05 March 2013

Carlsbad Caverns

5 Mar 2013--We left Ft Davis, TX on Sunday and relocated to Carlsbad, NM for a while...still trying to decide if we want to stay 1 or 2 weeks.  Seems like there might be enough here to just skip El Paso completely, stay here the 2 weeks, and then head back for a few days to see what we weren't able to see in Big Bend National Park last week.

So we are staying, for the 1st time, in what is one of the Escapee parks they have throughout the country, member parks where some are co-ops and so in essence are owned by the people who buy into the system.  We pay a nominal annual fee to just visit at reduced rates, but if we wanted to, we could buy a "plot", put a very small cabin and/or shed on it, and make it our permanent home base.  I tell you all this just so will get a feel for the type of place we are at...lots of "winter New Mexicans", northerners who come here for the winter months and stay put probably 6 months of the year.

When signing in we were told that every day from 4-5 pm they have "happy hour", where lots of them  meet in the clubhouse for socializing, games, and on Sunday nights they have movie nights.  So Cathy and I started to set up our RV and about 4:15 or so I told Cathy we should go up there just to see what was going on.  I happened to have a couple beers in the refrigerator, so I grabbed one and up we went.  (That is me sitting outside the clubhouse in the 2nd pic.)  So in we go, walking directly into the back of the large meeting room (3rd pic), and see lots of people, maybe 25 or so, sitting at the tables while up front at a podium a woman is talking into a microphone.


Now the 1st thing I notice beyond the layout is the fact that not a single person other than me had a drink at this so-called "happy hour".  Lots of water and coffee, but that was it.  Before I could assess anything beyond that, a woman stood up, approached and asked us to join her and her husband at their table.  At the same time she explained that once the speaker took a breath, she would be calling Cathy and I up to the front of the room to introduce ourselves to the regulars.  Oh no, this is not what I thought I was getting us into, and I tried to beg off, but she was hearing none of it...leading us to  her table all along!

So now things really heat up!  I am not sitting for even a full a minute, just long enough to concentrate on what the speaker is saying, when it dawns on me that we are attending a "poetry reading"!!!!  UGH!!!  You have got to kidding me!!!!  (When I told Ellen and Barb this story, they both said they thought I was gonna say an AA meeting...haha...only bringing a beer to an AA could possibly have been worse than the poetry reading!)  Before long she wrapped it up, followed by a polite applause from the crowd, and then she asked Cathy and I to come forward.  After the introductions, and a couple questions about our travels, we returned to our seats for the rest of the festivities.

The hostess/poetry reader then asked if anyone in the crowd had anything for the group, a couple ladies got up and talked about future cooking classes and decorating parties, and then the hostess took over again...AND STARTED READING ANOTHER POEM!!!!  OMG, my mind at this point is reeling!  And because we are all facing forward Cathy is directly behind me, so I can't make eye contact, leaving me in the position of having to feign interest and join the polite clapping when she finishes.

Hoping against hope, I think she is about to wrap up when she asks one more time if anyone has anything else for the crowd.  A woman gets up because she forgot to tell something, quickly returns the microphone to the hostess, and proceeds to her seat.  AND THE HOSTESS GOES INTO ANOTHER POEM!!!  She is killing me!!!  I am almost starting to sweat, thinking Good God, are we ever gonna get out of here???  And what happened to happy hour???  At this point I am bound and determined to make a break for it, so when she wraps up poem number 3 and before the polite clapping stops, I stand up and quickly turn and walk purposefully to the back of the room, where there is an easel with notes on it that I can pretend to be reading.  Cathy immediately follows and joins me at the easel.  With that, the clapping stops, and whether she wanted to or not the hostess wraps things up.  The crowd stands and starts breaking into little groups, we talk a few minutes with other members, and then gracefully bow out with the explanation that we have to finish setting up the RV before darkness falls.

So that was our "happy hour" experience...not exactly a party crowd here!  But good for a funny story, so I guess it was worth it!  (NOT)  An AA meeting may very well have been a better event!

Now on to the 1st tourist event of our stay.  Cathy and I went to the Carlsbad Caverns, some of the best known caverns in the country, and the main reason we decided to stop in this area.  Check out these 2 videos.  I took them about 3 1/2 hours apart, to show how windy New Mexico is.  We are looking down into some flats right outside the Visitor's Center, and it's amazing to see the difference in how it looks in such a short period of time.  In our experience, New Mexico is always like this...we were here in 2010, in Santa Fe, and it was constant...and sometimes painful!  When that wind whips the desert dirt against your bare legs you'll think twice before wearing shorts around here.  haha

The caverns have 6 different tours you can take; the self-guided tour we went on, and 5 others you have to go to separately and pay a separate fee.  The self-guided tour starts here at what is called the Natural Entrance, a long series of switchbacks you walk down into the cave on and continue for about a mile before you hit the main section, called "The Big Room".  You actually descend 75 stories before you get to the bottom, or 754 feet.  And it is a constant 56 degrees inside, much colder than when we went through the Sonora Caverns.

From about April thru October, tourists gather to watch thousands of bats leave the cave every night for feeding, but they are not here this time of year so we don't get to see it.  As for cave development, I was thinking that one of the little kids might like to do a paper or report on something like this if they had to do something for school, so I included some of this info for them.

So when you 1st get in the cave, it is quite dark, and for quite a while you can't see a whole lot, or certainly nothing magnificent.  What is interesting is that you can see well enough to know stuff is there, so what I put up here are 3 different shots of the same scene, but showing how different it looks depending on if you are using your flash or not, and then how the flash plays out based on your angle.

Just so you know, Stalactites hang from the ceiling, while Stalagmites grow from the ground up.  If you notice that there is a "c" in one with a "g" in the other, you can remember "c" for ceiling, "g" for ground (just helping the kids out with their papers--haha).  The 3rd pic here is a formation called "Whales Mouth", and is made up of what are called "draperies".

In lots of spots it is simply too dark to take pics or videos, but we tried with this one, as we entered the "Big Room".  The highest point in the ceiling is here 255 ft!

If you remember at Sonora, I told you that 98% of Sonora formations are still growing.  Here at Carlsbad, 95% of the formations are actually dry and inactive, so no longer growing.  They have a ton more tourists come through here, so we presume that the amount of visitors probably plays a big role in that.

So after about a half hour walking down, we start to see the better sights.

The 3rd pic here was named the "Lion's Tail"...really looks like one!

If you blow up the 1st pic, you can see a bearded and robed man in it.  The 2nd pic was named "Fairyland" and the 3rd was called "Temple of the Sun".

Notice in the 3rd pic how tall these formations are...you really can't tell from a picture how massive these things are.

Same area as Temple of the Sun.

One of the other tours we are thinking of taking is a guided tour of "Lower Cave".  Years ago they use this rope ladder to get there...not a prayer!!!  haha

Here we have Totem Pole and Caveman...Caveman is particularly good!

And some unnamed formations as we make our way completely around the Big Room, a 1 1/4 mile walk.  Some of these are just beautiful, particularly the closer we get to the end!

Pretty cool!

So the whole trip is about 2 1/4 miles, and took us about 3 1/2 hours.  Fortunately you can take the elevator back to the top...we saw some people walking up as we descended, but they were mostly all breathing hard so we decided against it...haha


  1. Interesting that I found these same exact pictures on google. That new software you have that lets you put yourself in a pic is pretty good, almost seamless, except when you blow it up with the zoom.......:|

    1. So petty, Barb! Your jealousy is shining through. haha

  2. The pictures are great, but I still have tears in my eyes
    just thinking about your "Happy Hour" !!!!!

  3. I'm with Ellen. As i am trying to read and appreciate these great pics i can't stop laughing!!!!
    I could never go down into the ground. I'll have to continue to appreciate these sights thru your Blogs.

  4. 3 days later I still think the "Happy Hour" may be the highlight of the trip. The almost panic that was going through my mind at the thought we might be trapped there for an hour or more is still fresh. Too funny!!!

  5. OMG John and I laughed so hard at your "happy hour" experience, it was so funny. The pictures were beautiful. We are glad you went. We thought if you got there you would enjoy it. Sorry the bats were not there. Be safe! Stay out of happy hour places.


  6. I read this blog and commented and am now noticing its not here :(

    I'm not sure i'd be comfortable walking in those caverns - I can picture Emily and I walking through bumping into things and unintentionaly scaring the crap out of eachother!!!