Carlsbad Caverns and Fort Stockton

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August 28th 2012
Published: August 30th 2012
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28th Aug ’12 Roswell to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

So kind of sorry to leave Roswell, even if there isn’t much more to see – I would go back to the museum again and watch all the films if we had been staying, but onwards to Carlsbad Caverns.

It only took about two hours to reach the turn off for the caverns and the scenery on the way wasn’t particularly interesting. The road winds up into the hills which are dotted with small bushes and then you reach the visitor centre. So now we were right in the Chihuahua Desert and it was strange to think there was a whole subterranean world of caves beneath our feet.

There were various tours you could do to see different parts of the cave system, Howard wanted to do them all! However we settled on doing the two self-guided tours with the option of seeing how we felt about more afterwards.

Again there were two ways of doing the self-guided tours, either take the elevator down 800 feet and come out near the start of the Big Room and miss out the 1 ½ mile walk down the Natural Entrance
Natural EntranceNatural EntranceNatural Entrance

It's a long way down!
or do the Natural Entrance, no prizes for guessing which we did.

So we set off on the short walk across the desert in the baking heat to the start of the Natural Entrance. A large gaping hole with little swallows flitting around, despite being able to tick yes to at least 3 of the list of reasons not to do this route (back, knees and breathing problems) we strode in. Luckily there is now a paved walkway leading down to the bottom of the cave so unlike the early tourists we do not have to be lowered down in a guano bucket! Despite having all the dodgy body parts it was fairly easy going if steep and we didn’t have to stop but by the time we got down (1 ½ miles later) my knees were very relieved! The smell of guano was pretty strong at first but you either get used to it or it’s not as bad the lower you go.

Just after we started down we passed a couple of kids running up! The young boy said ‘good afternoon mam’ as he went past and his sister kind of panted, I asked them if
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It's a long way up!
they had run the whole way up and they said ‘yes’, ‘wow’ was all I could say!!

I had hired an audio tour and it was quite interesting on the whole, but there were information boards at each of the sights so you didn’t really need one. The most astounding thing was the thought of Jim White aged 16 discovering the entrance to cave and he and all the subsequent explorers going down into this system just using ropes, ladders and lanterns!

The Natural Entrance was good, winding down into the bowels of the earth was quite an experience but the sights you could see just paled into insignificance compared to the Big Room. It was HUGE and filled with fantastic rock formations, stalagmites, tites, draperies, pillars and the list goes on. Curtains of thin needles hanging from the ceiling, an area called fairyland which was filled with rock ‘popcorn’ stalagmites that looked like creatures from…fairyland! There was a bottomless pit, small lakes and a huge rock that looked like and was called The Rock of Ages – apparently the ranger led tours used to stop here, the lights were turned off and everyone sang Rock of Ages!! Now that I would have liked to have seen, but they don’t do it anymore.

A theatrical lighting consultant was used to light the caves and you could tell, it was so well done, large sections just had very dim lighting so you could see the features in a more ‘natural’ state and then dramatic formations were lit for the maximum impact.

According to my audio tour most visitors think this is the most beautiful cave in the world, well the Big Room certainly is beautiful but we have certainly seen some equally as beautiful if not more so – Vietnam and New Zealand, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Carlsbad is certainly something to behold.

We spent the night in a grotty Motel 6 in Carlsbad, with blood splatters on the sheets and sticky floors (yuk).

29th Carlsbad, New Mexico to Fort Stockton, Texas

Only a shortish drive today and we only picked Fort Stockton because of the name! but it served to break up what would have been a killer haul all the way up to San Antonio our next destination.

We drove through flat plains with nothing much to see until we crossed the border into Texas when we saw lots of oil pumps pumping away and lots of oil tankers passing by.

Pulling into Fort Stockton it was apparent it was a town with not a lot going for it and the air is tinged with the aroma of oil. We found our Motel 6 and at least the sheets are clean in this one. There was a leaflet for Historic Fort Stockton on the rack so we picked it up and decided to check it out. It turned out to be a large metal sign across a road, a hillock filled field and a few blockhouses. Even the visitor centre sign was held on by one hinge – we gave it a miss. Driving back we did spot the giant roadrunner statute, which is the biggest in the world beep beep!

Oh yes I must all so mention what we found in the boot of our hire car……..a special tag to pull down to escape out of the boot when shut in it! Presumably people being stuffed into car boots is quite common in America!!

Additional photos below
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The Big RoomThe Big Room
The Big Room

It mite.....
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The Big Room

Altogether now........

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