The things that have most stuck with me from Carlsbad Caverns are the people, the mountains, and the railing glowing in the gloom of the cavern. This is the first time we have been to a National Park on our trip and the people are entirely different from anywhere else that we have been. (OK, thinking about it, we did go to the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center in Chattanooga and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park west of Austin so maybe this is the first time we have been to a classic Western National Park.) The people are older and whiter and, somehow, more interested, in a sort of academic way, in what they are seeing (in other words, I suppose, they are more like us). As an aside, every explanatory sign in the park presupposes evolution and deep time and I am reminded of how much work it must take to hold on to a belief that the Universe is only 6,000 years old. End aside. The mountains, ahh, the mountains. We have not seen mountains like this since the end of September and seeing them brings back how big a part of our life mountains are. Almost any place in the Far West has mountains in the background, they anchor the view.
Our motel is just outside the park so, even after our usual late start, we are at the caverns well before lunch. There are two ways into the caverns, an elevator which takes the visitor directly down into the main cavern itself and walking about a mile and a quarter, through the natural opening and down about 750 feet on a paved path. We took the latter route. BTW, I was glad to read that people can’t bring their drones into the cave. The walk into the cave was great but about 3/4s of the way on the one and a half mile walk around The Big Room, both Michele and I were getting bored. Yes, it is terrific but it is also repetitious. We took the elevator back to the surface, had a late lunch in the cafeteria in the Park Headquarters/elevator building, and decided to kill a couple of hours and then come back to the mouth of the cave to see the evening fly out of a half million bats. Watching the bats fly out was interesting, for a while, but it was getting dark and cold so we left after about a three-quarters of an hour (with almost everybody else, I want to add). While we were killing time, however, we had a super time driving along a ridge that looked across Walnut Canyon and then into Walnut Canyon, itself, marveling at the beauty of the area, all the time knowing that this was not for everybody but it sure is our kind of country. At the end of the drive, we looked down on the flat plain where we had been stuck the day before and that night, returning from a surprisingly good dinner at Yellow Brix in Carlsbad – where I had pork chops sous-vide which I think were the best pork chops I have ever eaten – looking at the same area, we were surprised at how full it looked with gas burn off fires everywhere. Michele suggested that we take a look the next morning on our way to El Paso.