We headed to Carlsbad Caverns Nat’l Park, after leaving Albuquerque. We were able to explore the Big Room in the Cavern and make it back out to catch the nightly Bat Flight. Within 5 minutes of the ranger beginning his speech about the flight, the tornado of bats started leaving the cave (and he quit speaking) and was still pouring out when we left 45 minutes later! They estimate that about 500,000 roost in the cave between May and October. We’re not allowed to film them or take pictures, as electronic devices are very disrupting to them. So, sorry, no blurry twilight pictures of black blobs. It was really cool to see the constant stream whirling out from the cave in a 360 and then flying off in a dark ribbon to the horizon, while hearing wingtips clicking. What was not so cool was the guano odor accompanying them (wind shifts would make it better or worse).
The Big Room is just that - it is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. Stats: 4,000 ft long and up to 350 ft high. The space is a little over 8 acres, or over 6 football fields!
First, we walked down into the cavern along this trail that was 1.25 miles long and very steep.
The first 1/3 or so was really stinky until we got down past the opening of the “bat cave”. There were beautiful formations along the way, but Steve kept commenting every time I stopped for a picture, “just wait ‘til you see the Big Room”.
This was a reflecting pool at the base of the columns above:
Hopefully you can see the railing at the bottom center of the next picture, to give you the scale of the formations, and the depth of the trail:
Water was dripping throughout the cave, continually making new formations or adding to those already present. Can you appreciate the wetness of this one?
The little warty growths are called “popcorn”. They are another type of formation (speleothem) besides the basic stalactites and stalagmites.
My favorite types of formations are curtains:
and soda straws:
We treated the hike back out (up 750 ft in about 1 mile) (signs said it compared to a 75 story building) as our exercise for the day (besides the miles of walking on the trail throughout the cavern), and we did it in 30 minutes! As I said in a previous post, “one foot in front of the other”… Of all the other people we saw in the cavern, only 3 other couples attempted the climb that afternoon.
Now on to White Sands National Monument. This Bleached Earless Lizard is found only in White Sands, with its protective coloration. He’s only about the size of your pinky.
This is how you study the little guy with binoculars:
We walked along the trail for about a mile, following the line of footprints, and heeding the warning to not proceed from one pole, unless you could see the next.
The line of mountains along one border gave a neat contrast to the dunes,
… while in the other direction you saw only sand and sky.
As unlikely as it was, there were large puddles of standing water in the parking areas (in a desert!).
This is what the dunes looked like up close:
One last shot before we’re on to TX.