|Getting ready to descend into the depths.|
|An oil well donkey, making Texas look legit.|
The next morning, we headed south of town to see the world famous Carlsbad Caverns. For the first time since we left Florida, we actually had to drive up a few hills.
|The first hills of any significance that we have seen since Florida. The south east US is flat.|
A short way along, we approached the gaping, dark hole in the side of the mountain called the “Natural Entrance.” There were benches set outside the entrance where you could sit to watch the stream of bats flying out in the evening. In fact, apparently that is how the caves were first discovered (at least by European settlers). A cowboy saw what he thought was black smoke filling the air in the distance. When he went closer to investigate, he realized it was thousands and thousands of bats winging their way into the darkening sky.
|The Natural Entrance. Still too early for bats.|
|Coming into the twilight zone. Say goodbye to any light from above.|
|The Whale's Mouth.|
|Awesome stalagmites and stalactites.|
|Hanging out in the visitor's centre to warm up before heading down into the caves again.|
|Watching out for Orcs.|
We wandered along the paths in the big room for about an hour, then went on a tour of the “King’s Palace”, so named because of the extremely detailed formations and draperies of stone. The highlight of the tour was the couple of minutes when the ranger turned out all the lights, so we could fully appreciate the depths of the darkness that the early explorers faced. After a couple minutes of impenetrable blackness, she lit a lighter, which, remarkably, cast a glow further than you would have expected. Still, the first cowboys to venture into this place must have been incredibly brave. I couldn’t believe they ever found their way out, but the ranger told me she had never heard of anyone being lost permanently in the cave system.
|In The King's Palace, getting ready for the blackout. It was about 13 degrees in the caves, which is the coldest we have been for a long time.|
|Formations in the King's Palace.|
|More of the incredible ceiling formations.|
If you ever happen to be in Southern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns are definitely a must see. Particularly because I don’t think there is much else to see in Southern New Mexico. But, seriously, the caves blew us all away, and are definitely worth the visit.