S2E14 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

20140411-182851.jpgWe came here without any preconceived notions except that it would probably be interesting and worth the trip. Boy, were our expectations exceeded! This place is awsome! There is no way my cell phone camera could capture any of the grandeur and beauty of the caverns but all four of us walked along muttering “Wow!” the whole day.

The trip up to Carlsbad from Big Bend was interesting for its emptiness. We drove 2.5 hours on US285, a two lane 75 mph speed limit road, and never saw another vehicle in our lane. I never came up on another slower car, no faster driver passed me. We never saw a gas station or any retail business either. Not until Fort Stockton and I10 did we reenter civilization.

We met Jim and Renee Wilson for dinner Wednesday night then spent the day together at the caverns Thursday.

The National Park is 20 miles S of Carlsbad then the visitor’s center with the elevator down into the cave is another 7 miles into the park and a 1000′ climb into the foothills of the Guadeloupe Mountains.

Jim had reserved places in the “Kings Palace” tour for us at 10:00 AM. This was a two hour long stroll through four ‘rooms’ elaborated decorated with stalactites and stalagmites of different types. The ranger did a great job explaining the geology of cavern formation mixed in with describing what it must have looked like to Jim White, the young man who discovered the cave system in 1890. A highlight for me was when the ranger turned off the lights then lit a candle lamp, like White would have used, and pretended to explore the cavern with the feeble light of that one little lamp.

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After a couple of hours below ground (constant 56 F, 90% humidity) we took the elevator back to the surface to warm up and have lunch.

In the afternoon we went back down to the cave descending through the natural enterance. This was a 1.2 mile hike through countless switchbacks to drop the 800′ to the cavern level. Many places along the way you could look down the huge hole we were dropping into.

The natural entrance to the caverns:

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Just inside the mouth:

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And looking up as we get to the end of the natural light:

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Once back into the cavern we did the self guided tour of the “Big Room”. Big is an understatement. The trail winding around the edge of the room was 1.3 miles long. Again, many fantastic shapes formed by rainwater and limestone, places w here the roof soared 300′ above the floor and one hole 140′ deep.

The lighting is very dim and indirect so it was hard to get a representative picture. Here’s one little area of the Big Room. The green areas are algae. It’s too dark to see the green with the naked eye but it is obvious to the camera.

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Somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 Mexican Freetail bats make Carlsbad Caverns their summer home. Most of the animals are not here yet but we were told we might see between a few hundred and a few thousand leave the cave at dusk. They have an amphitheater built around the cave entrance to accommodate the many tourists that want to see the bats exit the cave in one huge flock. We took a picnic supper and joined a few dozen other hopeful spectators. We did see perhaps several hundred bats fly out over the course of ten or fifteen minutes. Another cool thing I couldn’t photograph.

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5 thoughts on “S2E14 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

  1. With your words and camera you have drawn me into the experience. Experiencing the colours alone must be incredible never mind the shapes and sizes. May the four of you have many, many more memorial moments.

  2. We went there when David was at BP training in Artesia, NM. It is awesome. I recognized some of the places you took pictures of, particularly #’s 2, 3, and 4. It is quite inspiring isn’t it!! Enjoy! And Sue, have a wonderful birthday tomorrow 🙂

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