Tony & Judy's Four Corners Trip Summer 2010 travel blog

 

Beginning of trail to Natural Entrance to the Caverns

Bat Ampitheater outside the Natural Entrance

Natural Entrance

On the trail down through the entrance

Switchbacks

Just inside the entrance

The entrance from a bat's eye view

About the bats that we did not see because of weather on...

Cave formations

 

 

 

 

Old wooden stairs used to access the cave before elevators installed in...

Lunch Counter in the cave, 730 feet below the surface

Lunch area

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladder used by National Geographic Expedition to access the Lower Cave in...

 

 

 

 

 


Carlsbad Caverns is described as an underground world, with gigantic subterranean chambers, fantastic cave formations and extraordinary features. It was first discovered by a teenager, Jim White, in 1898. It wasn’t until 1923 when National Geographic Magazine sent an exploration group (with the help of Jim White) and their subsequent article, that news of this enormous cave reached the public. A rope ladder can still be seen that was left over from this exploration. In 1930 Carlsbad became a National Park and in 1995 was recognized as a United Nations World Heritage Site.

We had our day planned when we arrived at the park this morning. Instead of taking the elevator down to the tour areas like most people do, we took the Natural Entrance Route. It is a self-guided tour and follows the traditional explorers’ route, entering the cavern through the large historic natural entrance. This route is a mile and a quarter of steep switchbacks that descends 750 into the earth. Prior to our descent we rented two hand-held remotes to listen to recorded messages by Rangers at designated places along the walk. This walk really gave us an appreciation for the cave and we were happy we chose it.

We purchased a sandwich from the snack bar once we were in the “rest area” of the cave, then proceeded to our next self-guided tour after completion of lunch. The tour was called “The Big Room Route”, a one-mile hike around the largest room in the cave. This walk takes you around the 8.2 acre “Big Room”. All trails in the cave are paved and well-lit, and temperatures are at a constant 56 degrees. Our remotes worked on this trail, also, and Rangers explained the many beautiful areas and formations we viewed. We saw stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and other formations referred to as draperies, soda straws, popcorn and several others.

This took us up to almost 2 o’clock, at which time we had booked the Kings Palace Guided Tour. This was a 1-l/2 hour Ranger led tour through a mile and a quarter of four highly decorated scenic chambers. This tour descends to the deepest portion of the cavern, 830 feet beneath the desert surface. It wasn’t too difficult, but it did require you to descend 80 feet (8 stories) and later climb back up! Many beautiful sights were a part of this tour and the Ranger was excellent. At one time she blacked out all lights as she continued to talk to us. It was at least for 5 minutes, and seemed like longer. We have been on other cave tours, with the lights being turned off for a short period, but never this long. You can’t imagine how “dark” dark really is.

This was a full day’s adventure for us and we were proud of what we were able to do at our age. But, we did see pass by the “Lower Cave Tour” group as they were about to descend on their 50 feet of vertical ladder down into a black hole. Each had gloves and flashlights on their helmets. They looked much younger than us, but we didn’t feel envious.

This ended our tours at Carlsbad Caverns around 4 this afternoon. As mentioned above, there are two ways to enter the cave – by elevator or the walk into it like we did, but the elevator is the only option or way back out.

The weather was nice enough today for the Bat Program that was to start at 5:45, but we didn’t stay. The boys had been left long enough by themselves and were happy to see us. They love this campground’s dog park. There are actually two, side-by-side, so when somebody else comes along with their dog, they usually go to the other fenced area.

This concludes our Trip Log. We have seen some truly magnificent wonders of nature on this trip. We visited 8 National Parks and 5 National Monuments. It’s been fun to share our vacation and experiences with you. Hope you have enjoyed it, also.





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