On Saturday, five of the Trekies climbed into the Fine shuttlecraft and headed south about 30 miles to visit Carlsbad Caverns. Rocky, the canine Trekie, had to stay home and baby-sit his master Dick, who chose to sit this one out due to the uncertainty of the Caverns' terrain. A wise choice, as it turned out.
After a half hour or so drive through mostly flat country, we started climbing up above the valley floor to a ridge known as the Guadalupe Mountains in which the Caverns are located. These mountains consist of remains of all kinds of sea creatures as it was once totally under water. The whole area uplifted and began to erode. Rainwater seeped down and hydrogen sulfide-rich water migrated upward from oil and gas fields located to the South and East, mixing and forming sulfuric acid which opened up the large chambers that now exist. (Most of this has been plagiarized from the Cavern Brochure, as I had no idea how it all came about).
Enough Geology, the Caverns almost defy description. After a park regulation talk by a ranger, we took the natural entrance tour which took us about 1 mile into the cave and to a depth of approximately 750 feet. After reaching the bottom of the Cave, we opted for lunch and then on to the Big Room Route, another mile or so. The two tours (self guided) were supposed to take about 2 ½ hours to complete, but with the addition of lunch and our curiosity about everything we saw, we were in the Cavern for almost 4 hours. Rangers are never far away and are only too happy to answer any questions. Thankfully the Park Service has installed an elevator to return all visitors to the surface when they have completed their tours. Don't think any of us could have climbed up some of the extreme grades within the cave. The entire route was paved and had handrails which were in constant use. Flashlights can be used by anyone who happened to carry one with him, although the cave is very well lighted. A Snack bar and restrooms are at the 750 foot level serving almost anything that one would normally find above ground. Included in this area was a gift shop just in case you felt you couldn't wait to get to the surface to purchase something from the gift shop there. All in all, it was a great trip and we would recommend for anyone in the area to make it a part of their visit to New Mexico.
The caves were explored by a local cowboy named Jim White who would take anyone who wanted to go, into the cave. At first a 170 foot descent in a bucket began the tour. Word began to spread and in 1923 the Department of The Interior sent inspector Robert Holly to see if the cave really lived up to its reputation.
Holly wrote in his report: "I am wholly conscious of the feebleness of my efforts to convey in words, the deep conflicting emotions, the feeling of fear and awe, and the desire for an inspired understanding of the Divine Creator's work which presents to the human eye such a complex aggregate of natural wonders."
Good Job, Robert !!
Later that year, Carlsbad Cavern was declared a National Monument, Cowboy Jim White became its first chief ranger, and in 1930 Congress created Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The park currently includes 46,766 acres and over 100 other caves. (Plagiarism Rides again, but it certainly does save time).
Look at the pictures, although they can't begin to show you all of the wonders of this Cavern, they can give you an idea of what this underground wonder holds in store for all who venture inside.
P.S. Thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats inhabit the cave and leave every evening during the summer months to hunt mosquitoes and other insects in the valley below. After spending almost all night eating, they once again return to the Cave in the early morning. Watching them as they make their way out of the cave has become a tourist attraction itself. Unfortunately the bats are currently wintering in Mexico and were unavailable for our viewing pleasure. Given the current early morning temperatures, the Trekies would be happy to join them if given the chance.... Larry