Sunday, October 21, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns

I've been wanting to go on this trip for so long that I can hardly believe we really did it. When I was three, we lived in New Mexico for a year while my dad worked at the Physics lab in Los Alamos. I only have a few memories of that time, but they are such GOOD memories! One of the best is of visiting Carlsbad Caverns, which is one of the biggest caves in the United States. I love caves, so I've always wanted to go back. I had retained a general impression of vastness and amazement from my childhood visit, but as an adult I still couldn't believe the complete awe this place inspired. Naturally, the pictures don't do it justice, but also naturally, I can't help sharing some. Sam and I discussed later how there are a few places in the world that just bring you to an almost paralyzing sense of wonder. The Redwood forest is one such place, and Carlsbad Caverns is another. If you enter through the natural entrance, as we did, you descend over 750 feet into the cave. Every time we thought we must be to the center of the earth by now, we'd round another bend and see the trail winding down below us even farther. And the most amazing parts we saw didn't even come till we reached the huge chambers at the bottom of that descent! Carlsbad Caverns was formed by sulfuric acid, which makes it unusual among caves (most are made purely by water and carbonic acid), so its chambers are much bigger and less predictable than those of most other caves. The scale of the place is mind-boggling! And we didn't even see the whole thing (in fact, I don't believe the public is allowed to see the whole thing).

There are a bunch of different tours you can take, and most of them are for older kids. We wanted to have one of us do the King's Palace Tour with the three boys, but it was sold out, so we just did the ones you can do with babies: the Natural Entrance and the Big Room. Those were quite sufficiently amazing, but I hope I can go back and see more someday! I would love to visit this place yearly, if I could. :)
The view from outside. Who would ever have imagined the marvels underneath this ground?
No wonder the Maya thought caves were, literally, part of the underworld

Shelfstone

The Sword of Damocles---note the vastness of the chamber stretching back behind

More vastness, and little knobby goblins (reminds me of Southern Utah in miniature!)




This huge column may have been my favorite formation. So intricately textured! And it was 62 feet (!!) tall.
This is scary---looks like an eye and gaping mouth!

Terrible picture, but you can see Abe there for scale



The formation to the right is called "Rock of Ages," I believe, but Sebby dubbed it "The Zebra." I think it looks like a zebra-sphinx.
Here we are by it, for scale
If Carlsbad Caverns had been the only place we visited on our trip, I would have been totally content. I loved it so much!

The other thing I loved at the caverns was watching the bat flight, which occurs every evening during summer and fall. A huge colony of bats lives in part of the cave, and you can sit by the natural entrance at dusk and watch the bats emerge by the thousands for their evening hunt. It's SO cool. They don't allow you to take pictures (it bothers the bats), but here's the picture from the NPS website:
It was slightly stressful because you're supposed to be silent, and we had unpredictable little Junie with us (she was very good, but kept feeling compelled to comment in her loud baby-voice on things), but in spite of that it was a beautiful, peaceful, incredible sight. The bats are so silent and fast, and they fly right overhead. It's amazing!

3 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh! This looks so amazing!!!! Thanks for sharing all these pictures. I totally want to go there now!

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  2. You have taken them to TImp cave? The climb to it is a little hair-raising when you have tiny ones. But it's kinda cool inside also.

    And see? If I'd been caught up before I came for the book day, I'd have KNOWN about the cave, and about the monkey being there and the bear that wasn't supposed to be there and realized why Mal was so influenced in his vision and Seb so moved to tell the stories -

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  3. We have been to Carlsbad so many times, how did we not know abt these?

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