Carlsbad Caverns (Part 1)

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The first time I visited Carlsbad Caverns, I knew it was something special.

I was still with the man who would one day be my ex. We were already fighting a lot, and by “fighting,” I mean he was angry at me most of the time and yelled at me when we were in the privacy of the van. I’m not sure if the hitting had already started, but if it hadn’t it would soon. In fact, he almost canceled our visit to the caverns because I “made” him yell at me so much the night before that I “made” him sick, and he didn’t know if he had the energy to enjoy himself. I cajoled him into going, mostly so I wouldn’t be blamed later for “making” him miss the attraction.

Neither of us was very happy when we arrived at the Natural Entrance to the cave, but we were quickly

The Natural Entrance to the cave.

overcome by the shocking beauty it contained. As we descended deeper into the earth, we were amazed by the rock formations we saw: stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, draperies, and columns. The formations we saw were like nothing we had ever seen. We were in awe.

Of course, after the one-mile hike into the cave, the boyfriend punished me by saying he was just too tired to walk another mile through the Big Room, the basic tour through Carlsbad Cavern. We had to leave, he insisted. He just couldn’t go on. So we took the elevator back up to the visitor center, found the van in the parking lot, and left.

What a manipulator! He got to experience fantastic natural wonders, yet still got to blame me for not getting to see both parts. He got to have his bitter cake and eat the nasty thing too!

Honestly, it hardly mattered to me that we left without seeing everything. Just seeing what I saw of the cavern was enough for me. I didn’t care if the boyfriend wanted to be mad at me. What I had seen had been extraordinary, and I think I was changed, maybe minutely, maybe imperceivably, but something inside of me was a little bit different.

At one point, while we were walking along the Main Corridor, somewhere between Bat Cave, Devils’ Den, and Iceberg Rock, I had the urge to fall to my knees and give thanks. I wasn’t sure who I wanted to thank. God? The Goddess? The Universe? Mother Nature? The Creator? Before that day, I hadn’t really believed in anything greater than myself or any sort of force bigger than chemical reactions, but on that day, something clicked. Sure, chemical reactions were involved in this grandeur before me, but something so majestic surely was formed by some extraordinary force.

I left the boyfriend some months later, and we got back together. We repeated the process several times until I left his ass for good. Fast forward six yeas, and The Man and I found ourselves in Roswell, NM.

I knew The Man had never been to Carlsbad Caverns.

We should go! I encouraged him. We’re so close!

He seemed a little skeptical. Was it really worth going nearly 100 miles out of our way? He said he’s been in other caves. Did he really need to see this one?

I didn’t blame him for his skepticism. There was no way my mere words could describe to him how glorious those underground rooms are.

That’s the problem with trying to describe Carlsbad Caverns–there’s no way words can do it justice. Even photographs–even professional photographs–fail to capture the splendor of Carlsbad Caverns. Maybe a photograph of one formation–say Rock of Ages–will do a really good job of showing its features, but no photograph can convey the vastness of the Big Room, the cool dripping wetness of the atmosphere in the cave, the near silence enveloping visitors.

I took many photos at Carlsbad Caverns, but only a few look anything like real life. This is one of the few decent photos I ended up with. Even a decent photo cannot convey how it really feels to be deep in the earth.

Somehow, what I was able to convince The Man that a visit to the cavern would be worth the trip, so we drove out to Carlsbad on a Wednesday afternoon. We spent the night on BLM land (free boondocking!) on Highway 62/180, and the next morning we only had to drive a few miles to the park entrance.

Because dogs are not allowed in the caverns and pets can’t be left in vehicles if temperatures are predicted to rise above 70 degrees, our first order of business upon arrival at the visitor center was to deposit Jerico in the park’s kennel.

The kennel service cost $10 when we visited in May 2017. The kennel closed earlier than the cave, but a dog could stay the entire time the kennel was open for the same price as a dog that only stayed an hour. The kennel and the gift shop are run by the same concessionaire. We didn’t have to show proof of any vaccinations to secure Jerico a spot.

The kennel was very sparse. It consisted of about a dozen cages made from metal wire lining the walls of a large storage closet. Each cage contained water in a bowl and nothing more. While the room didn’t stink, it didn’t have that medicinal smell veterinary clinics have which lets clients know floors have been recently disinfected. Also, no attendant stayed in the room with the dogs. If we’d had a better choice, I wouldn’t have left Jerico there.

Without encouragement, Jerico went right into the cage the worker pointed to, but once the door was zip tied shut, we understood the pup’s displeasure by the look in his eye and the tone of his bark. The Man filled out a form with basic information, then we walked to the gift shop to pay the kennel fee.

(A few hours later, when we retrieved Jerico, I was surprised to see a different worker took no steps to make sure we were leaving with the dog we brought. He didn’t ask to see The Man’s driver’s license or compare the duplicate of the form attached to our receipt to the original. I bet this lax security would get the operation in a heap of trouble if someone’s precious pet was stolen.)

Our task complete, The Man and I headed into the visitor center to begin our adventure.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

2 Responses »

  1. It’s been 15 years since I visited Carsbad. My mother went as a young girl when the tour lasted all day and lunch was served inside the cave (which ultimately led to a lot of the cave being damaged).

    • Maddie, thanks for reading and sharing your mother’s experience at Carlsbad Caverns.

      There are still guided tours available. I don’t know how long they last. They cost extra, so I’ve never taken one.

      There is still a snack bar in the main cave. It is between the Natural Entrance route and the Main Room route. The restrooms and elevator are in the same area. We looked around in the snack bar, and there was nothing going on while we were there. I thought I’d seen photos of the snack bar, but in real life, it looked nothing like I’d imagined/remembered it from pictures. Maybe it has been remodeled? I thought is was a place where folks could buy fast food (burgers, hot dogs, nachos), but in reality it looked like maybe they only sold bottled water and soft drinks and maybe packaged food. I wasn’t shopping for food, so I didn’t go up to the counter or look too hard.

      Folks aren’t supposed to eat or drink anything other than water in the cave, but it’s not like we were frisked before we went in. I guess visitors are on the honor system not to destroy the natural wonder.

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