Tag Archives: Carlsbad Caverns

Canvassing the Caverns: Carlsbad

9 Apr

Nestled beneath the Chihuahuan Desert of the Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns holds an expansive maze of wonder deep below the desert surface.  Once I arrived at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, I had approximately 3 hours to spend exploring.  The park ranger devised a plan to maximize my available time.  I would descend into the cave by elevator, explore the Big Room, then hike out via the NaturalEntrance Route.

Equipped with my audio tour guide, I quickly descended via elevator 755 feet.  The Big Room, although relatively flat, is a sprawling 8.2 acre space of decorations that seem delicate and graceful despite their massive limestone foundation.  In the dim light, it is difficult to capture the magnitude or infinite details of the formations that have formed by drops of water over hundreds of thousands of years.

As I observed the line for the elevator to ascend the cavern —a 1.5 hour wait!— I smirked, “Hah! I will hike out of here in about half the time you people are standing around doing nothing!”  I quickly realized, as my lungs heaved to rip from my chest and my heart pounded such that I could feel my pulse thumping inside my face, that the only “bad” in Carlsbad is the hike out!  Sure, smart people take the downhill hike and then finish with a leisurely elevator ride.  But the idea was to have the opportunity to experience more of the cave – the Main Corridor and out to the Natural Entrance—without standing around wasting time.  The only catch was that all hikers had to be up to a certain point by 3 p.m. (to ensure everyone has enough time to finish the climb before they close the Natural Entrance’s gate).  Otherwise, the ranger would be waiting to send me hiking back down into the cavern to then take the elevator.  Huh??  I guess it doesn’t have to make sense; it’s just how it is.  This sense of urgency made most of us hikers feel the need to charge forward which, between the hoofing it full speed and gasping moments of recovery, didn’t really correspond with “seeing more of the cave”.  Nevertheless, I did make it out with time to spare.  As I trudged out into natural light for the first time in hours, red-faced and frizzy from the cave humidity, I had completed the climb 20 minutes faster than the ranger predicted.  Who’s bad ass now, Carlsbad?

(Click a thumbnail to then scroll through a slide show)

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