Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico

Our first stop coming out of hibernation in Tempe this year was in Deming, New Mexico January 24th.  It was just a single night ‘stop along the road’ in the typical gravel site. Burnt burgers at the restaurant next door came with an impressive $50 price tag so we’ll just move on…

The pass after Almagordo New Mexico on highway 82 was especially scenic and not to be missed on the way through.

We would have liked to see White Sands National Monument, but the political shenanigans of the government shutdown still had it closed. The gates were locked so we couldn’t even look around on our own. We pushed onward to Carlsbad, New Mexico to stay at Brantley Lake State Park. The sites were nicely spaced with great views of the lake. I love changing up the scene as we move around!  It’s so refreshing. I just have to think a bit to remember where I am some mornings!

We lucked out when the government shut down was lifted on Friday, January 25th, the day we arrived at Brantley Lake, about an hour’s drive from the caverns.  Carlsbad Caverns opened back up on Saturday at noon. We were one of the first to go into the visitor’s center on Sunday and it was pretty quiet. Hiking in through the natural cave opening allowed us to see the audience seating area for viewing the bats emerging on summer nights – looks like it draws huge crowds and I’d like to see it sometime.  A steep downhill path led us all the way to the main rooms where it finally leveled out and the path continued to wind through the various rooms.

We were alone in the caverns most of the time and it was quiet enough that we could hear the water dripping and almost hear the cave breathing! Caverns have really amazing acoustics so a word at one end can be heard almost at the other end, even footsteps can disturb the sounds of the cave. The steep pathway was not as inviting to climb UP so we opted to take the elevator out of the cave to the visitor’s center, 750 feet above. We decided not to take the optional ranger led tour because of timing. and crawling around through narrow openings wasn’t high on our list.

Carlsbad is most impressive for the size and I’m sure the bats flights are a sight to see but we liked Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona much better for the colors and concentration of cave features. I imagined the views of the formations would be like swimming among coral reefs in the ocean, minus the sea life. The cave air was thick and heavy so it could feel like breathing water. Even though there were lights throughout, the darkness was disorienting at times and I got dizzy a time or two looking up at the formations.

Another place to put on the return list, timing: When the bats roost here!

 

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