Wow. I truly felt like a little kid walking though the caves here, full of wonder and imagination. Do you remember looking at clouds and seeing different animals and creatures in them? It was the same thing at Carlsbad Caverns and all of it’s natural cave formations. I was reminded of a lot of ocean critters – which makes sense since this cave began it’s life as a reef, millions of years ago. I also could NOT stop singing the Little Mermaid song, Part of Your World. You know the one…
Look at this trove
How many wonders can one cavern hold?
Anyway, when Mike and I arrived, we got our tickets to the cave. First, it’s a hell of a deal. We have the annual park pass so we didn’t have to pay anything else. While there are guided ranger tours for a small fee, you can self guide through a large majority of this cave and don’t have to buy anything additional besides the entrance fee. At Mammoth Cave, it was the opposite. Almost everything required a tour guide, and it really wasn’t possible to see everything on just one tour.
The caverns here are some of the largest in the country and the world. For my science nerds, the caves are super unique because they were created by sulfuric acid, rather than by carbonic acid like 90% of the world’s caves are. Mike and I walked through the Natural Entrance which was an incredible introduction. It takes you past the Bat Cave, the Iceberg Rock, and the Boneyard. There is an elevator to take down directly to the Big Room, but if you’re physically capable and not lazy, you should definitely walk down. The Big Room is the star of the park though. It is the size of 14 football fields, and holds so much beauty. I have seen some of the world’s most beautiful art and architecture, all over the world (humble brag). But when you compare them to what nature can create…. it makes everything else look like preschoolers finger paintings.
I can’t quite describe or photograph everything I saw, nor the wonderment of it. At least not well enough to do it justice. But I promise, if you visit, you will not be disappointed. On a more immature note – a lot of the formations look like penises. Really, really large rock penises. So basically, this park is for people with all levels of intellect.
There are a lot of trails above ground here too. However, this is the “sister park” to Guadalupe Mountains, which we had just come from. And it has a verrrrry similar landscape, so we did not feel the need to hike more desert and see more yuccas, agaves, and sotol plants. Personally, if you venture down here, my recommendation would be to visit both parks and save the hiking for Guadalupe Mountains – less people, better camping options, and a larger variety of trails. My only regret about our visit to Carlsbad is that we missed the bat flight. It’s an evening program, available from early spring to October, where thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out of the cave at dusk. It looks incredible. So, don’t make the same mistake we did and miss out!
After I got my Junior Ranger badge from Ranger Dave, we bailed Luca out of the park’s kennel (it was only $10… but I wouldn’t do it again. It was too much like a sad shelter. When we picked him up, he was out of water and had poop smeared all in the cage), and headed up to Colorado!