We left Valley of Fires and headed towards Carlsbad Caverns. We hadn’t planned on visiting Carlsbad but decided since we had some extra days to spend in New Mexico and the Caverns were fairly close, now was a good time. In November, 2015 we stopped there on our way back home to Florida. We discovered the elevator was broken and it is a very long uphill climb out of the Caverns if you can’t take the elevator! We decided to skip the tour and visit another time. We usually are up for the challenge but back then I had a chest cold and didn’t feel like the exertion it would take to hike out.
Along the way we passed oil pumps pumping oil before pulling into an Escapees RV Park called The Ranch. Located in Lakewood, it is about 45 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns. Without a doubt Escapees are the nicest and friendliest people you would ever want to meet. Immediately upon our arrival, someone rang the big bell outside the office and people starting walking up to greet us and invite us to the afternoon Happy Hour.
The next morning we drove to Carlsbad Caverns which required us driving through the city of Carlsbad. The traffic was really tedious with lots of traffic lights, none of which appeared to be synchronized.
Carlsbad Caverns, located in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Guadalupe Mountains, is one of the largest caves in the Western Hemisphere. It is also one of deepest, longest and darkest caverns ever found. It is considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World.
We decided to take the self guided tour and our Golden Age Pass prevented us from having to pay a fee to enter the Caverns. We did rent a headset in the bookstore with a narrated tour. We began by hiking 1.25 miles into the cave through the Natural Entrance.
We descended 800 feet which was very steep in places and gave our legs and knees quite a workout.
The chambers of the Caverns were beautiful, though not as colorful as caverns we have visited in other states. The prevalent color was brown and it felt drier than other caves. The highlight was The Big Room, which at 8.2 acres is one of the world’s largest and most accessible underground chambers.
Carlsbad Caverns is a sanctuary to several hundred thousand Mexican bats. During the day they congregate together in a section of the Caverns called the Bat Cave. As we passed through this area we could hear them. Since they have started their winter migration, we did not see their nightly flight from the Caverns which can be seen at other times of the year. Back in the 1800’s settlers explored the Caverns and used the huge deposits left behind by the bats, called guano, as natural fertilizer.
In the early 1900’s a cowboy named Jim White was the first person to extensively explore the Caverns and led the first tours. It is hard to comprehend what it must have been like for them to enter such a huge, dark abyss. Today there are paved walkways and electric lights. It is also hard to grasp the labor that went into putting in those walkways and lights. After first becoming a national monument, it became a national park in 1930.
After spending about three hours walking through the Caverns we took the elevator back up. We were very happy to see it working this time!
The 1959 movie, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was filmed here.
Next up: Alamogordo, NM
God’s amazing underworld! So much is under our feet and unexplored! The hike was certainly worth it.