17 March, 2020

A Day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park #NewMexicoTrip #Day2

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Read our #Day1 Travelogue of New Mexico trip here.

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is unlike any other caves. These caves were formed 20 - 30 million years ago in Guadalupe mountains. Around 110 caves were formed with stunning formations due to the mineral-laden water seeping through the fractures of ancient limestone sedimentation. 

Geologists found that sulfuric acid played an important role in the dissolution of all Guadalupe mountain caves.

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Our whole New Mexico trip was planned around spending more time exploring Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument. So, we decided to stay one night at Whites city to start early to the caves and explore the caves with full energy after breakfast.

Caves open at 8 AM itself. Since we were visiting the Caves with 2 kids - 8 and 5 yr olds, we had to plan enough breaks. 

We have booked the only one ranger-led tour which allows 5 yr olds - The King's Palace tour. We booked this tour online at least 2 weeks ahead. We reached the Visitor Center by 9 AM. Roamed around to understand the geology of park through the exhibits, took the map and Junior ranger guide material for kids. 

The King's Palace Tour

By 9.45AM, we reached down through the elevator to the starting point of the tour. The King's Palace tour is a 1.5 hr tour which takes us through 4 highly decorated and stunning chambers of the cave. The elevator takes us down to around 700 ft underground. 

The guide was very knowledgeable and explained the different types of formations like Stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, columns, popcorn, and soda straws. 

She also explained how Jim White found this cave, explored in those days and worked to make this beautiful place open to the public. We were amazed at the dedication of national park service in preserving these delicate and stunning formations inside the caves.

This tour was very informative and it was like a good starting point for us. 

The Big Room Trail

The Big Room trail is the trail going through the largest cave chamber and it is a must-visit. The trail is relatively flat 1.25 miles which goes through all unique formations in the cave. 

It took around 1.5 hrs for us to complete this trail and there are no restrooms in between. Restrooms are available near the elevator at the starting of the trail though. 

Kids were too tired after this trail and so, we headed back to the visitor center through the elevator. We had a tasty traditional Mexican lunch in the cafeteria. The food was great.

Now, we were left with the famous Natural Entrance trail. We knew this will be the toughest trail with kids, especially with our 5 yr old. Hiking up the trail is too difficult, so we settled to hike it down after lunch. 

Natural Entrance Trail

I wouldn't say it was not tough, but it was the most memorable trail in the caverns for us. We struggled, took breaks, huffed and puffed but it was completely worth it.

This 1.25-mile trail was extremely steep and took us down to 750 ft. It was amazing in all aspects. We took a lot of photos on the way to the Big room. We returned back to the visitor center through the elevator.

We visited the Caverns in Feb, so we missed the bat flight program. I heard it is amazing to see all the bats flying outside together in the evening from August to September. The park even arranges to sit in the amphitheater for the bat flight program. 

Here are some quick Facts about Caverns:

- There are 120 known caves here by this time.
- The caves are at 56 F throughout the year
- There are at least 17 species of bats in the park. The most famous one is the Brazillian free-tailed bats.
- Lechuguilla caves are famous (the deepest limestone caves in North America), but not accessible to the public and only open for research purposes.
- Apparently, the bat pop - guano was a powerful fertilizer and people used to visit these caves to mine the guano and export it.
- If you know the famous movie 'The Journey to the center of the Earth', you might realize that some parts are picturized in these caves!

Now, that you know about Carlsbad Caverns National park, don't miss it if you are near Texas, New Mexico or Colorado. 

Until next time,

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