Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Across the U.S.: Day 16

by Kathy 2. July 2009 20:23

<< Day 15: Alamagordo to Roswell | Day 17: Carlsbad to San Antonio, Texas >>

Roswell to Carlsbad


We awoke to sunshine this morning. Our destination today was Carlsbad Caverns, in southern New Mexico. The main entrance to the caves is home to thousands of small bats, and I had always longed to witness their mass exodus at dusk.

Our drive time was short—only 2 ½ hours. The route from Roswell to Carlsbad was on a smooth wide 4-lane road.

Leaving Roswell, we traveled for miles along a flat expanse of land, with golden grass stretched out into the distance.

The homes were spaced far apart.

This café was for sale, but the prospect did not tempt us:

We passed this roadside memorial, with a colorful cross:

We then entered a small farmland area, where the lush green of the crops almost shocked our senses, compared to the previous miles of dryness.

As we entered the town of Artesia, we passed by a large oil refinery.

On the side of a dilapidated small white building in Artesia, someone had spray-painted the words, “Pray Good”.


Nearby was Maddux Monument Co., which offered gravestones for sale.

Outside of town, we passed the cemetery for large storage containers.

A large body of water stretched out to our left--Lake McMillan. In the distance, we could see the dam that created the lake.

We rattled our way through the town of Carlsbad, which seemed to stretch on and on.

Ben’s comment: “Big town, bad roads.” The road through town looked like it had suffered years of abuse from the tires of big rigs. While there was a new truck bypass route around the town, the damage suffered by the roads had never been repaired.

The old city hall:

Carlsbad Caverns is about 35 minutes south of Carlsbad. The road between the caves and town was being widened from 2 lanes to 4.

The dump trucks were huge (although not as gigantic as those we had seen in the Kennecott Copper Mines):

The entrance to the caverns is at the top of a mesa. We wound our way upward.

Carlsbad Caverns has over 100 limestone caves, with an amazing array of formations. It has been designated as a National Monument, National Park, and a World Heritage Site.

We had made reservations for the “King’s Palace” tour, which covers several large caverns; the tour was an hour and a half long, and I thought that time frame was just about right for Sebastian’s attention span. We had read that the temperature in the caves is quite chilly, so we brought our jackets. Good thing—it was indeed cold; Sebastian probably could have used two jackets.

We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns about an hour before our tour started. I had read about the 70-year old underground cafeteria at Carlsbad Caverns, and I was excited to have lunch there. We rode the elevator 750 feet down into the earth. I have to admit that was a bit disappointed to find that the café has been remodeled and no longer serves any hot food, and only a limited supply of cold items. However, the ambiance was the key; we were in a very dark cave under the earth, which made the meal extra-special.

Genevieve in the café (taken with a photo flash):

Sebastian (taken without a photo flash):

Our tour was led by a ranger named Bo.

Bo was born and raised in Carlsbad, and had grown up thinking of the nearby caves as simply “that big hole in the ground.” He had returned to work here as an adult and learned to see the caverns with “new eyes.” Now he was sharing his love for the caverns with visitors on a daily basis.

We wandered a mile through four chambers that were not accessible to the public except through a tour: the King’s Palace, the Papoose Room, the Queen’s Palace, and the Green Lake Room.

We descended down to 830 feet below the surface, the deepest part of the caverns that are open to the public.

The caverns were much larger and grandiose than the intimate chambers we had experienced at Lehman Caves a few weeks ago. However, bigger is not necessarily “better.” Both cave systems were phenomenal in their own way.

We saw stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, columns, soda straws, rock flows, and other stunning combinations. Here are some photos:

Here are two photos looking up at the ceiling:

Genevieve led the way:

Some “cave popcorn” up close:

This rock formation was called the “Bashful Elephant” (the lumps on the right give you a view of an elephant from the rear, with the back legs and tail):

The Green Lake:

The park service has installed lights around certain formations, so we didn’t need a flashlight. In the Queen’s Palace, Bo conducted a black-out, where he turned the lights out and immersed us in utter blackness.

We really enjoyed the tour and learned a lot about the history of the caves here and their unique formations.

Genevieve and Sebastian worked very hard and completed all of their Jr. Ranger requirements.

They were sworn in as Jr. Rangers by Leigh and Ranger Emily.

As we left the caverns this afternoon, we could see rain in the distance:

We returned to the caverns near dusk to see the bats. The sky near our campground, which was 20 minutes away:

As we drove toward the caves, the clouds darkened. However, rays of sun were breaking through.

When we arrived at the caverns, the skies looked very grim.

We rushed down the path to get to the cave entrance. The bats were not expected to come out for another 45 minutes, but we didn’t want to miss them in case they flew out early.

However, we took time to admire this centipede that we found on the path:

We found good seats so that we could watch the bats fly out of the cave entrance:

However, after 15 minutes, a ranger announced that there was lightening within a 1 to 3 mile range of the cave entrance, which required everyone to evacuate immediately. (In the past, someone had been struck and killed by lightning in the parking lot, so park officials were very cautious.)

We reluctantly left:

Ben happened to catch a photo of some of the lightening in the distance, down near the horizon.

While I was disappointed in not getting to see the bats, I learned a lot during our visit here. The caverns were enormous and the formations were exquisite. I know that I will enjoy another visit in the not-too-distant future. And I hope that the skies will be clear on that day.

<< Day 15: Alamagordo to Roswell | Day 17: Carlsbad to San Antonio, Texas >>

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin