|Grand entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. What you can’t see is the swallows zipping in and out of the cave.|
Both Wayne and I were excited to see this incredible National Park for the first time. Early American humorist Will Rogers described its magnificence as the “[Grand Canyon] with a roof on it.“
|Carlsbad Caverns, NM. Looking back towards the entrance from just inside the first cavern.|
Within an hour and a half of pushing out of San Angelo Texas we left the rain and flash floods the plagued the area behind. Tornadoes touched down a number of areas nearby but not where we were. Those tornado warnings worked where they needed to — no fatalities.
Once we left Texas Hill Country, we saw oodles of oil rigs dotting the otherwise mostly barren landscape. Had we not spent so many miles driving vast stretches of unpopulated Australia, this part of the USA would’ve seemed like it was hell and gone from anywhere. Instead it was comparatively a walk in the park as there was always some small town within a few hours drive.
|One of many oil well pumps taken through our car window as we whizzed past. We saw them until Utah.|
Eventually we approached the overpriced town of Carlsbad, then “White City,”* then Carlsbad Caverns.
*White City, population seven, was named for Jim White, one of Carlsbad Cavern’s best known early explorers.
|Ladders early Carlsbad Cavern explorers used. |
Today many portions of the caves are wheelchair friendly.
Carlsbad Caverns inspired us to finally purchase an annual National Parks Pass. Another two National Park visits within the year and the pass would pay for itself. We slated stops for Black Canyon of the Gunnison , Arches and Canyonlands and with a loop into the Southwest this fall after Labor Day, taking in the Grand Canyon with hiking/backpacking and camping gear and without a carload of our move possessions.
|One of many naturally sculpted caverns with the cavern known as Carlsbad Caverns.|
It’s amazing what limestone, water and sulphur dioxide can do to an ancient fossilized seabed floor. To me it’s just as stunning that Carlsbad Cavern’s magic still stands four million years after the cave’s creation process stopped — a treasure we and so many others had the privilege and good fortune to explore.
|Green Lake Room, Carlsbad Caverns. I took the cavern images in this post with my camera, without a flash.|
The park website explains how these caves formed….
“Between four and six million years ago, hydrogen-sulfide-rich (HS) waters began to migrate through fractures and faults in the Capitan limestone. This water mixed with rainwater moving downward from the surface. When the two waters mixed, the HS combined with the oxygen carried by the rainwater and formed sulfuric acid (HSO). This acid dissolved the limestone along fractures and folds in the rock to form Carlsbad Cavern.”
|I imagined some grand dinosaur opening its great maw when I saw these long,|
sharp-looking stalactites in Carlsbad Caverns.
We took the self-guided tour, by foot, to see as much as we could in a relatively short stretch of time. We still spent a couple hours marveling in the 2 1/2 or so mile walk.
|Fairyland as this section of the caverns is called is not something I could dream up! A dispensary would do a brisk business if there was one near Carlsbad Caverns. Recreational marijuana is not legal in New Mexico.|
We agree with Jim White’s assessment of the caverns….
“I shall never forget the feeling of aweness it gave me … the beauty, the weirdness, the grandeur and the omniscience absolved my mind of all thoughts of a world above — I forgot time, place and distance.”
I’m sure we are not alone. All but a few of the caverns explorers were quiet, speaking rarely, in hushed voices if at all. We quickly put distance between us and explorers who were noisy or used additional light or flash. We only had to do that a few times.
|One of the few places in Carlsbad Caverns where we saw water.|
The cavern air was not even remotely moist.
|These “folds” are often referred to as draperies.|
They reminded me of tropical trees or waterfalls topped by broccolini buds.
From the national parked’s website, a few more tidbits
* Complete annual visitation stats can be found at Carlsbad Caverns Visitation Statistics
|Mexican Freetailed are the primary bats in Carlsbad Caverns, though 17 kinds live there.|
|White City’s fuel sign also alludes to Carlsbad Cavern’s bats.|
|A strong a chilling wind as much as the pressure to hit the road curtailed my wildflower photography at Carlsbad. |
These cacti flowers, unlike the others we saw, were able to hold steady in the wind.
Still catching up on blog posts. Today is Saturday, Memorial weekend. We’re in Irrigon, Oregon, visiting friends. We’re just under 200 miles to returning home, in Portland. We’ll be there today.