06 March 2017

More National Parks

Last weekend the boyfriend and I took a trip. Mostly it was just to get out. To check a couple more national parks off the list. We headed south to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Guadalupe Mountains just south in Texas.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed those two parks. We hit Guadalupe Mountains first. The Chihuahuan desert is pretty bleak and Texas' tallest mountain is just over 8,000, and thus none-too-impressive, but there is a beauty there. I'm sure it helped that we went in February, before the temperatures settled in the mid 90s. The one major drawback was the wind. It was windy the entire time. Blowing us around while on the highway south. Blowing dust. Blowing the tent over (we ended up sleeping in the SUV.) We were unable to hike Guadalupe Peak because of the wind. We did get in a nice hike to a stone cabin up a canyon that would surely have been much prettier with some summer greenery.

Guadalupe Peak. 
Pratt Cabin and madrone trees
After our hike we drove the 40 minutes north to Carlsbad. The entrance to the caverns is actually up on top of a hill, the caves are 750 feet below. That first day, we descended via the elevator and stepped out into an underground cafe of sorts. It was pretty surreal. The ground was flat and paved and there were kiosks for snacks and t-shirts. And picnic tables and bathrooms with running water. And then, a bit further on, the Big Room.

(part of) the Big Room
I used to work at Glenwood Caverns. I always thought it was super cool. There are lots of formations and plenty of space to stand up on the basic tours. The Big Room is huge. I knew somewhere in my mind that Carlsbad Caverns was big. I mean, it's a national park and all. I was unprepared. No photos will ever fully show the vastness of that space. Something like 60 football fields in length. Monolithic stalagmites. We walked around the whole room. The trail is over a mile. It's paved and has handrails to keep people contained to protect the visitors and the caves.

These are at least 2x taller than me. 
gazing into the depths of hell. Or something.
The following day we walked down the natural entrance. The whole 750  vertical feet via a winding trail down a dark hole in the earth. It was quite the experience.

candle lanterns lighting the Left Hand Tunnel
We had a ranger guided tour to a different part of the cave. It was lighted only by handheld candle lanterns. It was a highlight of the trip. Though the formations were not as impressive as in the Big Room, Left Hand Tunnel was a very fun experience. We learned a lot of history about the caves, some Native American lore, some stories about the man who first explored and pushed to make it be a park.

cave pool

It was a very pleasant trip, any really not that long a drive compared to what we often do to visit parks. My main regret is that the bats were wintering down south and so we couldn't watch them fly out at dusk. And also the crawling tours weren't available in the off-season. I guess we'll just have to go back in the summer sometime. And spend the whole down down below to beat the heat.

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

sunset from our campsite near the Caverns. 

see? they're big.

1 comment:

Abby said...

Nice trip report. I had no idea the caverns were so huge. How have I never been there??