Thursday, June 1, 2017

Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks.

There is a pattern developing here, once I get there I don't want to leave.  I wanted to stay at Sea Rim, I wanted to stay at Falcon Lake after the storm, I did not want to leave Seminole Canyon, And I sure as hell didn't want to leave Big Bend.  If there is one park I felt I never even scratched the surface this is one.  But my ambitious trip proceeded.  I took hwy 118 out the other end of the Park at Terlingua then back to  the dreaded Hwy 90 again and headed West.  After a while I ran into so much roadwork! It took so long to get through these basically isolated areas! Amazing...then eventually I got on Hwy 54 north.  My planned destination Guadalupe National Park.  BUT There was a day's drive between me and it...

                                                              pronghorn antelope

 Then eventually I came to the South need to check out the park map to understand my actions.  Here is a link it should open in a new tab..MAP

The 2 camps at the south entrance...were like this: Walk in tent sites, won't do for my set up...and the RV campground, completely looked like a city parking lot.  So if I have to be in a city parking lot may as well be for free.  I took only this one photo.  

I see on the map another camp but it is not reachable by the main road...If you want to hike, backpack and go rugged, then this is the park for you.. So I decide to drive an additional 30 miles to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.  Originally this was not on my planned stopping list.  But I stopped.  

There is no campground and no overnighting in the parking lot although I suspect some did when the Rangers left at midnight...At dusk there is a bat fly out of the cave's natural entrance.  They do NOT allow cameras for this event so no photos...but take my word it was a thrill to watch 500,000 Brazilian Free Tailed Bats come out the entrance and fly off to rid the world of night flying bugs! The did not all swish out in one big flock they came in small groups of like 10,000 bats.  There is a bat viewing amphitheater, and a Ranger is present to enforce the no phones, no cameras etc rules. This is from the park's website this link will give you more info

Bats in Flight
National Parks Photo

While I waited I did make my evening meal at the picnic tables up in the parking area,  then walked down to the amphitheater for the viewing with about 50 other people.  Since I came out well after dark, I drove into the town of Carlsbad, and parked at Walmart along with many other people in various vehicles who had the same plan.  It cooled nicely and actually I slept very well...I got up early and got my coffee at a gas station sipped it while I drove back about 19 miles to the Cavern and to the same picnic area and cooked my breakfast.  It was nice and quiet no one was about at that hour it was about 7:30 am..The VC opens at 8, and the first cave tour is 8:30 am.  

Saw myself another Say's Phoebe while I ate my breakfast...

Inside the Visitors Center some others had begun to arrive, I like this sculpture it includes the bats...

There's lots of ways to view the caverns.  You can do your own self guided tour, you can take a ranger guided tour and you can enter via the Natural Entrance and then tour the Big Room.   I chose the elevator down 750 ft, then self guided tour of the Big Room.  I got in free with my Golden Age Pass.  
The first thing you see when you get out of the elevator is this no longer manned old entrance booth.   This is accessible to wheelchairs, and restrooms are here also...Male n Female...teehee. I had to wonder how does it flush UP?

You can take flash photography, Mostly I just let the Auto setting do it's best to capture the scene.  I took MANY photos..but honestly you have to see this to really appreciate  just how magnificent it is. I am not a fan of caves, this was more like a set in a fairyland!!  The formations are huge hence the name BIG ROOM...notice lower right the guardrail so you can see the height of this room.  The do call the different areas "rooms".

Once your eyes get used to the dim light it is not so bad, it is chilly down there make sure you wear a jacket.  I do suggest some kind of flashlight I have a one cell digital light on my keychain and it was sufficient but if there should be a power would not be enough.  There is water, but its not swampy at all...

The walkways are paved and there's guardrails along each side...the formations are amazing!

Since the formations were created by water it's almost as if you can see how it drip, drip, dripped....

There is water still active in the cave you can hear it, and you can find pools some reflect the lovely formations...

and some of the formations are named...

this one is called the rock of ages 

these type formations here are called draperies...

It took me about 2 hrs to walk through the Big Room.   It's about 1.25 miles around the loop hike.  There is a shortcut if you don't want to do the whole thing...

Totally love the water reflections in the cave, and the clarity of the water is also amazing. 

I was stunned...this is called the Painted Grotto...

Then I was around the loop and decided to go back via the elevator to the surface..but you can walk out the natural entrance it adds an uphill of about a mile to the hike.  Made my way back to the parking lot after a browse in the gift shop I was able to get a Token for my collection and a few postcards to mail some stamps for my National Parks Passport book, and then exited. 

back to the parking lot

There is a scenic gravel road of about 9 miles that allows one to explore around Walnut Canyon.  I decided to try it out...didn't see much.  It starts about 1/2 a mile from the visitors center...

Still a nice drive and good way to accumulate to being on top of the Earth again instead of under it!

interesting flora, and fauna wish he would have turned around , the black throated sparrow...

I pulled over for a lite lunch break before I headed out of town and to Dog Canyon!

There is a Rec Area not far away called Rattlesnake Springs, but I wanted to find the Dog Canyon camping area...the north section of Guadalupe National Park.  If you recall that was my original destination.  So I press on. I found this not so short cut to get to Highway 130 that rumbles it's way out to Dog Canyon, when I turned off the sign said Dog Canyon 60 miles! It's open range so look out for cows on the roadway. 

another desolate road..

I saw signs for Sitting Bull Recreation Area along the way and I had seen it on the map I planned a stop.  

A super picnic area...and a hike to a waterfall!  Cost me Zero with my senior pass cost others $5 for a day use pass. 

and if you like you can wade in the dipping pool...some kids did...

the rock walls have curled after years of rushing flood waters...

reminds me of the Subway formation in Zion....and more awesome desert plants

as for birds I saw this Rufous Crowned Sparrow 

this is a pretty heavy crop as he stayed so low on the ground and kept his face to the fence...up on the trees is this bird I still don't know I wanted it to be dusky capped flycatcher, but it's TBD to be determined...

could be an immature Western Kingbird as they were around...

along with a NEW for me bird....the Rock Wren

That was another of my target wrens so happy it popped up here! AND then finally I found
DOG CANYON.  And entered back into Texas! 

I decided to stay here for the I paid for 2 nights $4 per night. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you can not.


  1. Going to have to say I love the Carlsbad area. The caverns are so mystical to me even though I have never been there. Was it cooler there? I have a friend who lives in Carlsbad and I know they get lots of snow in winter. Sitting Bull Falls is also a treat. This trip just keeps getting better with each post

    1. It cooled at night but the day was warm, in the caverns its a chilly 55 or so degrees! You would enjoy a tour of the caverns, If I could of found decent camping close by I would have signed up for the guided tour in the afternoon. I guess the thing to do is reserve a hotel, or stay in the RV park.

  2. I have watched a TV documentary on those caverns and the bats, it is spectacular. It must have been thrilling to see it live. I sounded like a good idea to go to Walmart to camp probably easier with all the facilities. I'm amazed at how cheap the campsites are $4 [£3] do you get any facilities for that, water / toilet? Ill be interested in your total mileage when the trip is over.

    1. The bats were awesome!! Since it was already dark and I was only going to sleep the Walmart worked fine for that. The senior price for day is $4. $8 for others...there was water pumps around and one flush toilet, that's it. It is considered primitive camping.

  3. How beautiful are the caves! I bet the bats were amazing, I get excited seeing the 2 or 3 that fly around my garden I can't imagine what that many must have been like!

    1. I see bats fly around my yard at dusk, like you say 2 or 3, never have I ever seen that many bats at one time!! And they are large bats. I was disappointed no photos but I sure can understand they don't want to interfere with the bats.

  4. Oh my gosh your cave pictures are incredible. We loved Carlsbad, but were there at the wrong time of year for the bat flyout. Dang it. Still loved the cave tour and we took one of the smaller cave tours where you had to climb with a rope and it is a good thing we did that then. We've aged out of that experience. But we have our memories! We actually loved everything about New Mexico. Everything.

    Same experience as you at Guadalupe.... too much to take in in a lifetime let alone the time available.

    It sure is big country out there isn't it!!


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