Friday, December 5, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns

One of the caves in Carlsbad Caverns.Our second day started out very early. After eating the breakfast at our hotel and driving through the downtown we left El Paso and set out to the east, towards the Carlsbad Caverns National Park through Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. These were our two main objectives for the day.

Papa and mama along the route 180 in Texas.As soon as we left the city we were greeted by an always familiar yet different southwestern landscape that I’ve come to love so much over the past years. Huge flats, tall distant mountains, what might seem to be scarce vegetation of unusual to us composition — cacti and yuccas, and the never ending road. Road that I might say is always great no matter how distant of a place it runs through.

Alёna and I on salt flats in Texas along route 180.Our first find was a big white field that was absolutely flat. Finally, the salt flats that I’ve heard so much about. I guess the water evaporated not so long ago, or it was raining recently. The salt was not rock hard, but soft and slightly soggy. I imagine during the summer it feels more like concrete.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park.In Gaudalupe Mountains NP we got a whole bunch of new stamps for our passports (4 official and one bonus). The park consists completely of hiking trails. We took a rather short one going through different plants with plaques attached to most of them. But we didn’t spend much time here as we didn’t want to be late to our next park.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park.We got to Carlsbad Caverns NP at about 1:30pm. The natural entrance to the caverns closes at 2pm and the elevator down closes at 3:30. After talking to the park rangers we decided that we’ll take the elevator right away, since the natural entrance adds an hour to the hike and you don’t really get to the interesting part until you reach the point where elevator would put us anyhow.

One of the caves in Carlsbad Caverns. Look at the guardrails around the trail to get a sense of scale.The elevator took us 750 feet down (that’s more than half of Empire State Building). I’ve never been in any cave or cavern before so for me this was a new experience. First of all the whole thing is HUGE. The farther we went the more space opened up. There were bleak lights installed behind some rocks, but you had to watch carefully where you were going because it was still pretty dark.

Hall of Giants. Carlsbad Caverns.The formations of different stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other things I do not know the names for were magnificent. Underground lakes and springs, the constant sound of water drops. My dad was the “luckiest” of us all with respect to water drops landing on his head. At one point he started worrying about growing a stalagmite. )

Carlsbad Caverns.I managed to take a good number of pictures and most of them came out well thanks to my micro-tripod and a remote control combo. The only thing that is hard to capture is the size of the whole thing. On some photos you will notice the trail itself with guardrails around it. Those were from 1 to 1.5 meters in height and should give you some sense of scale.

Alёna with a nice prickly pear cactus in Carlsbad Caverns NP.After that we drove through a tiny town of Carlsbad itself to our final destination of the day — another tiny town in New Mexico — Artesia. We ended up having our 2nd anniversary dinner right in the hotel Chinese Buffet. But it’s not the food that matters, but the company, and the day itself was great.

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