Into The Deep – CavingIt at Carlsbad Caverns, NM
They say that to understand all that’s without you first have to understand all that’s within. At least I have a feeble memory that something of the sort is said by those who are more eloquent and intelligent than myself. So, in the spirit of delving deep we took a day-trip to the Carlsbad Caverns.
Now, I love caverns mostly because of the bats. I have fond memories of bats flying around munching up my arch-enemy (the mosquito) while backpacking in CA years ago. Carlsbad caverns not only hosts 17 species of bats, but also lots of photographically cool formations. What’s even better is that they allow you to bring in a tripod *and* you can take a self-guided tour to spend as much time as you like enjoying the inner workings. In my mind that makes Carlsbad Caverns a sure winner.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll rewind to start at the beginning. Carlsbad Caverns are a collection of ~117 limestone caves located ~40 miles west of Carlsbad in the folds of the Guadalupe Mountains. As you approach the area, the mountains sweep up dramatically from the high desert, and a twisting 5 miles or so takes you to the main entrance of the caves. The Caverns are all part of fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. Pressure and time created limestone rock which was then slowly eroded by sulphuric acid to create the caves. Subsequent years of mineral drips created the fantastic calcite formations we see today. The most popular draw is the largest chamber, the Big Room, the 7th largest in the world at 4,000 feet (about 1,219 m) long, 625 feet (190.5 m) wide, and 350 feet (about 107 m) high.
That’s the science of it anyhow. The reality is an outlandish, fairytale walk through towering stalactites, bulbous rocks and echoing caverns. It’s almost an out-of-body experience and I have to agee with Ansel Adams when he described the caverns as “something that should not exist in relation to human beings. Something as remote as the galaxy, as incomprehensible as a nightmare and beautiful in spite of everything“. That pretty much sums it up, don’t it?
We spent a glorious 3 hours via the Natural Entrance exploring the cave. For those looking for a straight shot you can take the 754 feet elevator down, or for more of crawl and adventure the caverns also offer daily Ranger-led “inner cave” adventures. All this for $6, some footwork and as far as your imagination will take you. Well worth it, indeed!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links, so, if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. WheelingIt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Linda Sand says
My family took me there as a kid and we got to watch the sunset bat flight. I didn’t know whether to be awed or scared. 🙂
Bats can definitely be a bit scary as a kid. I loooove them as an adult:) Nina
Sue Malone says
I loved that Ansel Adams quote. I visited Carlsbad several years ago and felt something similar. It felt as though I was treading in a space not meant for humans to wander, as though ancient souls were trapped in some of the formations as punishment for their mistreatment of the earth. I love your descriptions of the landscape especially. Thank you for reminding me of this special place.
Yeah, I thought that Ansel Adams quote was fantastic too. Really enjoyed it. Nina
Jerry and Suzy LeRoy says
Yes, we have to agree with everything you said about the caverns, and you said it so well. We were there in 2003, and weren’t familiar enough with our camera to get any decent pictures, so we always enjoy others’ good ones. But your word pictures can’t be beat! Thanks for sharing!
Glad you liked the story! Nina
Maggie Pound says
I visited the Carlsbad Caverns in early December of 2010 for the first time. I did a guided tour of the Kings Palace. It had a great guide that really knew his decorations. One thing I found fascinating — they are taking out the ultraviolet lighting as it creates a yellowing of the formations… especially the more fragile ones like the veils. I am eager to return. I am in Arizona now and planning on a 9 day trip up through the Prescott Forest, Grand Canyon, The Tower and then to Happy Jack and Payson. Just stayed a week on the Salt River and had a companion that helped me put my Kayak in the water. Not running very fast but it was an adventure. Hope to catch up soon. Maybe you can join us half way and then continue to Colorado from Grand Canyon/Flagstaff area? Love and light! And the camping delight!
Sounds like an excellent trip! We’re planning to stay in NM for about 6 weeks and then heading into CO near Pagossa Springs. So, maybe meeting somewhere in CO will work? I’ll email you some details of our schedule. Would love to see ya on the road!
Christy @ Technosyncratic says
Glad you guys made it here! 🙂 We had really wanted to explore the caves via the natural entrance, but it was closed by the time we arrived in the mid-afternoon. Love your pic of the Whale’s Mouth!
The natural entrance was pretty cool…you’ll just have to come back 🙂 Nina