Carlsbad Caverns National Park
March 17, 2015
Arriving at Carlsbad
We arose quite early at the Carlsbad RV park this morning and exited early, determined to arrive at the caverns no later than 8:30 that morning. There were a couple of reasons for this.
The visitor center and the cave entrance are opened at 8:00 am. This allows an early start to a lengthy self-guided tour available to all park visitors. A park entry pass is the only thing required to enter the cave and see at least 90% of the reason for declaring this a national park. If you have an "America the Beautiful" or other pass, you're in the cave for no additional cost. If not, it's worth the reasonable entry fee.
Since we had stopped briefly by the caverns the day before on our way to Carlsbad, we had learned that an extra cave tour of the "King's Palace" had been added for noon today. Our best chance of getting on that tour was to arrive as early as possible to buy our tickets before that tour sold out. Otherwise, all cave tours were sold out for weeks or even months. We scored the tickets, and planned our assault on the cave.
Skipper & Rocinante
Temperatures this day would be no higher than those inside the caverns, and it was cloudy. So, we comfortably situated Skipper in Rocinante where he could hang out and goof off (the principle occupation of older dogs), until our return in a couple of hours to get him out for a walk and to grab a quick lunch before diving back into the cave for our guided tour. If temperatures are expected to rise above 70 degrees F, they strongly suggest, or even insist, that you bring your pets into the visitor center where they will house them in a cool and relatively comfortable kennel while you are underground.
Entering the Caverns
After grabbing our tour tickets and stashing them, we walked for the entrance to the caverns. While touring the visitors' center, we had learned that the famous Carlsbad bats spend their winters in South America. There would be no bats returning to the cave this morning, nor would there be any leaving that evening. This left the empty caverns and an occasional pile of bat guano as the principal attractions. We soon learned that the former is still completely amazing, even if the latter is not.
Photographing the caverns
While inside the caverns we quickly discovered that our iPhones were surprisingly able at taking available light photos. To be honest, they are stunningly good. With my Nikon DSLR pushed to an ISO of 1600 and by using the ubiquitous handrails as impromptu tripods, I was also able to get some good available light photos. The latter was infinitely more difficult, though more rewarding for a hobbyist photographer inured to the requisite pain required to generate "real" pictures. Meanwhile, Susan snapped away with her iPhone and returned results that were in may cases superior to mine. Life is full of surprises!
While inside the caverns, we took an absolutely ridiculous number of pictures, which we'll share below. If you click on the few pictures we've included here, that will take you to a full gallery of photos which will initially amaze you. If you prefer, feel free to visit our gallery and click "slideshow" a full-on presentation. When you've had enough, come on back to the blog and we'll chat about our next destination!
Weather, inside and out
Inside the caverns you can rely on a constant temperature of roughly 58 degrees F with high humidity. Not so much on top. When we came up for our planned lunch break, temperatures had fallen into the mid 50's and it had been raining for some time. No worries about Skipper overheating in Rocinante while waiting for us, which was great news.
When we came up again after our tour of King's Palace, the weather had changed again - dramatically. By now temps were in the upper 40's, it was raining hard, and the wind was blowing so strongly that rain fell sideways instead of observing the usual vertical pattern.
Wetter and colder, but undaunted, we packed ourselves into Rocinante and headed for the next destination - Fort Stockton, Texas.