I have always wanted to go to Carlsbad Caverns, so this was going to be one of the top stops on this road trip. Carlsbad, NM is a spit in the road town with the only attraction being the caverns. The caverns were formed by secretion of acids from rain water through the ground and into layers of soft material that was once a sea bed. The caverns are under a plateau on the high desert. You hike down into the cave and descend over 800 feet. We took the long natural entrance path rather than the elevator down. It is a serious hike with switch backs deeper and deeper into the ground. It is rather disconcerting when the light from the opening disappears as you enter into the blackness. The smell from bat guano and cave swallows is amazing as you enter the cave. Just hold your breath and descend deeper into the underworld.
We took a guided tour of the most stunning rooms in the caves. In one of the largest and most impressive rooms, the guide asked our group (made up mostly of midwestern bible-thumping white people) how many years they thought it took for the geological processes to create these massive formations. Chris raised his hand and said, “The bible says 6,000 years.” You should have seen the guide squirm out of this one. She mumbled something about scientific thought and we quickly moved on to the next cave room.
View from the parking lot out towards the plains.
Natural cave entrance. Switch backs in foreground.