Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

There are not a lot of tourist attractions in Hobbs, New Mexico where Tim and I have spent the last week working on a Habitat for Humanity construction site.  So, on our day off, we went further afield.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is ninety miles away, a mere jaunt for New Mexicans and well within our driving range, too.

NPS Service Buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression

The park's landscape reminded us of the desert around our former hometown, Tucson, AZ, although this Chihuahuan Desert is much more desolate.  There were no palo verde or mesquite trees to provide a hint of shade.  Nor were there those majestic sentinels of the desert, the saguaros, that you see in the Sonoran Desert.  

However, according to the park ranger at Carlsbad, there are more cacti species here than any other desert ecosystem in the American Hemisphere.  You just have to look for them.

Be that as it may, we were there to view the landscape under the ground, the subterranean world of the Caverns which was unlike anything I've seen before.  Otherworldly!  More a moonscape than something earthbound!

I expected to see stalactites and stalagmites, although before this visit I would have had a hard time remembering which dripped down from the ceiling and which grew up from the floor of a cave.  (The carrot-looking stalactites cling "tight" to the ceiling; stalagmites grow up and "might" reach the ceiling.)

Even more so, just as the Eskimos have a hundred words to describe snow, speleologists (the scientists who study caves) have very descriptive names for the many formations they find..columns, draperies, soda straws, popcorn, lily pads and helictites.

Tim and I marveled not only at these incredible formations, but also at the tremendous effort the National Park Service has made in order to make the caves accessible to all.  

The miles and miles of cables perfectly placed to highlight, backlight and floodlight the formations.  

The paved pathway and handrails--that I certainly needed to keep my equilibrium in that dim darkness--weaves back and forth 1.75 miles down to the Big Room.  There is even a snack bar and restrooms that rival any luxury hotel halfway down inside the caves.  Amazing!

It's a world that defies description.  Even noted photographer Ansel Adams who tried to capture the essence of the park described Carlsbad Caverns as "...something that should not exist in relation to human beings.  Something that is as remote as the galaxy, incomprehensible as a nightmare, and beautiful in spite of everything."

We think he got it right!


  1. Great post! Been there a few times but it is always a wonder... Love the info on the CCC. Great pictures!

    1. Yes, my pictures hardly do it justice. The grandeur of the Big Room is pretty spectacular. Thanks for taking time to read this!

  2. Very descriptive and now I will always remember that the tites are on top and the mites on the bottom!😊

  3. Very descriptive and now I will always remember that the tites are on top and the mites on the bottom!😊

  4. Terry,
    I never knew the difference either. Definitely the best cave I've ever toured ...

  5. We visited there BK (before kids). Then Randy took the kids again when he visited his great aunt and uncle in Carlsbad. (I had another obligation and couldn't go). It was really spectacular. Thanks for taking me back!