National Park

Weekend at Carlsbad Caverns

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We left on a Friday, leaving our long stakeout in Alamogordo for adventure. It took us most the day to drive to Whites City, a little ‘town’ just outside of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. For convenience reasons, we were hoping for a campsite there. The RV park didn’t take reservations, which is a bit odd because it’s such a long way from everything – showing up to find there were no spots would have been pretty lame. However we got there as early as we could and they did have a spot for us!

The first evening we arrived pretty late in the afternoon and were exhausted after an early morning and a hot drive. We had dinner at Chili’s and went to bed early, leaving the next day for the Caverns and exploring the town of Carlsbad.

Our National Parks Pass is probably one of our best investments, and as usual we got in for free – up to 3 people per card so we were set. The park entrance was just a few miles from the campground and soon enough we were in the park hiking around. Already the terrain started to change and at out first stop we saw lizards, several awesome insects and a family that was camped out in the parking lot pointed out some bighorn sheep on the cliffs above.

 

We took the Natural Entrance tour, unguided because all the ranger tours were booked that day. It was a long descent into the deep, dank underworld below down a smooth, paved trail, with a much needed guide rail. The beginning of the trail was slippery due to cave swallows poop and a recent rain. They swooped and dove around like b-12 bombers, so we wasted no time getting past that part. The rest of the walk was relatively safe, with the occasional condensation drip from the ceiling wetting the asphalt.

Some of the more interesting formations were lit, often attentively having their photos taken by many people at once, us included of course. Once we came down the steepest part, we passed through several rooms, many with ceilings hundreds of feet high where you could still see a little sky. The deeper we went the darker it was and we had no idea just how far it would go.

Eventually we finally entered the Big Room, a vast area with many odd formations that often looked like blobby mud men, or sometimes spiky death traps. It was thoroughly entertaining whenever it wasn’t strikingly beautiful, but it was usually both at the same time.  I used my digital SLR with a ring flash with a green filter that I held off to one side. The ones in white were the same flash without the filter, but I felt the greenish orange results were appropriate, even if inaccurate.

It was definitely a ‘bucket list’ adventure and I’m so glad we finally made it down. Carlsbad is a surprisingly remote area and our constant need of decent working internet keeps from staying places like that very often. We need more people to come stay with us so we’ll force ourselves to go a little further to impress! We’ve already done a lot of things that we passed up or were just too lazy to do since Blair has been visiting.

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The town of Carlsbad

After the caverns and lunch, we were in the mood for a cold beer, but it turned out that the RV park, restaurant, gift shops and gas station are owned by Mormons an completely dry. We had nothing else planned so we headed into town to see what we could find. First we found a river front area to walk around and were surprised by how much water there was, swimming, paddle boats and even kayaks for rent. After being in Alamogordo for almost 2 months it was sort of shocking to see moving water again.
We walked around, I got a snow cone and we watched people feed the giant carp that live in the river, apparently eating up troublesome algae that other fish aren’t interested in. The heat was getting to us all after a while so we headed off for some groceries and finally, stopped at one of only a couple real bars in town, called Cal’s Shade Western a funny name for an interesting bar. It was full of locals and the bartenders were both characters, it was totally a dive bar (often my favorite bars) but exactly what we needed at the end of a long hot day.

The next day would be another early/hot one so that we could make it to Flagstaff before 8pm – a plan which proved pointless since the lady in the office just waved us away and mouthed “we’re closed” when we arrived (so we just parked in our spot anyway). We went out for a great dinner at The Lumberyard Brewery and called it a night.


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