For those of you who have not visited, it’s an amazing place offering opportunities for the curious to the adventurous. I took the first two levels and left the adventurous to someone with more competent and experienced climbing skills.
The best bet for the reasonably healthy and interested is to do the Natural Entrance first and then move to the Big Room Entrance. The latter is an easier walk around some amazing cave formations. The former is a winding path of somewhat aggressive incline and very little light. The mystery-adding darkness and the slight increase in wariness add to the flavor of the adventure.
The Place: Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. Interestingly, the over 300 caves of which Carlsbad is part of were once a fossil reef (yes, underwater) back before dinosaurs walked the earth; a quarter of a billion years ago, if you can imagine.
A series of “settlers” found the area, including American Indians, Spanish and Mexican. The U.S. nabbed the territory in 1850 and less than 40 years later, the town that is now known as Carlsbad was founded. New Mexico became a state a quarter of a century later.
Jim White became the central figure in the exploration and promoting of the caverns and was dubbed “Mr. Carlsbad Caverns” upon his passing. It became a national park in 1930, meaning its centennial celebration is right around the corner…in dinosaur terms.
Miscellany of Day 7:
– On the way down to Carlsbad, a truck in front of me barely missed a racing bunny that was crossing the road. That was a relief to start the morning.
– Funny, but after the full night’s sleep I felt more tired than the day before. No weaving, just “bleah”.
– I met a nice couple from Wichita Falls, Texas at the information counter and we took the entire Natural Entrance path and a good deal of the Big Room path together. It was good to have the extra iPhone flashlight.
– Speaking of that flashlight, it provided superb lighting of the path in front of us. Not so impressive on the cavern walls, but far superior to the effects of the iPhone flash when trying to take pictures in the darkness. Partial fail.
– Major bone to pick with the website. No way was it 56 degrees down there. I’m not even sure it was 66 degrees. Not only was lugging the jacket down there a waste, but I was actually perspiring at some points (from exertion, but still…).
– I laugh (kindly) to my uninformed belief that I could bring the sketchbook down with me. Not only was there too little light to actually sketch, but there were almost no area where someone could sit for the time I would need to do a competent drawing. Oh, and the caves close at 3 pm.
– The road up and back to the caves was a terror run. Even at the slow suggested speeds, the tight two-lane road at times curved a full 180 degrees and gave perilously clear views of the drop below. One incident with a truck coming down the road as I went up was eye-opening, especially as he was certainly exceeding the limit and, not surprisingly, running into both lanes (let’s see him try to navigate those turns at his speed within his lane!).
– On the way back to the hotel, the car odometer hit an even 5,000. I should have two more of those notches before I get back to South Florida.
Tomorrow I turn out in the A.M. for the ride to Phoenix. It estimates around 10 hours, so a mostly off the air day again. Back to baseball by Friday, though!
And now…more pictures!