Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Day NOT Spent at Carlsbad Caverns

Streetlights in Roswell, New Mexico. 
We reluctantly began our drive to Dallas, the next destination on our journey across the country. Relatives and friends eagerly awaited our arrival.

The route guided us through the alien territory of Roswell, New Mexico, an underwhelming experience. No aliens, no real spaceships, only another sandy southwestern town. Hub snapped a picture of the main street’s lights and we continued on, passing the day rolling through the Texas prairie.

Brown flatlands extended to the horizon. An abandoned town lined with run-down brick buildings, a few grazing cattle, occasionally a farmer on a tractor tending his fields broke the monotonous landscape.

The day was not supposed to be one of long haul driving. We looked forward to visiting Carlsbad Caverns.

The Caverns rated a must-see from many sources. Friends, reviews on Trip Advisor and other websites, travel magazines.

However fate intervened. During initial research the Carlsbad Caverns website displayed a warning: Elevators Out of Service.

What exactly did that mean? According to the site:

…you may walk in/out the Natural Entrance, a steep 750 ft. descent/ascent. We suggest you begin your hike-in by 12 noon to allow time to see the Big Room. Admission fees apply.

The descent/ascent was 1¼ miles each way. Visitors must walk down, a 1¼-mile hike into the caverns, and after viewing the caverns walk back up, a 1¼-mile climb.

We discussed whether or not to attempt the trek. The more we mentioned the idea to previous cavern visitors, the more apprehensive we felt.

Warnings included ominous words like steep, strenuous, should be in great physical condition, be prepared

What would happen if we were not out of the caverns by closing? Tired and needing rest, would we be carried out on stretchers? Would we be locked in, unable to get out until the following morning? If one or both of us collapsed during the climb, were medical personnel available to revive us?

What about food? Reviews indicated park personnel carried everything in and the concessions quickly ran out of food. Taking food into the caverns was forbidden, but people in the know did it anyway (according to reviews). Should we carry our own provisions?

Would we be so tired after descending we would not feel like touring the caverns?

We felt conflicted.

The day dawned bright and sunny. Dressing, packing, we looked at each other, hesitant and honestly not looking forward to the difficult cavern trek. Both of us sighed and decided, “No way, not today.”

Carlsbad would have to wait, the caverns placed on a future must-see list along with other sites bypassed due to circumstances beyond our control, such as the volcano in Hawaii, always active, suddenly deciding to sleep the week we visited…

The day originally delegated to viewing amazing cave stuff hundreds of feet below the earth transformed into hours driving above ground, observing the Western prairie.

Oh well…


  1. My parents made a cross country trip in the mid forties and remembered going to Carlsbad Caverns. Not sure if there was an elevator at the time, but they were young and athletic at the time.

    1. We should have gone sooner - when we were young and athletic!

  2. When I was a girl, we went as a family to Carlsbad Caverns. I also don't remember if there was an elevator, but I remember that big room in the middle. I swear I could feel the weight of the rock over my head. I have a little bit of claustrophobia in places like that. I do hope you get to visit it someday. :-)

    1. Carlsbad goes back on our bucket list. Hopefully some day...

  3. What I recall from our visit to the Carlsbad Caverns when we were much younger was finally learning the difference between stalactites and stalagmites as we walked around the cave -- also seeing the bats hanging from the ceiling. We then made a point of being present at dusk to see the bats fly out of the caves -- an awesome sight.

    I do not remember whether or not we took an elevator, but think we must have, as I expect I would remember walking a strenuous trip as you describe. Perhaps you'll have occasion to visit again another time.

    There was no sign of aliens when my son visited Area 51 years ago, either, or when we drove through there before that. Maybe next time!

    1. We will hopefully schedule our next trip to Carlsbad to coincide with the bats leaving the cave - apparently it is not a year-round phenomenon. And maybe we will see aliens then!