Tess needed some serious road time to get her drivers license (Road Warrior), so a mini road trip to Carlsbad Caverns seemed like the perfect day trip. I wasn’t wrong. The New Mexico highways are empty, straight and ideal for a learning driver to get some practice in.
The drive from Roswell to Carlsbad was beautiful. Red desert, sparse mountains, a storm miles away providing stunning displays of lightening without every crossing our path. The hours in the car passed quickly, even going a little under the speed limit. My kids saw pumpjacks for the first time, pumping crude oil out of the earth. A coyote crossed the road at his leisure, giving us a good first view of the extensive wildlife here in New Mexico. And, of course, we spelunked!
The kids here in New Mexico, in most of the US, are back in school. We pulled up into the spacious parking lot at the caverns and had our pick of spaces. Tess still choose one far from the entrance to avoid other cars. She really needs to work on her parking skills, but Dave has plans for her. Once inside I had to herd the kids from the souvenir shop (they had rocks!) and over to the ticket desk. I’d decided to take the elevator down & up rather than hiking in through the natural entrance. Hiking in through the natural entrance is a very steep, and stinky (lots of bat guano), 1.25 mile hike. I’m not yet up to that long a hike.
The elevator ride down is a fairly fast drop of 750 feet. Our ears were popping like crazy! As soon as the elevator doors opened, the wet dank cave smell wafted in. Dane stressed on the smell and then almost panicked when we stepped out into the cave. There were big boulders hanging over our heads! What if they fall?
I did my best to reassure my youngest son, explaining how the cave was formed about 265 million years ago. He relaxed. A little. I also bought him a souvenir mining hat, with headlight, and while that didn’t quite do the trick he did agree to explore. A little.
The cave itself is breathtaking. It is ginormous! The size & landscape so deep beneath the surface is astounding. It is a completely new world. Alien in nature. The stunning speleothems (cave formations) grew drip-by-drip to decorate the cave:
The slowest drips tend to stay on the ceiling long enough to deposit their mineral there. Common speleothems found on the ceiling may be stalactites, soda straws, draperies, ribbons or curtains. The faster the dripping, the more likely it is to make some type of decoration on the floor. A wide range of decorations on the cave floor include totem poles, flowstone, rim stone dams, lily pads, shelves, cave pools, and of course stalagmites.
I fervently wished for my real camera (currently with Soren in Columbus getting fixed) and thanked my lucky stars at the amazing photo’s my Google Pixel 3a could capture. I also wished my body was stronger & I could’ve spent all day exploring not just the main cave but also the King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Slaughter Canyon Cave, Lower Cave, Hall of the White Giant and (maybe) the Spider Cave. The cave(s) are just magical.
Even better? The Bat Flight Program we attended after our spelunking adventure. This has been on my bucket list since I visited with Papa (Dave’s dad) in 2002. Back then Tess was a baby & the boys were crazy. I need to find those photo’s when I get back home. I had tied her to me with one of Gramma’s sheets, I didn’t have a baby carrier, and the caves do not allow strollers. The hike down (with toddler Cole) was terrifying! And stinky (again, lots of bat guano). By the time we finished that hike, both Papa & I were done and we skipped the Bat Flight Program.
Not this time. We headed over to the mini amphitheater and settled in early. Just in case the bats decided to come out ahead of schedule. We happily listened to Park Ranger Max talk about the desert, wildlife, bats, and more. Answering questions, raising hands, asking questions, having a wonderful time. Before Max started talking he taught us all the bat signal (the exact same hand signal we use to say “let’s go”). But. We all got so caught up in bat facts we forgot the bat signal. Except for Tess. As soon as she saw that first bat fly out of the cave her hand shot up and started circling.
For the next 30+ minutes we happily, quietly, watched bat, after bat, after bat fly out into the night sky. One more thing crossed off my bucketlist. I 1,000% recommend seeing this bat flight at least once.