El Paso Trip Summary (by Teresa)
Friday 13th, 2004 Flew out of Atlanta, our flight was late. We got into El Paso, TX after 8:00pm local time (Mountain time). We drove out of the city and found a Howard Johnston's at Executive Center and stayed there for the night.
Saturday 14th, 2004 (Valentine's Day) We lounged most of the morning. We had a nasty "Continental Breakfast" of doughnuts and decided to get some oatmeal for our future breakfasts. While looking for a grocery store, we witnessed many "Urban Outdoorsmen" on the street. Now we know why the hotel was inexpensive. We loaded up with water and supplies and headed north towards Las Cruces, NM. We stopped at a few art galleries and antique shops while waiting for the winery to open. We stopped off at La Vi�a, a winery that grows all there own grapes and makes some pretty good wine. We got two bottles of Dolcetto and one of their Merlot and some very nice cheese (aged/dried jack). We asked to locals for a lunch recommendation and headed off for Chope's (Choh-pays) for some authentic Mexican food in La Mesa, NM. We found a small adobe building restaurant that has been run by the same family for six generations. The food was not too spicy, probably more authentic than we'd had before. The salsa had a nice heat to it and their green sauce on the enchilada was great. We left there and tried to find a Bed & Breakfast we heard about at the winery. We found "Happy Trails" B&B in Mesilla, NM, but didn't see anyone there. We went into The Plaza at Mesilla, lots of gift shops and such, and saw the jail that housed Billy the Kid. The original adobe building is now Billy the Kid Gift Shop and, according to the clerk there, still has the original roof (twigs and thatch), though I'm sure they've done some maintenance on the outside. Walked around a bit and finally went north into Las Cruces to find a cheap hotel. We found the Teakwood Hotel under renovation and the price was right. Tonight, research of the local brewpub, High Desert Brewing. Yummm..... this little brewpub barely the size of our living room+kitchen area has some of the best brew we've had!!!! When we were there, they had an amazing 11 beers ON TAP! All Microbrews! We tried (with samplers) the IPA, Brown Ale, Porter, Stout, ESB, Steam Beer, October Fest, and Dark Bock. They also had Wheat, Peach Wheat, Amber Lager. And the food was pretty good too. We'll have to check this out again when we're in the area!
Sunday 15th, 2004 Started earlier today, breakfast at the hotel. We heard we needed reservations at Hueco Tanks, so Andrew calls the office and we're told it's first come, first serve, in person. Instead of a short hike at Franklin Mountain State Park, we decide we'll make reservations and take a short hike at Hueco Tanks. We avoid the drive though the heart of El Paso and chose the Trans-mountain Hwy across the Franklin Mountains, a chain of mountains that run right though El Paso. Nice drive, a very small chain of mountains. We get to Hueco Tanks and have a bit of confusion at the gate. It seems that we only need reservations; first come, first serve, if we want to to go unguided into the North Mountain area. We make reservations for the 2:00 guided tour and then find out we CAN'T GET INTO THE PARK without reservations and there are 12+ people on the waiting list. We can't take a short day hike here. We head back to the Franklin Mountain SP and did a short hike there. We headed back into El Paso after 12 to pick up Jack and Ellen from a post-wedding brunch. somehow we get all of our luggage into the back of the SUV along with the cooler full of beer. We've got to rush to get back to Hueco Tanks for the 2:00 tour. We got there just in time. The rock art and history were pretty cool. We saw several areas of petroglyphs, some areas required a bit of scrambling over rocks. We head over to Carlsbad, NM during the sunset as we pass the Guadalupe Mountains. We have a good Italian meal in Carlsbad (we're all tired of Mexican food already) and back at the hotel, we pop open a bottle of wine we got from La Vi�a north of El Paso.
Monday 16th, 2004 Tried to get an early start, but didn't get going until almost 11:00am. Headed to Carlsbad Caverns. We all got General Admission passes and signed up for the King's Palace guided tour at 2:00. We all did the Natural Entrance self-guided tour and got down to the snack bar area about 1:00. We have just enough time to eat lunch and meet for the King's Palace tour. The King's Palace is a series of four other rooms in the caverns that are so beautiful and amazing and only accessible with a guide. We're coming back tomorrow to see "The Big Room" of the caverns. We go topside to take a short nature hike there at the Visitor Center. We head back to the hotel for some rest before dinner. Dining options are limited here in Carlsbad, NM. We ate at the restaurant here at Steven's Best Western, a steakhouse. It was surprisingly good! Not great, but we could eat here again, perhaps.
Tuesday 17th, 2004 Had to get an early start, we've got tickets for a Carlsbad Caverns wild cave tour at 9:30, the Left-Hand Tunnel. It's a really cool candle lantern tour. After the Left-Hand Tunnel tour, we finished up Carlsbad Caverns with the Tour of the Big Room. After a picnic lunch, we headed towards the Living Desert Zoo and Museum, north of Carlsbad. The Living Desert Museum is is a children's museum, but it was very cool. Lots of animals; elk, Mexican wolf, badger, mountain lion, black bear, many more!! From the Living Desert, we could see the Pecos River and "The Flume", a type of aqueduct that carries water from the river to the fields for irrigation. We run into one of the locals that tells us this is in the Guinness book of records as the only river that crosses itself. The Flume carries water over the regular route of the river. The local man we talked to seemed to know a lot about the city and we found out he's the head of Economic Development of Carlsbad. We asked him about good restaurants and besides those we already tried, he suggested the Red Chimney Bar-B-Q. So it's BBQ for dinner. As we're reading the brief history of the BBQ joint, we find out it's really from a old Kentucky recipe!!! We come all the way to the Southwest to find some really great Southern BBQ! HA!
Wednesday 18th, 2004 We checked out of the hotel in Carlsbad. We're planning a hike in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park today. Andrew and I chose the 8-mile, 3,000 ft elevation gain hike to Guadalupe Peak, the highest peak in Texas. Jack and Ellen are going on a shorter, more level hike called the Devil's Hall. Andrew and I allowed three hours to reach the peak, but we were still more than a half mile from the top at our turn-around time. We did see some great views, but if we had continued, we might not have gotten back before dark. It was a tough hike. When we got back, we found out that Jack and Ellen started the Devil's Hall hike, but when the trail followed a very rocky arroyo, they turned back. After the hike we drove back towards El Paso and north to Alamogordo, NM. We tried to find a restaurant that we'd tried before on a previous trip, but couldn't find it. We settled on Pepper's Grill in Alamagodro, the food was not bad, but not great. (note: we all got a case of diarrhea after, I think from Peppers)
Thursday 19th, 2004 We drove up to Cloudcroft, a local resort area. The place is a SUMMER resort area, right now it's almost a ghost town. The ski resort had a one week season this year. It was quite cold and windy in Cloudcroft. We ate at Rebecca's, a haunted restaurant & lodge. Best food we've had on the trip. There was a high wind advisory out, 50 mph gusts expected. We head to White Sands anyway. By the time we got there, the wind wasn't too bad, but still hazy on the horizon. Ellen and I tried to slide down some of the sand dune, but it didn't work well. We hike a little way into the dunes and could see how you could get disoriented quickly. Very cool place. We've got a long drive head of us, so we hit the road again. We're heading up to the Gila Wilderness and the Gila Cliff Dwellings. It's a long, long, LONG drive to our Bed & Breakfast near the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The B&B was an old schoolhouse, dismantled and relocated here. It was very cool, but Jack and Ellen we're crazy about sharing a bathroom with other folks.
Friday 20th, 2004 We all had a great breakfast of homemade bread (they had four bread machines) made into French toast. Yummmm.... It's now a very short drive to the Cliff Dwellings. A short hike to the dwellings, a very cool place with mud and stone structures from about 1200 AD. A few Rock Art paintings are there. We stop for lunch in the park near another structure and more Rock Art. Because of the long drive in, we decide not to stay another night at the B&B and left to head back to El Paso. Before we left the B&B, Andrew and I talked to the owners about coming back later, maybe with some kind of work exchange deal when we both have more free time. When we come though on our big trip, we won't have the budget we have now, but we'll have lots of time. Maybe even Inn Sitting! Andrew wanted to do some hiking/backpacking out here and we didn't get a chance. We have a long desert drive back to El Paso where Jack and Ellen are catching a flight tomorrow. We stayed at a Holiday Inn near the airport in El Paso.
Saturday 21st, 2004 it's almost noon and Andrew and I haven't left the hotel yet. We've been sorting through all the food and clothes. We went looking for a Mexican Cafe (and Carwash!) that was suggested called H&H. We found it downtown and got AUTHENTIC Mexican food. We're not sure what we had, but it was pretty tasty. And we had Menudo, a hominy with chili sauce and tripe mixture. After lunch, we headed towards Franklin Mountain State Park for a hike, but instead headed towards Columbus, NM and Pancho Villa State Park. We took a long drive along the New Mexico/ Mexico border from El Paso to Columbus to find a very small town with lots of history. This is the last US invasion of foreign armed forces on US soil. In 1915 Pancho Villa's men attacked the small town and a military outpost there in the wee hours of the morning. There are varying accounts as to why they attacked. One theory involved a guns and ammo deal gone bad; another involves US forces getting involved in the Mexican Revolution, which was primarily a Mexican Civil War, when the US pledged to remain neutral. No one's quite sure, but many Mexicans died and several Americans, both military and civilians. After a short walk around some of the adobe ruins, we drove back to El Paso for dinner. We asked at the hotel for suggestions and we decided to try "The Cattle Baron", a steak house with a very good salad bar. Back to the hotel to finish packing and we catch a flight back to Atlanta at 8:00am tomorrow.
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