It was also terrifying. I have lived nearly 30 years on the eastern side of the Mississippi, and I have been camping there many, many times. I know which types of plants to avoid, which types of snakes and spiders I need to worry about, and how likely it is that I will encounter a dangerous wild animal - on the eastern side of the Mississippi. Put me in the desert, and I am completely useless.
Are there rattlesnakes here? Scorpions? Other poisonous small creatures? Poisonous plants?....Coyotes?
As we crawled into our sleeping bags for the night, I said, "I think we should bring our shoes inside the tent tonight. In case there are coyotes."
Which freaked out Cole, who spent the next hour insisting, "There's something out there, Mom. I hear footsteps. Something is bumping into my head. What's out there, Mom?"
But he also said, looking up through the tent at the night sky, "I have never seen so many constellations in my life."
Carlsbad Cavern was just another cave (I grew up in Kentucky; I have seen a lot of caves), but one cool thing is their Bat Flight program. According to Ranger Jeff, approximately 350,000 bats live in the cave, and they all fly out of the cave like a swarm of giant mosquitoes around sunset every night.
We spent a second night in New Mexico in a tiny town called Cloudcroft, the highest point in Lincoln National Forest. First of all, it's weird that there is a beautiful, pine-covered forest in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Second of all, I chose that campground because I was worried we would be too hot camping in New Mexico in July, and the Internets promised that Cloudcroft would be cool. But the plan backfired as the nighttime temps dropped to the low 60s, and Eli, who doesn't have a sleeping bag, froze.
By the time we left our next destination, White Sands National Monument, we were exhausted and covered in sand. None of the campgrounds we'd been staying at had showers, so to avoid one more dirty, sleepless night, we decided to get a hotel room in Tucson. Our last night before reaching Josh's house in San Diego, ending our coast to coast drive.