March 18, 2014
Our stay at Whites City was less than impressive. The campground is located at the turnoff to the caverns. The tourist shops there were ok, but the campground was primitive with restrooms that weren’t very clean. It also had another annoying problem, there were these little seeds that had two very sharp thorns on opposing ends. These thorns would stick and plant themselves to everything. I accidently (first time) walked into the camper and my “crocs” were full of them. Then, I took them off the crocs and guess what, I stepped on one. They are called “Goats Head” and I soon developed a plan to keep them out of the camper. This campground will not be on our favorite list. We only stopped there for laundry, showers, dumping our tanks and a refill of fresh water. Enough said for a zero star campground.
In the morning, we headed up the seven mile climb to the caverns. In my mind, I imagined that we would be going down into some valley floor to enter the caverns. Not so…we climbed to a 3,275 foot elevation. The top of the mountain was spectacular from a view in every direction. The National Parks have this site very well developed.
The cost to get in with a senior pass…zero dollars! That was a ten dollar savings per person. The ticket agent said, “You have a choice, either take the elevator down or take the natural way in via the one and half mile trail. Guess which one we decided on? Yup, we’re walking the trail. I’m so glad we experienced this route.
A Ranger greeted us on the above ground portion of the trail. He said “You can take pictures with or without flash, but don’t touch anything in the cave to keep it from being contaminated. Another 500 feet down the trail and our first view of the opening appeared. “Oh my” first words out of my mouth. The view is of a large opening, but what really impressed me so far was how deep the opening appeared. The paved trail started with a series of switch backs, that is what gave me the feeling of depth. Slowly, we descended taking pictures from every angle. Note here to explain that the trail is paved with continuous guard railings and low level illumination. What blows one’s mind is that you expect to reach the bottom, but you just keep going down for a mile and a half. Now, let me say that we were not a mile and a half straight down. The recorded elevation at the elevator shaft is 750 feet vertical drop.
The picture taking was somewhat difficult at first. The low light conditions made the camera auto focus nearly useless. I expected that and brought a powerful LED flash light. Helen would shine the light on an object and I would now focus and lock the camera for the picture. That was OK for a few shots, but then I went to another method. I switched the camera and lens to manual mode and was able to overcome the focusing problem.
The most fascinating thing about our decent into mother earth was the size of the cavern. I mean a hundred feet high by at least as wide. The whole trail that we covered was 2-1/2 miles! This included the so-called “Big Room”. That is enough exploration for the average person. There is also a guided extended tour (pay extra) that requires headlamps and crawling to access the lower caverns. (Not on our bucket list). The “Big Room” is a monster of a cavern. One doesn’t comprehend what we are looking at. It is so beautiful that it nearly looks fake! Like a surreal Star Trek movie. It is something that the camera can’t capture. Why, because of scale. You need a person in the picture to demonstrate the immensity.
Back to the trail for an instance. As we descended, on the 1-1/2 mile route, about halfway, we encountered an elderly woman who was possibly having a heart attack. The Park Rangers were on scene and administrating first aid. I believe they gave her nitro and oxygen. Just a short distance from her, another Park Ranger, an older Ranger was pushing a wheel chair to the scene. We watched him coming up the paved walkway. He stopped several times to catch his breath. We thought for sure, he was also going to have a heart attack. Some other tourists asked him if they could push the wheel chair up for him. He reluctantly agreed. Later, on our journey below, we spotted the Rangers pushing the lady in the wheel chair towards the elevator. She seemed to be doing better. She, at least, was holding the oxygen mask on her face. I should mention that once deep into the cave you can hear ones voice a quarter mile away. The Rangers do have radio communications below ground. It was easy to listen to what was going on with the rescue. Everybody automatically starts to whisper once your in this
In summing up our visit to the Carlsbad Caverns, I would say it rivals the splendor of the Grand Canyon and, if you the reader ever have a chance to visit do so. One last thing about the cavern…There are millions of bats that live there and they come out every night to feed, but they like us are “snowbirds” and are gone to Mexico for the winter.
That is what we did and saw!