We know that the bats will not be in residence in Carlsbad Caverns in January. They normally return to this National Park in early Spring and stay through October. We decide to visit in spite of their absence. The return of the Brazilian Free-Tailed bats coincides with an influx of thousands of tourists according to a gift shop employee. Without the attraction of the bats to lure in more visitors, we have the cavern almost to ourselves.
At the ticket desk, we learn that we have options regarding our tour of the main cavern. We can combine the up and down options in any way we chose.
- An elevator is available to lower us down or return us back up 75 stories to and from the Big Room.
- For more exercise and scenery, we can follow a winding path down 75 stories via the Natural Entrance to the Big Room.
- If gripped by insanity and a total disregard for our lives, we can climb back UP to the Natural Entrance via the same walkway we took down (that’s not gonna happen).
We chose to stroll down and ride the speedy, ear popping elevator back to the surface.
We carry a flashlight with us as we begin our descent and it certainly comes in handy. Although the cavern path is dimly lit, my old eyes still see more shadows than light. I am a little concerned when we meet no one else on the first mile down. What if something happens?
Sound carries extremely well inside the cavern so if we need help I guess we can holler. We keep our voices to a whisper for conversation and it is eerily silent as we make our way down. About halfway to the Big Room, I am startled by what at first appears to be a stalagmite in my path. Instead it is just a very quiet Ranger keeping watch on this section of the walkway.
The self-guided tour down the Natural Entrance and through the Big Room is about 2.5 miles and takes us about 3 hours. The Big Room, a 14 football field size section of the cavern, delivers a self guided tour that has us exclaiming (very quietly) in amazement at every turn. Ranger guided tours to other parts of the cavern are available, but you have to plan ahead for those and reserve in advance.
Where are the Aliens?
We stay 2 nights at Bottomless Lake State Park about 14 miles outside of Roswell. The price is great at $14 per night with water and electricity. However, Storm is very disappointed that no outer space aliens join us in this remote location. To console him, we stop at the UFO Museum on our way out of town.
We learn all we need to know about the alien mystery at this Roswell museum and the $3 senior ticket price is extremely reasonable. An alien landing animation flashes light and smoke from little silver men every 15 minutes or so making this visit almost like being actually abducted!