Our awesome campsite was only ten minutes from the Carlsbad Caverns NP entrance!
I was a little worried that another cavern would be kind of boring, since we’d already been to Luray Caverns, Endless Caverns, and Mammoth Cave. The ranger insisted, “You’ve seen the rest, now you’ll see the best.”
Honestly I should have known better. National Parks are the BOMB. I now get more excited than a kid going to an amusement park when we go, because it’s bound to be spectacular.
The lighting wasn’t great (duh), so I just tried to take it all in. The kids surprised the rangers with their knowledge of other caves across the US, so that was fun. They had electronic tour guides so we rented those for the kids to use, and I’m really glad, it was full of good info! (Except one child insisted on the adult version, which made another child insist upon the adult version in order to not seem like a little kid, leaving two children fighting over one child version, and one too-cool-for-school kid in way over their head and wishing they chose the child version. Did you follow that?)
It really was different than the other caves we’ve been in! (It was actually formed in a different way than most caves, including Mammoth – alert: geeking out on you a bit here, I’ll make it fast and easy – Most caves that people know of were formed by rainwater slowly dissolving limestone; water sinks through the holes and cracks and carves out the cave system. The water that seeped through the Carlsbad limestone was really rich in hydrogen-sulfide. When rainwater joined the party, it brought oxygen and formed sulfuric acid. The acid dissolved the limestone along the cracks and voila, caverns!)
We hiked the Natural Entrance Trail down, then followed the self-guided walk in the Big Room. Then we cheated and took the elevator back up 🙂
There was another part of Carlsbad Caverns NP left to explore called Rattlesnake Springs, and it was walking distance from our campsite! It’s visited every year by over 350 bird species – not to mention 40 species of amphibians and reptiles, and over 30 different mammals! We checked it out on our evening walk, and spotted several deer and a bunch of birds, including a vermilion flycatcher. And he was catching flies!
This was the first place that we really didn’t want to leave. We loved the solitude, the dark skies at night, and the wildlife. We thought about staying longer, but Christmas was around the corner, and we thought Ellie might murder us if we told her she had to spend Christmas morning in the desert!