A great day for caving

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
White's City Cavern Inn Whites City
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today was a busy day at Carlsbad caverns National Park. Our first tour started at 10:00. This was the King's Palace tour. This is the main introductory ranger led tour at the park and lasts around one and a half hours. You can usually get same day tickets for this one unlike the other tours. Unlike the 12 people on the Lower Cave tour, this one had 60 people. So not too much personal attention on this one. However, Pooh and I always strategize for these occasions by sticking to the front of the tour near the park ranger to get most of the info and to ask questions. The tour itself was magical – and I’ve been to many caves before. Most caves around the world have one or two main features. The King’s Palace tour had something going on every chamber you walked through. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is much larger than Carlsbad, but Carlsbad delivers on the eye candy portion much more than any other cave. Just this one mile tour had more stuff than any of the other caves. The only down part of the tour was our group was kinda dead. Not many questions and not much curiosity. Just a bunch of tourists going through the motions of an easy day trip. The room called King’s Palace was like a fantasyland of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, drapes, and all other kinds of cave shapes you could think of. I thought of it as a gothic cathedral. At the end of the trip we walked far ahead of the group to get away from the noise. Nothing worse than a spoiled loud child yelling in a cave.

We made it back to the top via the elevator before anyone else. We did this so we could beat the lunch line at the cafeteria in the visitors center, which we did. Pooh had a veggie burger and I had some New Mexico style pork BBQ. The food was OK but the portion was small. Still hungry, Pooh went to the truck to eat some more snacks. I went back to fetch a water before we went on our 2nd tour of the day.

Our next tour was the Natural Entrance. This is where Carlsbad Caverns was discovered and where most people entered the cave before the elevator was built. This is where the bats come out a sunset so they close this several hours beforehand. There is a zig-zag pathway several hundred feet down. It is only one mile from here to the elevators but you go down over 700 feet. Better to walk down and take the elevator up. I did see a few people walk up this way. I bet they lose a lung doing so. Right as you enter the cave this way a strong odor of guano hits you hard. Like most fecal matter it makes for a good fertilizer. The trail was great. Not as many "wow" features at King’s Palace, but the fact that you could walk this vast cave on your own and at you own pace was thrilling. We did run into a few people but not that many. What really irritated us was the few kids who yelled and screamed while their parents thought it was cute. Caves are best when it is silent which is one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever encountered. After our mile we took a break at the elevator area of the cave before we took our 3rd tour.

This was the Big Room tour which was another self guided. For this mile and a half it was stick full of cave eye candy with everything you want in a cave and nothing boring. Hard to describe here so just check out the photos and videos. Today was just some of the best caving experiences I have ever had. Total all the caves I have been too and they don’t equal what I have seen today. After this awesome last tour we went back up the elevator and drove back home. However, this time we took the back road which is called the Walnut Canyon Desert Drive. It is a 9 mile gravel road halfway down the mountain. Some places you could only go 5 mph so as not to send you flying in the air. Nothing different about the landscape compared to the regular road. It was just that this was a narrow one lane twisty gravel road.

Back at White’s City RV Quique was glad we came home and the AC kept the RV at 80 all day. 80 degrees in this dry weather is not too bad. Plus I don’t want the AC to freeze up. Pooh cooked some Indian eggplant for dinner. At dusk I went back up the hill to watch the bat program. This is our last night here so I hope it is good. Hearing the exact same ranger talk was not all exciting but this bat show did not disappoint. Thousands of bats came out tonight versus a few hundred on the previous nights. Once it got too dark to see the bats it was time to head back down the hill and call it a night.

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