Over the long weekend of 17 Feb 11, Tracy and I hopped on a plane and went down to visit
Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. We flew from Salt Lake to Albuquerque on
Thursday night, and then rented a car and drove towards Carlsbad. We spent the night
Thursday in Moriarty, NM. On Friday we drove to Carlsbad. We took a roundabout way to get
there since we had all day, but that part of New Mexico still didn't really interest us much. We
drove through Roswell, but it was a bigger city and didn't seem as "alien-y" as we had
expected, so we didn't spend much time there. Then we got into Carlsbad and got a hotel
room. We hiked a little at Slaughter Canyon, and then headed back to the room. On Saturday
we got up early and headed out to Slaughter Canyon Cave for our reservation to hike that
cave. After a short 3/4 of a mile hike up to the cave entrance, the rangers met the group and
we went into the cave. The cave was really cool. It was an easy walk, with lots of really cool
formations. This was Tracy's first real exposure to a cave, and she really enjoyed it. The cave
was so big, though, that you really need a really bright flashlight to be able to see it well. The
rooms are just too big for a regular flashlight. There were only about 20 people on the guided
tour, so it wasn't too bad. The cave itself was really cool.
After leaving Slaughter Canyon, we drove up to the main cave and hiked in from the Natural
Entrance. The main cave is more developed, and the route through the cave is a paved
walkway, unlike Slaughter Canyon. There are also electrical lights, unlike Slaughter. The
descent down from the Natural Entrance was interesting, and it was cool seeing how deep the
cave goes. Otherwise, the walk from the Natural Entrance was mostly uneventful. Once you
get into the Big Room, though, the cave becomes really cool. It also becomes more crowded,
because there's an elevator down from the visitor's center. But the Big Room is...well, it's big.
Really big. And it has all kinds of really cool formations. Unfortunately, it's hard to describe all
of the great formations, and it was hard to take pictures of them all. So, suffice it to say that it
was great, and it was definitely worth seeing. It was amazing how big the room was and how
extensive and varied the formations were.
After making the full loop around the big room, we tried to hike back out the natural entrance
because the line at the elevator was really long. However, the trail out was already closed for
the night, so we had to wait in line at the elevator. We eventually made it back up to the top,
and went back into Carlsbad for the night.
On Sunday we got up and headed back to the park for our next reserved tour of Spider Cave.
This is a wild tour, and there were only six of us with two rangers to guide us. We had to wear
helmets, gloves, flashlights, and knee pads. We had to climb down a ladder to get into the
cave (after the ranger cleared it for rattlesnakes). I went first behind the ranger, and the
beginning of the cave was so small and tight, that I thought I had taken a wrong turn since I
couldn't see the ranger's light. The beginning of the cave will certainly test to see if you have
claustrophobia! Spider Cave was really cool, with lots os crawling and lots of really nice
formations. The first part of Spider reminded me of caves back home, with tight crawls and
narrow passages. Towards the back, though, the formations turned incredible, and it didn't
look anything like home. Again, it's hard to describe the formations, and it was hard to take
pictures, so I guess it will just have to suffice to say that the formations were really cool and
definitely worth seeing. How was that for a description?
But we eventually crawled back out of the cave, hiked back to the car, and began the long
drive back home. We drove west from the park over the mountains and spent the night in
Alamogordo. We got up the next morning and checked out White Sands, which was kind of
neat, but it wasn't worth going out of your way to see. Then we drove back up into the Lincoln
National Forest in the mountains outside of Alamogordo, and those mountains were pretty
cool. It was nice to see some decent mountains there in southern New Mexico. But eventually
we had to hit the road and head back to Albuquerque and catch our flight back home.
This was a really good trip. The Caverns are definitely worth seeing. The formations were
incredible, and the rooms were huge. The park is so far from anything that I don't know if we'll
ever go back, but I'm very glad we went.