The Bat Caves

First things first.  Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian family and friends.

Texas roadsChanging our route to visit Carlsbad Caverns was definitely the right decision to have made. The caves were great. Driving out here the roads were so straight, the ground was really flat and the air was very clear. I think that I could see further in the distance than possibly ever before. They do say that the air isn’t always as clear due to cities like Los Angeles whose pollution drifts this way at times.

Mike and I read that one of the major attractions at Carlsbad Caverns was the sunset exodus of bats from the caves. Our neighbor in the RV park told us that he had gone the night before to see the mass exodus and found out that most of the bats had migrated south just a few days earlier. He only saw a few thousand and was quite disappointed. Apparently years ago there were seven million bats in these caves. Today the number is down to less than 400,000. I can’t say that I was disappointed to miss this major attraction. I was concerned that if that many bats left the cave each evening and returned before dawn that would mean that they were in the caves while I planned on being there. It turns out that the bats live in a cave that is off the major tourist walk and they rarely enter the main cave during the day. Bat guana (bat droppings) apparently fill this bat cave to something like 100 feet in depth. People usually enter with respirator masks. Approximately 100 years ago the bat guana was actually extracted from the caves and sent to California as fertilizer.

There are two ways to enter the caves. One is a relatively strenuous mile long walk with a really steep down slope. The other choice is an elevator that takes you down the equivalent of 75 stories below ground. We took the elevator. When you get off the elevator everything looks almost black with the odd light in the distance. When we returned to the elevator an hour or two later it looked quite bright. It is amazing how the eyes adjust.

2014 10 12 Carlsbad Caverns NM (1)Have a close look at the model. The long line down from the shelf on the wall to the caverns is the elevator shaft that we used. The original entrance still used is the long slope down behind the elevator.

The caves were marvelous. The main one that we entered is said to be about 30 miles long. The walking path that they wanted you to stay on was about 1 ½ miles long. They have guided tours that I wanted to take but they fill up sometimes months in advance. At first I was disappointed by this but for $5.00 you can rent an audio device that basically gives you the same commentary as you would get from the rangers. There are also some rangers wandering around asking if anyone has any questions so it worked out very well. This way you weren’t always standing in the middle of a crowd and could hear everything at your own speed. Mike and I have been in quite a few different caves or caverns throughout our travels. This one had to rate right up at the top. 2014 10 12 Carlsbad Caverns NMI kept looking at all the formations and wondering how the original explorer of these caves managed to do anything without our modern day lighting and equipment. As you would expect, there are strategically placed lights all over the tourist area to highlight specific formations. I don’t really know how to explain it and most of the pictures didn’t work simply because it was so dark. It was just fascinating. After we left Mike decided that he wanted to go to the original entrance and walk just a little way in and take some pictures. I said that was fine but I was going to go back to the RV while he wandered to the other entrance. The hole at the top of this blog is the original entrance. Mike took much longer than expected. This time I didn’t mind because I had everything I needed to entertain myself: my computers, coffee, books… When Mike did get back he said that he went in a little bit to take some pictures but it was so steep he didn’t really want to climb out and so he kept going. He thought he was further down than he really was. He ended up doing the full “strenuous” mile to get back to the caves we had already seen. At that point they now insist on people taking the elevator out and don’t actually allow you to walk back up the trail you came down. Mike was more than a little tired when he was done. I felt great!  We are now aiming towards Lubbock, Texas and possibly Amarillo. The main reason for this direction is that we have heard of both of these towns before and they are somewhat on a route home. We are down to our last three weeks and are not very happy about that.

As a quick last note let me just say that Mike and I have absolutely loved this entire trip so far. We haven’t threatened to kill each other even once. Given how much I like large open rooms at home I have still been very comfortable in the motorhome. I must admit that I miss my electric king size bed with its cooling mattress from home. We can easily see ourselves doing this again for an extended period. I am still looking forward to taking our motorhome to Europe for a year or two at some point in the future.

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