Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

(Artesia, NM) Hi 86 Lo 63 – Sometimes Dee and I have a hard time believing how lucky, fortunate, and happy we are to experience the joys of this full time RV lifestyle. Very often, as we explore new places and enjoy new sights, one of us will blurt out “I love this lifestyle!” Then we’ll both just giggle. Smile

Today we headed about 58 miles south to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I remember learning about Carlsbad Caverns in school, and wondering what it must be like to be in a giant cave under the earth. Funny how things you experience as an adult will bring back childhood memories.
The Park Visitors Center is seven miles off the main highway (US 180). It was a beautiful winding, uphill trip. (Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them.)

The Visitors Center finally came into sight as we reached to 4,400 ft. summit.

The view from the top was gorgeous!

Off to the southwest is the Guadalupe Mountains. We’ll be traveling through these mountains on Friday when we head to El Paso.

The lobby of the Visitors Center. The admission is normally $10 each, but with Dee’s National Parks Senior Pass, or my Access Pass, we got in for free.

There are several ranger-guided tours of different parts of the caverns, but they tend to be more challenging and more suited to younger and more fit folks than us. We took the self-guided “Big Room Route,” which is a 1.25 mile fairly flat tour that takes between 1 1/2 and 2 hours to complete. After we got our tickets we were directed to the elevator to take us down 750 ft. to the “Big Room.” This where we exited the elevator.

The cavern is fairly dark, with spot lighting to highlight the many types of geological formations (“speliothems”). I don’t want to make this blog too overly long, so I won’t to into the technical details of the geology of the caverns, but it you want to know more about it, you can click here.

The trail was paved and very smooth. It was also well marked, so there’s no chance of getting lost. Our first thought as we started down the trail was “Oh my goodness!” I’m going to post some photos, but please know that there is no way to give you an accurate indication of the sheer enormity of the big room. According to the park’s website, the floor of the big room is around 8.2 acres in size, or about 57,600 sq. ft. The trail meandered around, offering a new jaw-dropping sight at every turn. Photography was a real challenge, with the harsh contrast between the spot lighting and darkness. I don’t have a fancy pro camera, but anyway here goes…

The one thing I remember learning about caves in school was the difference between stalacTites and stalacMites. “T” for top and “M” for botto’m’. Stalactites come down from the roof.

And stalacmites come up from the floor, like these ‘columns.’

Here you can see both.

Here are some more general views from our 2-hour walk around this amazing place. I tried to include people in some of the shots to give a sense of scale.

If you click on this and look at it you’ll see the ‘chandelier’ on the left, ‘totem pole’ in the center, and ‘cave man’ sitting on the right.

It was a spectacular experience! We took the elevator back up to the Visitor Center and had some lunch in their small restaurant. Then after looking over the static displays for awhile we headed back down the seven mile access road to return to Artesia.

We got back to the park and settled into our recliners for the rest of the evening. We may have one more sightseeing trip on tap before we leave this area. So check back tomorrow.


Laurel Owen said...

Never have gotten there yet, but it's on the list! Incredible place..

Paul and Marti Dahl said...

Been there a couple of times and am trying to schedule a trip with our grandsons next summer. I want to see the dusk bat flight.

Tom and Marci said...

We loved Carlsbad Caverns, too! I wanted to go back for the bat flight in the evening, but nobody else wanted to make the drive back down there . . . oh well! Nice pictures!

Nancy and Bill said...

WOW, you two have sure put some miles between you and Florida;o)) Carlsbad Caverns is definitely on our TODO list. Thanks for the great photos!!

Speedy said...

When I was just a child I found an old View Master. It contained pictures of Carlsbad on it. I was fascinated with those pictures and use to look at them all the time. When I got to go some years back I remembered that View Master and those pictures. What an assume place to visit.