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!
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