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50 States, Day 339


Carlsbad to Carlsbad Caverns, 67 Miles

"Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
~Abraham Lincoln

As I threw a leg over Libbie, with gray skies, cold air and whipping wind, I reconsidered my "Winter's about over" statement. Sheesh! We geared up for the short twenty mile ride and since the cavern was fifty-six degrees, left it on for the tour. 
Carlsbad couldn't be explored until someone found dependable, portable light. Imagine wandering around the expanse and your one candle blows out. Game over! Yet the initial discoverer used a can with kerosene to investigate the magnificent caves. 

We elected to be general tourists, and rode the elevator to the bottom where the main trail follows a one and a half mile paved route through the Big Room, a name that is a huge understatement. Some places afford a view to the top, over three hundred feet up, and others disappear into an abyss, apparently a hundred forty feet deep. While we walk along the nice path, it's difficult to imagine a crew navigating the rock with climbing ropes and lamps, barely piercing the immense darkness. And, except for a few spots that drip water, dead silence. Of course today tourists' voices echo off the walls, and even though most keep their voices down, anything over a whisper carries over a quarter mile. 

The formations are incredible, stalactites and stalagmites, both called 'speleothems,' a new word for my dictionary. I can just imagine Quilter Girl staring at a Wheel of Fortune puzzle- _p_l_ot__m_ and saying "Speleothems." But it was a new word for me. 

Everywhere we turned, another vista awaited, with niches, arches, ponds and rooms of brilliant white and cream shapes. While I took plenty of shots, most of the pictures didn't turn out and others failed to portray the beauty. Only one thing to do. Drop what you're doing and go to Carlsbad Caverns.

As we waited for the elevator (I would have loved to hike out, but QG would be stuck waiting), a group with a tour guide emptied, with helmets, lights and gloves. No doubt about it, I need to come back when I have more time than a year. Okay, more time in Carlsbad than a day or so. But between the 'miner hikes' and the seven hundred foot hike out, it would be nice to spend a number of days here. 

And now, smelling like bat guava and mold (okay, maybe not), Quilter Girl!

I am so not a fan of caves but had been assured by Terry that I would have no trouble with this one, so I went.  I am so glad that I did! Even the elevator ride wasn't  half bad.  It was really an amazing place with new things to see all along the 1-1/2 mile path.  The ride, though cold, up to the cavern was pretty impressive too.  We walked down to the hiker's entrance and past the bat amphitheater.  There are bats that live in the cave in the summer that all wake up and fly out of the cave at sunset -- all at once.  An impressive sight I am told, but true to much on the trip it is a little too early for them to be here now.  We won't have to risk freezing for that experience.  

When we got back to Carlsbad we searched for a restaurant, in a town that the mayor says has many world class restaurants.  I think we must have missed them because we tried one at the Best Western that was deserted and ended up at Chili's, where the better part of town was hanging out.  The food was good and the service was slow.  I suppose no one is in a hurry in this small town.


Tomorrow, off to Albuquerque, the most difficult city to spell in the U.S.


Linda said...

I visited Carlsbad in the late '50's. There was a hamburger fry concession stand in the Big Room. I still remember how majestic the caverns were and the smell of greasy hamburgers. (Although I must admit it was tasty.) Amazing how careless we were with our national treasurers back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures for the caves. What amazing colors and structures exist out of our sight. And how great that some of these caves are accessible to the general population and not just the daredevil cave explorers.


Pam said...

Oh my goodness....thanks for taking us to the caverns!

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

No greasy smells now, but still a concession stand, although everything except water must be consumed there. And only cold stuff. I did find myself grateful that they made it accessible back in the day. Today they might have made it unavailable to anyone. Truly a marvel to behold.

Mel said...

I would like to have tried one of the Speleothem Burgers Linda was talking about. That explains, however, why the stalactites and stalagmites in the caves are nothing more than hardened grease drippings!

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

No wonder they were shiny.