Carlsbad is one of many limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea over 200 million years ago. Unlike many caves it was not carved by water, but were dissolved by sulfuric acid.
The park ranger in the visitor's center somehow persuaded me to hike down the natural entrance despite signs everywhere containing dire warnings about the strenuous nature of that hike. I just figured it was a little more than a mile and all downhill...how hard could it be, right?
You can see the starting switchbacks of the trail in this picture.
The Rangers and warning signs are NOT JOKING when they say the natural entrance trail is steep...you drop over 750 feet (79 stories) in a 1 1/4 mile. Trust me, you will feel it in the morning.
Why yes, that light is the entrance through which I initially entered the cave.
Not a great picture, but you can see the trail. It was not only super steep, but also wet. The handrails were even wet, and there was loose gravel in places. Can you say dangerous??
Looking back up at the trail switchbacks.
I was deathly afraid that I would slip and roll the entire way down to the Big Room like a Plinko disc, but I didn't. I did however, slip and fall on an asphalt patch, that was wet, and had loose gravel. Luckily, I had been hiking with this cute little Mom and daughter from Michigan named Debbie and Nicole.
They very heroically saved me from rolling to the bottom of the cave, made sure I was okay and let me tag along for the rest of the day. It was awesome, and they were a great family!
That's Jim on the bench. He was part of the awesome Michigan family!
Debbie & Nicole also convinced me to do the self-guided tour of the Big Room - I'll admit I didn't take a lot of pictures.
This photo reminded me of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam at the Sistine Chapel. This was to be a recurring theme...
Also, regardless of outside temperature the caverns stay at a brisk 55 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit. You know it's brisk because even the formations get cold...
This formation is actually called "The Caveman", but I think it should be called "The Thinker with Wookie" because that thing sure looks like Chewbacca. Another theme for this trip would be "rocks that look like stuff".
And for all my sisters and SIL who LOVE these kinds of pics...
"I'm a ranger!"
I also went to the Bat Flight Program that night, and I have to say it was less impressive than I imagined. Growing up our neighbor had bats literally living in her attic and during the summer we would sit on our porch in the gloaming and watch the bats fly out and about. There were more at Carlsbad, but I kind of expected them to fly out in one giant swarm that would blacken the sky. Instead they proceeded out in a very orderly fashion a few at a time. I've compared this to communion were they have ushers that indicated which pew should go next. So, cool, but not overwhelmingly impressive on the bat flight.
All in all, Carlsbad was an excellent stop and should definitely be on The List.