Carlsbad – Christmas Lights and Caverns

When we mentioned New Mexico it was often suggested that we go see the Carlsbad Caverns. When we started planning our trip a few years ago, I had planned to go through the northern part of New Mexico to hook up with a cousin, who was my buddy growing up. Unfortunately, she was taken by cancer before our trip. I am sorry that our trip did not occur sooner. I miss her.

We arrived in New Mexico to a forecast of very cold weather. The campground staff warned us to ensure that we drained our water hose overnight. The forecast did not bode well for our planned evening activity. We had booked a sailing on a “Christmas on the Pecos” river boat tour. We had apparently failed in our attempt to avoid cold weather.

The homeowners along the Pecos River decorate their properties in Christmas light displays. Some of the displays are simple and others are quite elaborate, funded by corporate sponsors. It was an amazing exhibit, and would have been much more enjoyable if it weren’t for the frigid temperatures. We dressed as warm as we could, and they gave us blankets as we boarded the boat, but the cold wind still found a way to bite into the skin. We were all chilled when we climbed into the RV to head back to the campground. As we drove a few miles north to the campground we started to see snow flurries. By the time we reached our campsite, it was a pouring down big flakes of snow, covering the grass and picnic tables with a coat of white. We thought we might find snow on the trip home but not in New Mexico!

The next day we awoke to a light snow cover and we headed out to see the caverns. We knew that the there were caves under the Guadeloupe Mountains but was what we found was amazing. But first they had to take our shoes to sanitize them. There is some virus spreading through the bat populations and killing them. The National park was doing their best to keep this virus out of the Carlsbad bat colonies. Since we had been in caves in New Zealand and Australia, they weren’t taking any chances. After wandering the gift shop in our socks, the girls worked on their Junior Ranger booklets, we received our shoes back with just enough time to get to the cave entrance before closing.

The Caverns are amazing. We started by descending a series of switch backs at the natural cave entrance. It reminded us of part of a hike that we did in the Grand Canyon called the chimney. Eventually we were inside the cave, the outside was no longer visible but we kept going down. We were told that we had one hour to reach the entrance to the “Big Room” or we would not be able to tour that part of the cave. An hour seemed like loads of time, we were walking on paved paths, some of them were steep but they were all descending. Because of the time limit, we stopped very little on the way down. We made it to the Big Room with time to spare and then we could slow down a bit. The formations in the Big Room were magnificent. As we wandered along the path, we kept thinking about the people who had originally explored these caves, without the lighting and paved paths. There were very few people visiting the caverns that day so it often felt as if we had the caves to ourselves; that was a little bit creepy.

The girls were able to complete and get sworn in for another Junior Ranger badge while we did a little shopping in the gift store. It was starting to get dark when we left the caverns for our next destination, a Wal-Mart parking lot on the road toward Dallas. It was hard to adjust to the change in daylight. We had left New Zealand in what was nearly their longest day, the sun would not set until after 9:00 PM, and arrived in Arizona as we approached the shortest day. I like the longer days better!

About Walkabouters

We are traveling through Canada and the US as well as Australia and New Zealand. We hope this Blog will keep our family and friends up to date on our travels.
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