This was quite a different experience from our time in Mammoth Cave. For one thing, we were allowed to go on a self-guided route and for another, this was a much smaller overall cave system. The other major difference was that in Carlsbad there are many more steleotherms (stalactites and stalagmites) which give the place a much different feel. We definitely enjoyed the tour and at the end, we were able to ride back to the surface on a high-speed elevator that travelled over 500 feet in under a minute. After grabbing our badges, we were on our way down the road to visit the (now) open Visitor Center for Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Our cool animal sighting of the day was the road runner running across the road in front of the car!
When we got there we discovered that they (also) had a Junior Ranger Program and quite a lovely exhibit of the different animals and plants found in their park. So while having a blowy picnic lunch, the kids completed their Junior Ranger Activity Books, were sworn in as Junior Rangers and earned their next badge!!!
It was time to hit the road again and we were on our way to Safford, Arizona and the Roper Lake State Park. On the way we finally figured out why we were constantly arriving at places an hour later than we had planned. Our dear friend Bob had a glitch and his arrival times appeared to be out by exactly an hour. Perhaps this came about when we overloaded our cigarette lighter with all of the different plugs and gadgets that we have been utilising. We had installed a three plug power strip that plugged into the single plug that came with Odie. Between running Bob, charging iphones and ipods, charging the computer and running the fm transceiver to listen to music, something that morning had gone "POP". Maybe Bob had been hurt in the process??? Anyhoo, we made it to the park an hour later than planned (arriving at 7pm gets tiring when you have to build your house), pitched the tent, had a quick tea and into bed for all. At least when the sun went down it cooled a little bit, this, however, coincided with the coming out of the mosquitoes!!!!!
Waking up early (as seems to be usual now) we packed up the tent and headed to Carlsbad and the much talked about caverns. We seem to be stuck in unseasonably strong winds at the moment, which is nice for breezes while sleeping in a warm tent, but makes packing up tents and organizing bags and picnic lunches a challenge. For those Kiwis amongst you, we seem to be stuck in a perpetual Norwest Wind!!!! Nevertheless, we grabbed our clothes from the back of Odie, and went into the Visitor Centre to get ready to go on one of the self-guided tours of the caverns. As we checked in, they asked if we had been in any other caves recently. There is a disease called white-nose disease which has been decimating different bat populations around North America. Due to our visit to Mammoth Cave and trying to minimise the spread of this disease, we had to go back to the car and get different jerseys. Despite the surface temperature of over 100 degrees, the cave remains quite cool year-round. All re-organised, we headed down into the cavern.