Adventures: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The Land of Enchantment is kind of what I picture as homebase. As much as I HATED growing up in a small town in New Mexico, as an adult I’ve developed a soft spot for the empty space of desert and wind blown sunsets. (Check out my quick guide to The Guadalupe Mountains National Park for more New Mexico treasure).

The caverns has two entrances – the natural entrance and the main entrance located in the visitor center. If you want exercise, I suggest taking the elevator 700 feet below and then hiking out of the natural entrance. The entire trip is just unbelievably breathtaking, so I promise you’re muscles will be sufficiently distracted. For a lighter impact, you can take the natural entrance down into the caverns and the elevator up (or you can skip the natural entrance altogether).

The Big Room is where the pictures featured in this blog were taken. The trail is about a 1.5 mile loop with limited elevation gain and PLENTY of vignettes worth checking out. The lighting and trails were created by the best and brightest(including Ansel Adams), so you’ll find that the modern upgrades minimally distract from the natural beauty of the caves. There are audio tours included in the Big Room, and if it’s your first time visiting I suggest taking them up on the offer.

You can also take Since I had the privilege of growing up near the caverns, I’ve been on them all and they are so worth the fee. If you like taking a peak behind the curtain, The Lower Cave tour gives you a glimpse into the exploration of the Caverns, and an unbelievably eerie experience of being 750 feet below ground with NO LIGHTS for about 30 seconds.


Some tips for the caverns:

  • The bat flight is definitely NOT what you’re thinking. The Carlsbad Caverns have an unbelievable amount of wildlife in them. Think a hundred times bigger than any bat flight you’ve seen before. It’s totally worth the early morning rise.
  • Camp, book super far in advance, or stay in El Paso. Carlsbad is going through a HUGE oil boom right now, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a hotel room for less than $300 a night at even the lower end joints. The caverns are about a thirty minute drive out of town, so even if you do stay in Carlsbad, plan on a morning drive.
  • EAT THE QUESADILLAS. Admittedly, I’m usually starving by the time I make it to the food court in the visitor center. But I’ve gotta say – the quesadillas they make are one of the only foods I ever order seconds on. Eat ’em up and enjoy!


Adventures: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

So the New Mexico state song legit has the line:

It never rains, it never snows, but the wind it always blows.

Unfortunately, the rest of the song doesn’t make the state sound any more appealing, but home is home is home and I still love New Mexico. The state park just to the south of my favorite place on earth (The Carlsbad National Caverns) is full of rocky paths and breathtaking vistas spanning the New Mexico/Texas state line… and it’s fair share of wind.

My favorite trail in the park is the McKittrick Canyon trail that winds it way through the northern edge of the park on its way to a house built in the middle of nowhere. The Pratt Cabin was built by geologist William Pratt in the early 1930s in a valley containing the largest stream in the park. As we trekked across the two mile, unpaved, rocky and narrow trail just to get to the cabin, I began to question the man’s sanity – but the view at the summit of the property made it ALMOST seem worth the isolation.


The other trail worth checking out is further south in the park, called the Devil’s Hall. The terrain is mostly rocky river bed, so you’ll need hiking shoes for the trip. You cross the bed a couple of times on the 2.5 mile loop, so make sure to look out for trail markers. Because of the structure of the bed and the eventual structure of the hallway, this trail comes with plenty of wind tunnels. And in New Mexico, wind isn’t a joke – be prepared to fall on your ass at any time. BUT the trail is peaceful and the vistas are worth any discomfort.


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Three tips for the Guadalupes:

  • Bring more water than you think you need. WIND + 0% HUMIDITY = recipe for dehydration
  • Plan on a few days if you want to see the whole park – a nice bonus is how close it is to other National Parks in southern New Mexico if you want to make it a longer vacay. Even getting to some of the more remote parts of the park requires a near two hour drive.
  • DON’T climb the peak unless you’ve been climbing for a while. It’s a six hour hike uphill on rocky terrain. Do it for the Insta is not enough of a reason for this trek.

To purchase photos featured in this post – visit My Invalid Life’s shop!

ATX Life: Mayfield Park Trails

One of the coolest things about Austin is the sheer number of trail miles nestled into the city limits. Near Laguna Gloria and Mount Bonnell is a little park where I just so happened to take prom pictures in high school called Mayfield Park. But the coolest part about Mayfield Park in my opinion is not the peacocks who love to wander around the grounds. It’s actually the incredible, jungle-like quality unique to the somewhat swampy landscape backing up to one of Lake Austin’s inlets.


The trails here are marked at trail heads, but there’s only one trail map on the far end of the parking lot on the grounds. I recommend snapping a picture – I may or may not have forgotten to do that. I may or may not have sweat through all of my clothes while wandering simply based on sense of direction.

It’s definitely a natural route rather than a paved one, with some overgrowth crowding out the less-frequented trails. I recommend wearing some leggings and a longer sleeved shirt to avoid getting to itchy. Taylor Creek runs through the southern half of the park, and the water flow is pretty consistent. There are also some really cool properties across the lake from the edges of the park – bonus scavenger points if you find two log cabins, two ultra-modern glass houses, and three sailboats docked.

Admission is free and the park is open every day – just remember the natural paths if you plan on making a rainy-day journey.

Visit my shop to purchase photos from this post!


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ATX Life: Laguna Gloria

I’m a firm believer in the idea that life is art. So for me, sculpture gardens are sanctuaries in ways other installation spaces just can’t be. Laguna Gloria by Austin Contemporary is probably the best example I have of a place where life and art merge beautifully.

Admission is $5 for adults on every day but Tuesday, when admission is free. Incredibly lucky people do have private events here at times, so make sure to check out their website for info on closures.

The garden is entirely outdoors, so also be mindful of the weather. I went on a muggy, rainy day and pretty much sweat through my clothes – but I’ll still begrudgingly admit that it was 100% worth it.


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The works and their sculptors I’ve photographed are mentioned, in order from left to right, below:

(Featured photo): SUPERFLEX, Lost Money,  2009

Nancy Holt, Time Spun, 1991
Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler, Missing Truffaut, 2014
Lionel Maunz, Lick Your Throat and Cut Your Feet, 2017
Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree Trunk, 2015
Laim Gillick, Raised Laguna Discussion Platform (Job #1073), 2013
Paul McCarthy, White Snow #3, 2012
Wangechi Mutu, Water Woman, 2017
John Grade, Canopy Tower, 2015
Tom Sachs, Tower of Power, 2015
Carol Bove, From the Sun to Zurich,  2016
Elmgreen & Dragset, Watching, 2017
Terry Allen, Road Angel, 2016
Monika Sosnowksa, The stairs, 2011

To purchase any of these photos, visit my shop!

Adventures in the Hill Country: Pedernales Falls State Park


I think the biggest surprise for me with Pedernales Falls State Park was the feeling of being in an oasis. It’s a $10 entrance fee – but there are a ton of hiking trails to wander if you have the time and the energy.

I will warn however, the falls themselves are the main event. I wouldn’t expect vistas like these on every trail. If you’re familiar with the Texas Hill Country, you might just want to take a good hike around the park and plan on spending your day by the running waters. I certainly didn’t mind that soundtrack for an afternoon of reading in the sun.


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