Carlsbad Caverns was (supposed) to be the last stop on this frankly epic roadtrip we took, after which we were to head directly home to meld ourselves onto the couch and promise never to do another trip like that again. Thats not exactly how things worked out, but thats a story for the last post.
This post is just a short one where I give you some advise that in retrospect I should have already known going in and also this is the post where I apologize for the terrible iPhone photos of above. After enduring a rather grueling 12+ hour drive we did from Joshua Tree, having an early start that next morning was about the last thing we needed. So by the time we made it to the already bustling parking lot of the caverns, I was ready to just fold myself into the backseat, take a nap and just let the bf do the Caverns tour by himself. But common sense prevailed and he convinced me that I would regret not peeling myself out of the car to go see this much talked about underworld.
Two things to remember if you plan to visit this park :
- The humidity down there is INSANE. Please don’t do what I did and dress in 5 different types of layers, unless you bring a backpack to put said layers into when you inevitable soak through all of them and end up walking around like a disgruntled mushy mess.
- If you decided to take the Natural Entrance down into the caverns (by which I mean the self-guided tour), please do be very aware of your own physical fitness level. From the NPS own website : “The Natural Entrance route is a self-guided tour available to visitors with plenty of time and in good physical condition. This 1.25-mile tour follows the traditional explorer’s route, entering the cavern through the large historic natural entrance. The Natural Entrance route descends more than 750 feet into the earth following steep and narrow trails through a tall and spacious trunk passage called the Main Corridor.“
There is an elevator available through the main building (where you’d go to buy your entrance ticket and get to the Natural Entrance) that takes you down into the caverns so it’s not strictly necessary to go down the natural entrance to see the caverns but I will say, it’s the best way to get acclimated to the atmosphere and in general really get an appreciation for the size and scope of the whole thing.
I didn’t bring my camera down into the caverns as I have little to no experience shooting in that kind of environment and also i’m clumsy as all hell and didn’t want to risk banging up my equipment but, I don’t actually regret that as it gave me more freedom to just enjoy the splendor of the caverns without worrying about trying to take good photos. If I saw an interesting formation or came up to a precipice that looked over and out, I would take out my iPhone and snap a couple of photos but in general it was one of the more leisurely parts of the whole trip and I enjoyed it immensely.
My last bit of advice while exploring this park is this, be aware of your surroundings and don’t be a jerk and/or weirdo. What do I mean by that? Sounds echo down here, and while most areas are pretty well lit, this is still a deep dark cavern and there’s plenty of places where the darkness is slightly suffocating and creates a horror movie kind of feel. Don’t be that person who talks overly loud, destroying the atmosphere and forcing everyone to listen in to your conversation and don’t be that person who walks WAY too closely to others, especially if they’ve made room for you to pass. I was side-eyeing more than a few people who did both of these things, though thankfully it didn’t ruin the enjoyment of the experience.
We emerged from the caverns by the elevator into the gift shop, sweaty and with shaky legs, eyes blinking into the brightness like creatures unused to the light. The bf had visited this park in his childhood and seemed infinitely thrilled to have gotten to experience it again and as for me? Well, it was my first time descending willingly into the darkness like that, and just as my first experience with a canyon was sufficiently grand, so was this first experience with caverns. Definetly can’t recommend it enough if you’re in the area.
p.s that last photo of Dolls Theater? Let me just say it’s even creepier in person.