Our First BLM Experience – Guadalupe and Carlsbad NP

We’ve been excited to get out west for lots of reasons, but one is the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land that allows free camping. You are boondocking (which means you have no hookups), but that’s ok with us since we have solar panels on the roof and Austin has set up all of our office equipment to run off DC power.

BLM: Chosa Campground

We found a BLM spot really close to Carlsbad Caverns NP that has a parking area as well as some more secluded spots. We originally planned to go to one of the more secluded spots, but after checking them out in the Jeep we decided the parking lot would be just fine since the roads were pretty rough and the secluded spots didn’t seem any better. An added bonus – as we were eating lunch, we looked across the way and our new friends from Terlingua were here too! Both of our plans changed slightly so we ended up in the same place without knowing it ahead of time!

BLM Chosa Campground
Free home for the week – not too shabby!

Full Time Friends

It’s so nice knowing someone else in a campground. You have people to hang out with and look out for your things if you are out and about. We hung out with our friends from Terlingua over tiki drinks while sharing stories of RV life. We ended up meeting another couple in the same parking lot around our age too. The 6 of us went to dinner one night and we all hung out with each other most evenings. It’s so funny that what was supposed to be our most remote camping spot ended up being one of our most social!

BLM tiki drinks lime sailboat
Our new friends showing off their impressive lime skills

Boondocking Record

We have boondocked several times before, but this was by far the longest we have gone while still working. Six nights off the grid on BLM land! We didn’t know how we would like it, but we absolutely loved it. We are already talking about ways to make our off-grid setup even better for more BLM camping.

BLM Chosa Campground
What’s not to love about parking here for free??

BLM Bike Rides

Another benefit of camping in the middle of nowhere is the desolate roads you can ride on your bike. We went on two different pretty awesome rides. Except for the wind. I really hate riding into the wind. Other than that, they were great! We saw an antelope, jackrabbits and a hawk (in addition to the many cows). It was great being able to bike right from our free camping spot to such a great area.

Windy Weather

One thing that wasn’t awesome was the insane windstorm that blew through. We were up at 3 or 4 in the morning bringing our slides in – it was so insane. The Bounder made it through ok, but we woke up to find out that the cover to our smoker had blown away. We went looking for it several times, but didn’t find it. However we did find the chair cover that we didn’t know we had lost!! We kept searching that area and wouldn’t you know – we found the smoker cover too!! Yay! Austin was so relieved.

Guadalupe National Park

The weekend finally rolled around and we took full advantage. On Saturday we hiked the highest peak in Texas – Guadalaupe Peak at 8,750 feet. We got a pretty early start and summited right around lunch. We hung out for about 30 minutes before heading back down. The NPS website says to plan 6-8 hours but it only took us 4 or 5. We definitely passed a lot of people but we weren’t running up the mountain or anything. The views at the top were awesome and we now kinda want to add “hike the highest point in every state” to our travel plan!

Guadalupe Peak - camped on BLM land

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Sunday came around and we conquered another national park – Carlsbad Caverns. We started with the self guided big room tour. We took the natural entrance down (definitely do this if you are able) then walked the mile and a quarter trail through the big room. It was incredible seeing all of the cave decorations in there. We took our time, but finished in plenty of time before our lantern lit ranger guided tour. We had lunch in the cafe and it was awesome. I highly recommend it. Which is rare given how touristy you would expect it to be.

Ranger Led Lantern Tour

The lantern tour was awesome. Our guide seemed cheesy to me at first, but I actually really liked her by the end. She told a story throughout the whole tour and it ended up being pretty cool. It was really awesome being down in a cave with only the lanterns lit. There were only 9 of us on the tour so it was a really small group.

Ranger Led Lantern Tour Carlsbad Caverns - 15 minutes from our BLM spot
Candles lit and ready to go!

We went all the way back and on the way out our guide stopped us and had us all blow out our candlelit lanterns. It was pitch black dark!! She had us sit in silence for a whole minute. It was so neat being in the dark silence for that long. At the end of the minute before she lit our candles again she started singing. She had a beautiful voice and the caverns made for great acoustics. She sang lyrics she wrote about the caves. It was awesome.

Even more awesome was on the way out she let each one of us walk one by one with only our lantern light as a guide to get a taste of what it was like to be back in the day exploring the cave alone. It was super cool. We usually don’t like guided tours (would much prefer to do it ourselves and avoid the crowds) but this one was totally worth it.

Carlsbad Caverns was an amazing intro to New Mexico. We look forward to what else this state holds (and many more BLM spots)!!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park - 10 minutes from our BLM site

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