Posts Tagged ‘Carlsbad Caverns’

Down 750 feet in one minute. Down some more, for a total of 830 feet, underground.

Where can one get this exhilarating experience?

Grab your gear, and let’s go spelunking!

Or don’t grab your gear and just sit back and enjoy some really bad pictures I took yesterday……………… 😆

(Yes, I really DO have a life on occasion, and sometimes that happens on the actual weekend, which is why you’ve no doubt noticed my lack of Trefextra weekend writing.  :lol:)

My brother and his family (wife and four kids, all of whom are pretty evenly matched with mine age-wise) are on a trip out west. As all of our kids have gotten older, I think we’re finding ourselves in a “last vacation before they go off and leave us forever and ever and ever” mode. Ok, well, at least the older ones are getting close to graduating from high school, which means our time is limited to drag them around while they’ll put up with us.

Surprisingly, we rated a visit. 😀 I’ve tried to convince myself that they came to get the “farm chicken experience” before getting their “dude ranch experience” in Phoenix tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the reason. 😉

No, really, they came to see us.  😆 And lucky for us, they were willing to carpool with us down to Carlsbad Caverns. We’ve been there a few times before, but have never taken this particular tour.

Before you whiz past my drivel to get to the awful pictures, can I just say one thing?

If you have a bucket list, this national park should be on it. I promise you- there is nothing else like it, anywhere in the world. Really. Even if you’ve gone to other National Park caves, like Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, you will not see anything like this anywhere else. (my brother and his family just went to Mammoth Cave last summer, and they all agree that Carlsbad Caverns was very different much more interesting, fwiw)

Even though we’ve been there several times, it never gets old. There is no physical way to remember everything, and honestly, it’s just so incredible, you can’t see everything in one shot. You could spend a lifetime in there and still see something new each time.

Yep. This isn’t just your average deep, dark hole. Obviously, I could go and on and on, but I’ve already spent 6 hours sifting through pictures and re-sizing so I can share them here. And, unless you get there in person, there is no way to get depth and scale, which is unfortunate.

Before we get started, here are some links you’ll want to check out later:

Carlsbad Caverns, National Park

Cavern History

So. You can either ride the elevator down or hike down. We were planning on hiking out, so we decided to take the elevator down so we wouldn’t miss our tour. The hike in or out is 1.25 miles, and covers a depth of 750 feet.

To give you perspective, this is the equivalent of a 75 story building. There are guidelines for hiking in or out, as you can imagine, because they are not real happy if they have to hike down and rescue someone. The hike both ways takes about 45 minutes to an hour, so if you have a scheduled tour, you’ll want to be sure to take your travel time into account.

The people coming down were all saying there was no way they were going to hike out. The rangers told us they’ve had to rescue more people who were hiking down than hiking out, which I thought was interesting.

When you get to the bottom, you’ll think you are in a space ship of some sort.

They do sell some stuff, but we didn’t hang around, so I’m not sure if they sell anything different down in the cave than what they are selling in the gift shop on the surface. They used to have a little cafeteria down there, from what we’ve heard, but we have never seen any food available. Be sure to eat and go to the bathroom before you hit the trail.

Because we were doing the guided tour, we bypassed the self tour, and did that after. A few years ago, they closed off the rooms on the King’s Palace tour because people were destroying the stalactites. They did a count, and in a period of 3 years, over 10,000 stalactite points had been taken or otherwise damaged. The ranger told us that they continue to get end pieces mailed back to them, years after they had been snapped off. Sad.

Let’s go over some verbiage:

Stalactites: hangy downies

Stalagmites: growing uppies

Soda Straws: baby hangy downies

Like my technical terms?  😆 If you want actual definitions, here you go: National Parks Glossary- Definitions and Images.

One of the first things we saw was a dead bat, still hanging on the wall.

See the scary face?

I would NOT want to be under that when it came crashing down!

Looking straight up at the ceiling

Scary-faced dude

Can you see the hippo?

This is an actual ladder used by the guy who discovered the caverns.

Wormhole in the ceiling....well, that's what I'm calling it. 😉

Surprisingly, there are insects that live way down there in the dark. In this case, it’s a cricket, and what happens to it is straight out of the movie Alien. Don’t read this next part if you are easily freaked or grossed out.

This cricket is drawn to the water that’s down in the cave pools. This is the same water that the horsehair worm lays its eggs in. The water- with the worm eggs- is drunk by the cricket. When the worm is mature, it sends a homing beacon of sorts to the cricket, which is then inclined to go back to the pool. When it gets to the water, the worm explodes out of the host bug, emerging from its innards. Of course, the host bug is killed.

Apparently, there is a kind of roach that is affected this way as well. Since roaches (in addition to candida {aka yeast}) will no doubt be on this earth long after every other form of life has expired, I am not too worried about some of them getting possessed and exploding.

Nope, I am not making this up. If you’re not too grossed out yet, you can read more about it here.

Moving on!  😆

This was a single large dome mushroomy structure; I just went around to get pictures of all side, because it was just that amazing! There was water pooled all underneath it, although I’m not sure you can see it well on pictures of this size.

What you can’t see in the top picture is that it looks like a stage with a bunch of dolls; hence the name. 🙂

At some point, we had finished the self tour area, too, and it was time to leave. We had already been there over 3 hours, and the natives kids were getting hungry. It was time to figure out who was going to hike out….

Now, bear in mind that it’s been in the low 90s the last few days. Because the cave stays a constant 56 degrees, I was wearing capri jeans and a hoodie. (You’ll be proud of me, though- I left the gloves at home :D) I was not looking forward to being sweaty in 56 degrees and then emerging into 90 plus heat. Not much a person could do about it, though. The hike up was not too bad overall, we didn’t think.

This reminded me of being in Seattle………  except going uphill all the way, of course…….

As we were nearing the top and could see daylight, we could hear the incoming folks saying,” Wow, look at how cool it is down here already!” Yep. It was pretty darn hot when we got to the top.

One thing we learned was that bat guano (bat poop, which used to mined there) smells a bit like chicken poo. 😆  I have to say, though, I took a poll, and most of the kids agreed that our chicken poo wasn’t as strong smelling as the guano.  😀

Cave entrance/exit on the surface........

Amphitheater for watching the bats fly out at dusk during the summer. Very cool stuff!

Desert landscape, fwiw.

That's the Visitor's Center over there; you can see the distance from the cave entrance.

It is DEFINITELY worth the drive or the flight, no matter where you are coming from. What I really like about this is that there are numerous tours you can take, or you can just do the self-guided tour. As we were coming out, there was another tour headed in, completely geared up with hard hats with headlamp, elbow and knee pads. When I grow up, I might have to think about trying that one!  :mrgreen:

All told, we figure we we traveled about 4 miles total. No one confessed admitted to being exhausted from the walking, but we all did sleep well last night.

Whew!  Did you make it to the end without falling asleep? Thanks for letting me share my pictures of nature’s finest, um, garden gnomes. 😉

I’ve kept some of these pictures pretty large, so you might be able to see more detail (like the water, for example) if you click on them and view them in another window.

Here are some more links you might find interesting:

Cave activities

Natural features and ecosystems– you will not regret the time you spend on this section!

Good Professional pictures

I didn’t take pictures, but you may have heard there was a fire last year that resulted in the park closing for a little bit. While you can see the burn scars, much of the plant life is coming back, and there is new growth.

If you have a National Park near you, be sure to get out and visit. You’d be surprised what you might find in your backyard!

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