Since we had bought a National Parks pass in Oregon on the way down, we did not have to pay the $6 each entrance fee. We opted not to have any guided tours. There is an excellent program for self-guided tours. We started with what is called the Natural Entrance Route. It is a 2 kilometre(1.25 mile), traditional explorer’s route. It is a 229 metre (750 foot) descent. The path is steep with lots of switchbacks but, as you can see below, it is paved the whole way with hand rails. This entrance is also where the bats come out at dusk during the months of March to October. Too bad we just missed it because I would have loved to have seen it. You sit on amphitheatre style rock seating, right above the area I show below. The bats swarm out by the thousands. They are Mexican Freetail Bats. They are capable of eating half their own body weight every night while they are scavenging for winged insects! Anyway, I guess it is too cold for them to return from their Mexican home yet! But, this is “their” cave entrance and quite an entrance it is!!
The amphitheatre is right behind us...imagine sitting there when
all those bats come swooping out!!
Looking back up to where we came from....
We have never been in a cave before so it is still almost too hard to describe. As you descend into this part of the cave your eyes take a few moments to adjust to the darkness. The parks service has done an absolutely amazing job of winding the paved path through here with hand rails and small, carefully placed, lights. It is so beautiful. Doug says it made him feel like he did when he first saw the Grand Canyon a few years. You just have to stop every few minutes to catch your breath to enjoy the beauty. It doesn’t take long for the temperature to even out, it is a fairly constant 12 C (56 F). Were it not for the lights, you wouldn't see much of anything at this point!! The lights all through the cavern are there yet not intrusive at all. They merely enhance the beauty.
See the old stairs that were used in the 1920's for people to come down
and see a bit of the cavern. Pretty rudimentary!!
Now, by this point we have been steadily going down into the cave for about 1-1/2 hours! Straight down, down, down. So cool – literally!! Then you come to the “bottom” as we will know it. On this level, there is actually bathrooms that look just like they do way upstairs on the top of earth. There is also a small snack bar and souvenirs to buy (if you so wanted).
Now you are in an area called “The Big Room”. (no, not the bathroom!!).This area....“room” is approximately 600,000 square feet and is the equivalent of 14 football fields. Pretty “big”, huh. This is also about a 2 kilometre (1.25 mile) walk around. It weaves you into and out of huge nooks and crannies. Check it out….
See them below:
It is so incredibly hard to show scale. This area we are in is approximately 2-4 stories in height at any given time. My little camera can only do so much. There is something to see every millisecond, like what Doug found for example below. It is about half the size of my VW Beetle at home!!
These stalactites were at least 20-25 feet in length!!
See picture below:
Not sure I would climb down there either!!
This is a good scale comparison with the pathway at the bottom of the photo!!
These stalactites were called the chandalier
Again, I have tried to capture the pathway in some of these shots so you could find some sort of “scale” to relate the size of this cave to. This next series of photos show Crystal Spring Dome. Read all about it below. Pretty interesting stuff. This was approximately 20-25 feet high and about 10 feet across. They say that the changes that take place with the dripping water are not really even noticeable in an entire lifetime of a human – WOW!!
This was the backside that we walked around!
This is truly a joy to see. We spent the entire time in awe of it all. We really noticed that it was so very peaceful in there. At times, throughout almost all of this walk (and the walk down from the bat cave) we were utterly alone and it never felt spooky or strange. Like I said, it is extremely peaceful and calming. I thought that if you lived in Carlsbad and had had a rough day, you should drive out here and just do this walk. You can’t possibly come back out feeling uptight (well, unless you are afraid of the underground, caves, some dark spots….well you get my drift!) We actually read that, at this point, if you held your hand up in front of your face, you would not see it....that's a little too dark for me!!!
Again, notice the walkway!!
What a sight!!!
We are so very happy to have toured this remarkable cavern. It is simply too hard to put into a few words. Some people think that it should be declared the 8th Wonder of the World and we agree. What we couldn’t figure is this. Remember, those plain hills I showed at the beginning? This was all below that area. I mean, we walked for 1.25 miles steeply down into the earth and then walked pretty much flat for a 1.25 mile loop. All under those dry looking old hills – pretty awesome, huh? It is one of the 20 World Heritage Sites in the U.S.A. Apparently, there are many, many areas of the cavern that will never be seen by the public. They are for scientific purposes only. I am glad of that. The less disturbance the better. Plus, there are some parts that will never ever be discovered.. There is such a rare and pure feeling when you are down there. The air seems perfect. It is still and unblemished by ozone layers worries, air pollution, etc. Again, the parks have done a remarkable job keeping the “intrusion” of humans at a minimum (well, I could have been happy to not see t-shirts for sale down there, especially when you can buy them upstairs at the gift shop) You are not allowed to even touch anything, even though many of these beautiful things are right beside the railings. Also, the railings. Maybe you noticed in the pictures how they just snake their way around things, not disturbing anything more than necessary. I urge everyone to get to this place!!
Driving back down the canyon road, we stopped to view another outdoor cave area where Native American Apache and Mescalaro Indians are thought to have had homes. Super interesting, right in the walls of the cliffs. They have found arrowheads, tools, etc. right along this ridge.
Guess I am just too tall for this "house"
Whew!! That was quite the day. Our eyes will never unsee the glory that is Carlsbad Caverns. Thank you Mother Nature for this splendid gift…..
Thought for the Day: It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become...The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)