Author: Sean Smith
Sean D Smith
Looking for a place to take our two girls during a cold winter morning, ended up with us heading down the road to Carlsbad Cavern in Southeastern New Mexico. The caverns are iconic in more ways than one despite being only the 5th largest in North America, the name alone conjures up images of massive rooms of beautiful ice cycle shapes flowing form the ceiling, columns and curtains of rock like waterfalls, and vistas of sweeping underground rooms.
Rightly so. You get all of these from Carlsbad Caverns along with a nice and toasty visitors center. Which was great on a cold day. The caverns themselves stay at a pretty constant 56ºF, and you have two choices of entry, the natural entrance and an elevator that takes you down into the big room. We opted to go in the natural entrance and hike down the one and a quarter mile trail to the big room.
It was more than a little cold on the 5 minute walk from the visitors center to the natural entrance, but the view was well worth the brief discomfort. During the summer this spot is an amphitheater to watch the bats come out of the cave at dusk. Switchbacks took us down into the cave and out of the wind. The natural entrance normally closes around 3 pm, but the weather got nasty quick while we were in the cave and this entrance ended closing before one from ice. The light from the entrance showed the path for the first few hundred feet before artificial illumination took over.
After getting warmed up down in the cave our two year old wanted to walk and run between all the formations that she could see. The trail was well paved with a steep slope, which she managed to navigate without falling. Not long into the trip and she almost mastered saying stalactite and stalagmite, column and drapery, pop corn and soda straws – the last two came pretty quick.
Even the toddler wrapped on mommy wanted to touch and see all the different rocks and colors. Both girls love to explore, and the caverns gave them plenty to look at and see
The trial is not terribly long. Both the trail around the big room and the entrance trail are only 1.25 miles, but for a toddler that is quite a distance to travel. The rock formations kept her interest, but eventually her legs just gave out. Unsurprisingly, I ended up carrying her. We normally take our back pack along, but today we had gone with out. So instead, she lay across my arms looking at ceiling and the stalactites hanging down.
After finishing up the loop trail, we took the elevators back up to the surface. The cafe offers up locally sourced food options that tasted pretty good after a long hike. The girls played a little more, and we got a few souvenirs for them before scraping the ice off the car (how fast can the weather change?!) and heading out. On the way back that same thought that passes everyone’s head who goes down into a cave with modern conveniences passed through our heads, what was it like for Jim White as a boy to explore a cave with a homemade wire ladder and a head lamp? And how grateful was he every time he got out and saw daylight streaming down?
***Since I’m in Antarctica without internet access for 22 consecutive days, I’ve selected a few articles from other great bloggers to share with you. I’ll be back on February 3rd, 2015 with loads of fantastic adventures from Antarctica to share. Chat soon.***