17 September 2005

Carlsbad Caverns

Ok, so we arrived in Carlsbad, NM on Wednesday the 14th. We got set up, got settled, and started planning what all we wanted to do while we are here. Carlsbad the city is pretty disappointing. There really isn’t much here in the city proper. After staying in Roswell for a week, which has a really cute town feeling to it, Carlsbad is a let down. The one thing Carlsbad has going for it are the National Parks/Forests and State Parks surrounding it.

Thursday the 15th we drove to the Carlsbad Caverns (http://www.nps.gov/cave/), what an incredible place. Again, the pictures we took won’t do it justice; you have to experience it to understand. At the visitor center you have several options for tours of the caverns. We chose to take the elevator down and walk the Big Room trail because I was having problems with my knee and walking down the Natural Entrance is ‘strenuous’. The perimeter walk around the Big Room is one mile. The cavern stays at a constant temperature year-round of about 63 degrees, so my nose got pretty cold by the time we finished. It says that the tour of the Big Room only takes about an hour or so, but we were down there for better than two hours, taking our time, taking pictures. I tried to take some video, but have no clue how it turned out. Every time I turned on my camera it told me the lens cap was still on because it was dark, o-well…I tried. The caverns really are something and I wish that my knee had been feeling good enough for us to walk down the natural entrance, maybe we’ll have time to get back out there before we leave the area.

After touring through the caverns we hung around the area for a couple hours and waited for the Bat Flights. The natural entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns is home to about 400,000 Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. These bats aren’t really big, so the pictures don’t show them very well, but all the black spots are bats. We watched them for about an hour and when we left they were coming out in thicker groups, and still at a steady pace. I have no idea how long it took them all to come out. There were a couple of things that surprised me about the bats flight. One – they were so quiet, with that many wings you’d think it would be louder, with a humming sound or something, but there’s nothing. You have to strain to hear anything and put your hands to your ears before you can hear a tiny sound of beating wings. Two – the smell, they put off a smell (when you are back a ways) something like stale tortilla chips, although the closer you get the stronger and more noxious is gets. They exit the cave in a counter clockwise motion, although no one knows why, and head out to the south-ish. It was really quite amazing to see so many and they all sort of followed each other.

That’s about it for the caverns that I can think of off the top of my head, here are some more pictures from the caverns. Oh, right, it’s 750 feet underground.