Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Honeymooners (Day 2) Big Cave

Day 2 Update

Origination: Carlsbad NM

Destination: Roswell NM

Stops: Carlsbad Caverns

Well our Best Western didn’t have wireless in the room so I have to type this in offline and then update it later. That's something to know about Best Western, they don't actually have high speed internet in their rooms. I'm just sayin.

Day 2 proved to be as fun as Day 1 with a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. As I said yesterday we would decide if we were disappointed. We were not. Not in the least bit. We did realize the difference was just in size really. Carlsbad had most of the same things that Sonora had but the huge difference was size. There were aircraft hangar size rooms here in Carlsbad where all of Sonora could probably fit inside the great room of Carlsbad.

Another difference was a present sizeable bat population at Carlsbad (nowhere near the size of the Frio Bat Cave but I haven't posted that trip yet) where Sonora is behind locked doors so no animals are in there, well except us maybe. Carlsbad is also a bunch colder than Sonora and I found myself cold even though I had long pants on. A light long sleeve shirt would be good if you get cold easily like I do, Em was a bit cold too. And a surprising one was that you can take bags and packs for your stuff into Carlsbad but cannot take anything into Sonora. And as an example of hugeness of Carlsbad is that there are elevators, and a snack bar and gift shop in the cave itself, there is even a mail drop. But better? Hmm, I'm not sure I can say that. We liked both of them very much.

We did some notable tours. The first tour we did was the Natural Entrance tour which is a 1.5 hour walk-in to the cave through the original entrance found by Jim White in the 1890's. We paused at the outside entrance and watched swallows leaving the cave making circles in the large alcove before getting enough velocity to make the turn and go out into the open blue sky.

The temperature was already dropping just inside the giant maw we entered willingly. The cool breeze beckoned us in from the 80 degree weather behind us. And it got dark. Man made light was all we could see after a few turns. Dimly lit expanses lay before us, their true length initially hidden from our eyes while they adjusted from the bright desert sun we enjoyed only a few minutes ago.

Immediately we knew that the two caves were different. The predominant feature of Carlsbad was "hugeness", with Sonora's being "fragility". Carlsbad had large suture looking seams where time and water had worn the rock that surrounded us into a drainage system into a shallow sea. Stalactites and sta

lagmites were in abundance already in the first room but more was sure to come.

As we made our way deeper into the cave more flowstone was seen, more 'cave bacon' or draperies were seen hanging massively on the walls and multitudes of 'soda straws'. The path is all paved in this part of the cave and if you do the audio tour you can stop along the way and learn about different formations and how the cavern was formed. We were headed for our Lower Cave tour so we couldn't take the time for the actual audio tour, besides we were about to get a up close and personal tour of the lower area.

The 'second' tour we took was the Lower Cave tour
We met our ranger 'Mike' who had been doing tours there for 10 summers and was a second grade teacher, he was nice and very informative as a teacher would be. We were issued helmets and we installed the batteries we brought and tested them. The first part of the tour was to negotiate a flow stone formation down to a

platform and you can see Em styling on the rope here:

Then down to a 50' series of ladders that lead down to the lower area. It's not as bad as you think. It's a lot like climbing a swimming pool ladder, wet and slippery but with good handles.

Then we head into the lower area with Mike. They have a strict path marked off with orange tape so you can tell where it's ok to walk. They also have red and white tape showing areas of particular sensitivity or fragility. We step lightly single file through this undeveloped area and it is amazing to see.

The delicacy of the formations really came out in this area and had the cozy feeling Sonora gave me. Mike was full of interesting information and was a pleasure to follow around. We sat down in a small area and did a black out (all lights off) and sat there quietly listening to the ringing in my ears, nice. We were 800+ feet down and nary a sound was heard way back in this small dead end. Towards the end of the tour we were allowed to crawl through one of the crawlspaces if we so chose and of course I did cuz I'm an adrenaline junky. It wasn't too bad actually, not tight at all, would be willing to do much more when we go back.

(Will he see his shadow?)

After that we made our way out to the regular path

again. We returned our helmets and thanked Mike for a most excellent tour.

The last tour we did was the Great Room self tour. It was more cavey goodness. Huge pillars and delicate straws in huge rooms. Large multiple guardians stood in repose proudly wearing their age in wrinkles, ripples and above all, size. The larger formations are not necessarily the oldest but do show a very long term deposit.

Here are some good shots:

We had seen something few see and felt enriched somehow seeing another piece of our world that you could not imagine but exists if you seek it out. Sometimes the well worn path too can affect one's life and make a difference.

Myself? I came away being reminded that I am a speck in a long timeline I've no control over and once more have no real clue what's going on anyway. My mind can't possibly comprehend what a rock already knows to be true. Then again, I can always get up and leave for some pancakes if I want to. So nyah nyah.

We left Carlsbad feeling good, tired, and hungry. We made Roswell by 8pm and checked in the Best Western got some food, came back and went to sleep. Whew. Day 2 was awesome!

Good bye for now, I have to go mess with the pictures from Day3 already.

Thanks for stopping by,

Jim of Jimly

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