Dave and Leslie had purchased a national park pass when they were at Zion, and it worked for all 4 of us today...nice! We headed to the gift shop where I paid for the phones to use for all of us on the self-guided tour and then got in line for the elevator down to the cavern. The ride down took about a minute and a half...750 feet into the cavern. There is a Natural Entrance Trail...The 1.25 mile (2 km) Natural Entrance Trail is extremely steep. Depending on if you decide to hike up or down, you gain or lose about 750 feet (229 m)—equivalent to walking up or down a 75-story building. The hike takes about one hour (on average) to complete....but that would be pretty hard on the old knees. The general consensus for all...let's take the elevator!
(Click on photos to enlarge)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in a finger of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the four great deserts in western North America. Numerous plants and animals call this high desert home and manage to survive in spite of the little rainfall and extreme temperatures. Plants like lechuguilla agave, yucca, and sotol have waxy leaves that slow evaporation, as well as spines that protect them from predators. Most animals are active only at night when it is cooler.
During the Permian Period, 250 million years ago, an inland sea covered the Delaware Basin close to where you are standing. The skeletons and other components of sea plats and animals like algae and sponges, made of calcium carbonate (limestone), accumulated on the edge of this sea to form a reef. Today this reef is the best example of a fossil reef found anywhere in the world.
Over the millennia this ancient coastline has been lifted above sea level to form the rugged but beautiful Guadalupe Mountains that you see around you. Many caves have been discovered in these mountains.
It's very dark in the caverns so can be very tricky taking photos. Not knowing what a professional photographer would set his camera to, Steve used the auto no flash setting on his Nikon D5100 which has worked in the past. With the darkness the shutter speed is slowed considerably, so without a steady hand some photos ended up blurry and had to be deleted. It would have been best to also use a tripod but that would be a hassle and time consuming. The Adobe Lightroom Photo Editing program really helps to brighten and sharpen the photos...
You can buy souvenirs and dine 750' below the surface!
View from the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center...it's quite the climb considering how flat it is below...
Side note: A day after our visit to the caverns Dave and Leslie's neighbours had to walk out after one of the two elevators failed. The other one was out of commission when we were there.
Time for lunch!
As the rest of us were enjoying our brew, Steve thought he'd double-check his coat pockets...and discovered he did have his wallet (he doesn't normally carry it unless he is driving) after all! So he ended up joining us with a beer and we "re-cheered", this time all having a pint in hand!
(Update...we had since visited a few other establishments in NM and not one of them asked for ID so it's obviously not the law...The Lucky Bar and Grill must of had an issue in the past and got their wrists slapped:)