Im excited! Carlsbad Cavern day! We get up and walk. In the early morning light I see a silhouette on a hill of a large animal. I realize it’s an Elk. BIG horns. Then two more appear. I watch them walk on the hill and then out of sight.

We go off the rod along a fence. There are huge cows in the field. They’re as tall as I am! When they notice Sherman, they move away.
We eat and drive to Carlsbad Caverns. The 7 mile drive in is a beautiful winding road through the Guadalupe Mountains. As we arrive there’s a sign that says it’s not legal to leave dogs in the car, that they have a kennel available. I drive past the kennel entrance… Indecision… The temp is about 60 with a projected high of about 72. I’m not doing the kennel. If it were an 85 or 90 degree day, maybe. I’ve left Sherman in the van before with the front windows down about 2 inches and the back wing windows open. The van stays cool as long as it’s in the shade. So, I’m on a shade hunt. I loop the parking lot and find a spot by one of three trees that’s currently providing shade. So, there I park.
I set him up with food and water and head for the Visitors Center. I have an America the Beautiful Senior Pass for National Parks and Recreation Lands. So, my cavern walk is free. I get the pass for the self-guided tour and walk the quarter mile to the cavern entrance. I look at the map and see the path winds down about a mile through a number of small cavern rooms ending at the Big Room about 800 feet below the surface. The total walk is about 2.5 miles and takes most people about 3 hours.
I walk to the bat watching amphitheater and don’t see where to go to find the entrance.


In front of me is a big hole in the side of the cliff where the bats leave in huge clouds at sundown.
I walk up to the bat cave and realize this IS the entrance. It’s a huge hole — 15×40 feet. The path winds its way into and through the hole.
As I walk by the couple in the photo she’s saying, “I can’t do this!” He’s saying,”Yes you can. I get your scared. You can hang on to me. Just keep walking.” She repeats, “No. I can’t do this.” And he repeats, “Just keep you feet moving. Hang on to me.” I saw them much later. She was in the bowels of the cavern. Still scared, but looking around instead of at her feet!
In I go…
This is a hole that’s at least 70 degrees. Maybe steeper. In the bottom right you can see the trail tightly switchbacking down the side. That spot of light is the first artificial light in the cavern.
About 100 feet down is this door. It can be locked to keep people out. Maybe they lock it at night…?
This sign was at the junction of the entrance cave and The Big Room. It’s at the You Are Here spot on the map. It gives a sense of what’s actually happening underground. That line going straight down is the entrance cave going down to the The Bat Cave (no sign of Bruce Wayne) where it make a 180 and then continues down 800 feet, where it joins The Big Room, which is the rest of the path on the map.
I wonder if I’m going to have any feelings of claustrophobia. I’m not bothered by small spaces above ground, but walking into the underworld..
For the first 15 minutes I’m adjusting to walking into the earth, the dimming light, the texture of the path, the way the cave is lit, the steepness of the path down, not being able to see far ahead.
All of a sudden, all of those concerns vanish and I’m just fully present — here. The awe and majesty of where I am hits me like a 10 foot wave and the mind stops.
After I’m totally underground, I turn around and see the light coming through the entrance hole. In another minute, it’s 100% dark except for the artificial lighting in the cavern.
The first stalactites…
The first room, or widenened space in the cave entrance tunnel.
I keep walking. If someone took a photo, my month would have been open in stunned wonder. I take photos of all sort of fabulous shapes, colors, patterns. I take about 300 photos hoping they’ll get weeded down to maybe 50. (Well, they’re down to 120! I’ll post them all on a gallery page when I arrive at a fast wifi spot.)
Between rooms…
A drapery formation called Whale’s Mouth.
I’m headed down to the bottom. You can just see the stainless steel railings on the trail switch-backing in the bottom of the photo.
Closer…
Closer to the Star Wars character.
Close up side view of head.
Standing at his feet, looking up under the chin.
This looks like a form like of creatures calling from the underworld.
Iceberg Rock. The way it’s lit it looks like critters in conversation. This is a HUGE rock. At some point it fell from the ceiling. The scar where they separated is visible when standing there.
View into a side cavern whose ceiling is totally covered with stalactites.
The Boneyard. The rocks were sculpted by the corrosive water and then not changed by dripping water. They look like old bleached bones.
I’ve entered The Big Room. This is looking way into the chamber.
Into a side chamber.
Notice the stalagmite and drapery sword stalactite almost touching on the right.
Elephant Walrus’. They formations are so alive…
The Lion’s Tail.
Crystal Spring Dome. One of the few stalagmites that are wet — still forming. Most of the formations are dry.
Remember Dune? The mouth of The Worms of Dune.
Very dinosaurian. Reflection in a lake.
Hmmmmm…
Rare that the colors are not all sepia… looking down a tunnel.
A lake about half dried up.
An actual wire ladder with stick treads from the early explorers. This goes down about 85 feet!
A dry lake. The flat topped columns mark the height of the water.
Stoney Breast
Temple of The Sun.
Looks like fabric. A kimono or royal robe…
OK. Just a few more… there are SO many…
The Chinese Theater.
The Doll’s Theater.
A Green Lake.
At the end I arrive at the elevator and ride to the surface, still in the cavern’s spell. At the van I say hi to an excited Sherman. We go around the corner from the cavern parking lot to a dirt road that goes through one of the canyons. I park and we walk for a mile or so down the road and back to the van.
As we near the van a herd of Javalinas runs up the hill and across the road. We are both struck still. We stand and watch them come and go without moving.
I look at the map and set the GPS to take us the 2 hours to Bottomless Lakes State Park. We arrive at about 4 and settle into a spot near Lea Lake.

Time for another walk, dinner and sleep. The end of a good day.