Saturday, May 18, 2013

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Cavern National Park was established to protect the enormous caves under the southern New Mexico desert.

I would imagine that everyone reading this has been in at least one cave in their lifetime and like us, many of you have been in several. And you think - been there done that - seen one cave seen 'em all. That may be true except unless you have seen Carlsbad Cavern I'll guarantee you - you ain't seen 'em all.

WOW - just Jaw Dropping Wow. Carlsbad eats other caves for breakfast and poops out stalagmites (or is that stalactites?) - very large ones. Words cannot do this cavern justice and neither can pictures.

There are 2 ways to get in to the cave - either way it is 750 feet down. One is by Elevator and the other - the 1.25 mile path to the Natural Entrance. There are warnings that it is a strenuous walk. Heck - it is downhill - how strenuous can it be? So we chose to walk down and we were very glad we did. That 1.25 miles took us about 50 minutes. There are parts that are quite steep and there are way too many switchbacks to count. My knees and Monte's hip were feeling it by the time we got to the bottom.  This is the path that early explorers took - sans paved walkways and handrails.

Heading Down to the Natural Entrance

We took a break before tackling The Big Room.
Snack Bar 750 feet below the surface
As you descend in to the darkness you walk through several really big rooms with lots of very cool formations but this is all just the prelude to "The Big Room". This is a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide and 255 feet high. The walking loop around the big room is just over one mile and takes about an hour of steady walking.

As we were descending in to the cavern and walking through the Big Room I kept thinking about what the early explorers must have felt - raw terror I would assume. Total darkness except for whatever little light they could get out of some relatively primitive lantern they had (no halogen lights or LEDs!) and who knew what was down there. Even today with the way the cavern is lit, the shadows that are thrown can be very eerie.

Early Explorer Route

I am so very thankful that there was an elevator to get back to the top - if there had not been I would still be there 4 days later...

We cannot recommend Carlsbad Caverns highly enough. Is it out of the way? Yes. Is it worth your while to go out of your way? Hell Yes. Cost to get in? $6 - and that is for a 3 day pass. There are guided tours through other parts of the cave system that are available for very reasonable prices. Once again for us - the cost - $0. Monte has a Golden Age Passport that cost us $10 about 10 years ago and needless to say - we have gotten our $10 worth many many times over.

Shelley "getting her Okie on" in the gift shop
In conclusion - go - just go.

1 comment:

~Cheryl said...

I had no idea it is this enormous... and a snack bar! What a wonderful experience.