via email from Betty AnoninTX:
So why did I take Rijk and Sophie? As I was staring at my Betty books and pondering which one to take, I realized this one was perfect because of the title. Carlsbad Caverns was my very first national park to visit. I was approximately six years old when my family (minus my oldest sister) made the trip to visit relatives and to go to the park. I was scared to death when I saw that big black hole, but Betty AnoninNM held my hand. We all look so happy in this photo! I imagine we were all telling my dad to hurry. This trip and a wonderful ranger we met on the trail started my love of national parks and monuments that endures today, many years later. That ranger took the time to talk to a skinny kid and explain things about the caverns. He showed me a fossil along the trail, and I was totally amazed. Carlsbad did awaken MY heart to the national parks and monuments.
I still get a thrill when we exit the highway and drive down Walnut Canyon to the visitor center. After we paid our entrance fee, we started down the path that leads to the entrance. When Aidan saw the natural entrance, he said “whoa,” paused a few seconds and stared, and then said “awesome.” His eyes were huge. I myself am still awestruck when I see that big, dark opening. The bats do enter and exit here, but they are still in Mexico and don’t migrate back until April or May. If any of you ever get a chance to visit Carlsbad, I urge you to take the time to watch the bat flight in the evenings. Here are Rijk and Sophie posing on the path down.
The Caverns are truly beautiful. We have visited Mammoth Cave and Wind Cave National Parks, but I love Carlsbad the most. There are 117+ caves in the park, with three of them open for tours, but the majority of visitors go to the big Caverns. We took the self-guided, natural entrance tour. It is a 1.25 mile hike down. Once down, approximately 750 feet below the surface, we took the Big Room tour. Over six football fields would fit in the Big Room, and it takes an hour and a half to tour it. The ceiling is 250+ feet high. It is a beautiful place. Aidan and I talked all about how stalagmites might grow up to touch the ceiling and how stalactites are stuck tight to the ceiling. The ranger taught me that all those years ago! Aidan particularly liked the soda straws, which are very thin and delicate. Aidan and I decided we liked the Bottomless Pit the best. In the Big Room, there are huge stalagmites. Here, Rijk and Sophie are posing in front of Crystal Spring Dome, which is the largest active formation in the Caverns. I apologize for the poor photo, but it IS dark in there. The PRT does his best to oblige. After the Big Room walk, we took the elevators up to the surface.
After a quick meal, we headed back to Texas. The PRT and I intend to go back in a couple of weeks because we want to take a few more tours. We want to do the Kings Palace tour again. It is a ranger-led tour of another big room, and the rangers always turn the lights out for a few minutes so that people can experience cave darkness. Then we want to do the Left Hand Tunnel tour, which we’ve never done. It’s a lantern tour, led by rangers also. I hope you enjoyed our quick Carlsbad trip! It was fun to have my niece and great nephew with us, as well as the van Taak ter Wijsmas.