Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Carlsbad Caverns

We didn't think we were going to get to see Carlsbad Caverns while in New Mexico, but plans can change quickly in the RV lifestyle!  Instead of heading north as originally planned, we went south!  The desert terrain seems to change quickly, too.
The landscape can be very flat and then as if out of nowhere you'll be climbing mountains!  This is the terrain within Carlsbad Caverns National Park. 
The Guadaloupe Mountains surround a basin which was once an inland sea! 
Here is an explanation of the Delaware Basin. 
This is the walkway to the natural entrance of the cave.  The cave can also be accessed by an elevator in the visitors center.  The self guided tour of the Big Room is $6.00 per adult.  There are 6 other guided tours for various fees.  Some tours are to other sections of this cave and some to other caves.  They have a walk through lantern tour and some strenuous crawling and climbing tours!  I didn't realize how much of a tan I have until I saw this picture!   
This is the amphitheater for the evening bat flight presentation.  We opted not to attend for a variety of reasons.   The bat population is down during draughts.  We had a full 6 hours of touring, and the 23 mile trip back from Carlsbad RV Park was enough to discourage us from a return visit on the same day.  After seeing White's City RV Park, I would recommend staying there.  It is only 7 miles from the cave.  There are nearby gift shops and a restaurant.  We didn't find the community of Carlsbad to have any tourist appeal, although there is a free art museum there. 
This is the switchback trail into the cave!  It has a descent equivalent to a 69 story building!  Reporting the descent as 69 stories is much more impressive than the reported 750 feet!  The walk down the switchbacks is one mile and is estimated to take an hour.  The surface of the walkway is a nice blacktop and handrails are provided further in.  Roy and I found ourselves using the handrails and plodding along.  We thoroughly felt our age, as we watched group after group of 20 year olds zoom past us without holding on!   
This is the view of the entrance looking upward.  Walking back out of the cave via this opening is allowed, if you think you're up to it! 
This is the best my digital camera could capture with the use of the flash even with lighted displays!  Looking on the Internet for images within the cavern it becomes obvious that this appears to be an issue for all but the most professional grade cameras.  I find that even the high quality images don't do justice to the cavern, as they can't capture its enormity or the vast number of formations that can be seen together in an area!  The walk around the perimeter of the cavern's Big Room is one mile and is estimated to take an hour.  We were comfortable wearing long pants and short sleeve shirts.  I think shorts might have been even more comfortable than the long pants.    
This is the concession area of the Big Room.  There are a few beverages (water $1.50), cookies (2 for $1.00), and a parfait ($4.00).  There were some expensive  prepackaged lunch meat sandwiches.  The line to the elevator stretched from the elevator sign to far beyond the circular souvenir stands and then into a roped zigzag waiting zone!  Two of 4 elevators have been out of order for two years!  The wait to enter the elevator was one hour without available seating!  The crowd was grumbling and considering abandoning the elevator for the walk uphill, but when last call for the walk was announced nobody left and the crowd got quiet!  In our opinion the cavern experience could have been greatly improved by some form of transit within the cave.