Carlsbad, yes he is!
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is 'The Grand Canyon with a roof on it" - as Will Rogers once put it. Centered within the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico, the main attraction of the caverns is the show cave, and boy did it show us!
Long, long ago - say 900 AD, Native Americans came across this giant cave system. The settlers only noticed it a century ago, after seeing swarms of bats rushing out of a hole in the ground at sunset.
It's a very big deal to celebrate the bat's return flight here in Carlsbad. The National Park hosts a huge 'bat breakfast' on the inaugural return date (around 5am) and then from April to October, every night, millions of the Mexican Freetail bats stream in a massive cloud from the huge opening of Carlsbad Caverns.
You can tell what a show it is because surrounding the entrance there is a huge arc of amphitheater seats to accommodate the hundreds of nightly spectators!
There are many different ways to experience the caverns. We were feeling ambitious, so we opted out of taking the elevator to the 'Big Room'. Instead, we followed the traditional explorer's route from the historic natural entrance.
We zig-zagged down for a mile into the cave and through a series of underground rooms where formations are highlighted, to the 'Big Room'. Our self-guided tour down into the main show room ran about 45 minutes.
We came upon park rangers who gave us bits of information about the cave and it's formations. Here above, we learned about the 'Iceberg Rock' which dropped some 600,000 years ago - scientists know this because they were able to calculate the relative age of the stalactites which were chopped off and sitting at an angle upon discovery. Below here is one of Gigi's favorite, 'Whales Mouth' - the sculpture speaks for itself!
We took so many pictures we finally had to say, enough - just look!
Once we entered 'The Big Room' we were speechless. It's impossible to describe what we saw as there are so many beautiful formations within Carlsbad. You could say it's an under-play-ground of limestone, formed in shapes beyond your imagination: frozen waterfalls, strands of pearls, soda straws, miniature theatres, fairy-lands, draperies, cavemen and popcorn!
THE BIG ROOM ENTRANCE
When gazing at the sculptures you can't help but be grateful for their discovery, and you find yourself asking, 'How in the world?'. This is the part where our resident scientist was helpful! You see, the story of the Carlsbad Caverns begins 250 to 280 million years ago when the area was an inland sea with limestone reef.
Technically Speaking, here's 'how in the world':
Tectonic forces help make possible the rising of the reef above the sea level.
The sulfuric acid in the groundwater slowly dissolved the limestone off the rising reef, creating underground chambers and caverns.
Rainwater from above the surface trickled below the ground mixing with the carbon dioxide and forming carbonates.
These carbonates deposited in the caverns forming stalactites and stalagmites of different kinds, like draperies, chandeliers, columns, and popcorns. Phew!
THE DOLL'S THEATRE
THE ROCK OF AGES
TEMPLE OF THE SUN
THE THREE GIANTS
CRYSTAL SPRING DOME: The largest still growing speleothem
EARLY EXPLORER'S LADDER
We'll, we about exhausted our time here, we could go on and on, but new adventures await! Before we go, we should give props to the one who discovered and promoted Carlsbad Caverns. In 1898, while looking for his stray cattle, 16-year old Jim Larkin White found the cave. Imagine that, I know my kids would have gone in there, probably without telling us, MIA for hours!
Bye for now, it's time for us to SEE MORE OF AMERICA!