

Sylvan Lake at sunset
© Savannah Hamlet

After a couple of days of exploring the Badlands and Black Hills, we were Montana bound! We took a scenic route through Bighorn National Forest, and stayed in a charming small town, Greybull, WY. We then took the Beartooth Highway and stayed the night in Bozeman. I know, weird, but it was the only way we could drive the highways and not have to backtrack.

Shell Falls between Bighorn National Forest and Greybull
© Savannah Hamlet

After leaving Bozeman, we took a long, rainy drive to Glacier. We stayed an entire week in Glacier and WOW WOW WOW. If you have never visited Glacier, cancel your current travel plans and go, now!

Two Medicine Lake at Glacier National Park
© Savannah Hamlet

The last week of our trip, we visited Yellowstone and Grant Tetons National Park. I have nothing to say about Yellowstone, you will see a whole blog about Yellowstone later on. Grand Tetons were GORGEOUS. Just fab, y’all. 10/10 would recommend.

Grand Teton National Park
© Savannah Hamlet

This post really does not serve a purpose except to set up the next few blogs I post about each location. You at least got to see some awesome pictures taken with an iPhone, pretty impressive for a phone, huh?

Peace.