We were soooooooo excited to use our Volunteer National Park Pass!!!
The initiation was completed at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The cave is dark. Very dark by camera standards (especially cameras without tripods and all of the goodies for shooting in a very dark and very large room). They do light up certain features but they can’t do it on a grand scale because it would cause algae to grow.
We’ll throw our disclaimer in here now to state that not one photo we got truly captures the experience of being inside this cave. The biggest difference between this cave and others we’ve been in is the enormity of it.
This was not the first thing that we saw but it sure was an amazing view. As we were standing there taking it all in we observed another visitor come up over the rise, glance at it briefly, keep walking and then tell her friend, “I could see that at Disney World.” Hmmm.
We started off from the natural entrance at our usual rate. Which, if you know anything about us, is pretty darn slow. Then we encountered a Ranger. She introduced us to the fact that the cave was a reef over 250 million years ago and although much of the evidence of this is covered up by cave formations fossils can still be found in blasted areas. She walked with us and showed us several of her favorite fossils. With this new knowledge and a borrowed flashlight in hand…
By the time we finally made it (four hours later) to the area that most people start at (a lot of folks skip the natural entrance and take the elevator down to see the Big Room only) we were exhausted! So, we opted to spend the night on some BLM land and return for a second day to explore the Big Room trail.
We took the elevator down to the Big Room entrance. From there we proceeded to walk at our usual pace taking four hours or so to cover the 1 mile long trail. The Big Room certainly lives up to its name. It’s ridiculously huge.
Several features in the cave are still actively being formed. You could come back ten years from now and probably not notice much though. It takes hundreds of years for things as large as what we were seeing to be created.
In a cave that sees as much human traffic as this one, seeing a white feature is quite a treat. If you had seen this cave when it was first discovered you would have seen rooms and rooms of white. Even if no one ever touched a feature in this cave, the seriously high volume of traffic would still leave a mark.
It would be great if this could be vacuumed up or cleaned out somehow but there isn’t much that can be done other than not letting people into the cave. All of this visitor ‘input’ lands in actively forming (aka, wet) features and then becomes a permanent part of it. The final result is a dirty gray color to most everything.
That is the price that is paid for us to have this opportunity. Thankfully, the portions of the cave open to the public only touch the surface of what exists here at Carlsbad Caverns. There are many beautiful and pristine areas that will never be opened for public viewing and that is how it should be. We need to be exposed, to know and to be informed but we only need to make a small impact to do that.
By the time we were done with our eight hours in Carlsbad Caverns we were a combination of amazed, enlightened and overwhelmed.
It may take us a few weeks to really process all that we learned from our observations and the input of the very friendly and informative ranger staff we met at Carlsbad Caverns. While we process, we’ll take the opportunity to move on down the road a bit and see what it has for us.