Whenever we’ve mentioned to strangers that we were on our way to New Mexico, they all said the same thing. “You have to go to Carlsbad Caverns.” Since we have already been underground several times, and seen at least a half-dozen caves, I was skeptical. But, I’m so glad we listened to them.
After a beautiful drive through the Guadalupe Mountains over terrain that can only be described as otherworldly, it was clear why the aliens chose to land in New Mexico. The wind was blowing hard atop the mountain forcing us to walk quite briskly to the visitors’ center.
Inside we checked in at the National Park Information desk to mull over our options for entering the cave. The ranger informed us that the best way for a beginner to see the cave, if you’re in good shape and have no health issues, is the self guided tour with audio through the natural opening of the cave.
The descent has a 20% grade with a number of wet switchbacks on the way down. Kimmer recently twisted his ankle so we had delayed the cave tour a couple of days to give it time to heal, but we were still a little nervous about the trip. He felt comfortable with the two-and-a-half-mile hike, so in we went. With the blistering cold and swirling New Mexico winds pelting us with soft snow outside, we couldn’t wait to get inside the cave and its balmy 54 degree consistency.
While Carlsbad isn’t the deepest or the longest cave, it is commonly known as one of the world’s most beautiful. Decorated with enormous columns and stalactites, pristine soda straws, massive draperies, ribbons and curtains, Carlsbad Caverns has every imaginable formation to surprise and delight even the most seasoned spelunker.
Of course, the most impressive section is the Big Room which, at almost 14 football fields in length, is one of the world’s largest natural limestone chambers. It’s home to the Hall of Giants – three enormous stalagmites growing towards the ceiling – each over 40 feet tall. Some of the most amazing facets of the room can’t be seen by visitors – like a chamber above the room called the Spirit Room, and the bottom of what is known as the Bottomless Pit.
We were lucky to visit on a slow day, when the cave was pretty quiet. Hopefully our pictures do the cave justice.