Friday, October 23, 2009


In the morning Mike and I went in to the small town of Carlsbad and visited some antique stores and a "Co-op Gallery" which had many different artists' work at reasonable prices. I bought a pair of "Beadwork of the Southwest" earrings.
Liked this southwestern mural on one of the buildings.

This 1858 Mudwagon stagecoach used in this area was on display at the town's small museum.
They also had this old 2-seater outhouse on display and yes, it was an actual outhouse at one time in the region (I love small towns!).
The museum also had an art gallery and I thought this painted pony decorated with local insects on it was interesting.
This is the local courthouse and I like the southwest architecture.
The door to the courthouse is decorated with pioneer ranch branding iron symbols. Click on the pic to see them better.
I decided to go back to the Carlsbad Caverns to do a tour of the "Kings Palace" cavern while Mike relaxed and Lana and Barry did the local riverwalk. As I arrived an hour before it started, I visited the Main Room again but did the short path. I was fortunate that most of the time I was by myself and there were no sounds but occassional water dripping. The Kings Palace tour was escourted by two female Park Rangers who were very knowledgeable and fun. They took us through four highly decorated scenic chambers and we descended an additional 830 feet beneath the desert surface.
In 1898 Jim White, a 16 year old cowboy with a grade 3 education, entered the caverns for the first time. Jim was fascinated with the cave and explored it, sometimes risking his life. He made a rope ladder to lower himself down with a kerosene lamp and we were shown burn marks he would put on the walls to find his way back out. He was eager to show the natural wonders of this extraordinary place to others, but few believed his description of the caverns. In 1915, black and white pictures taken by Ray Davis were displayed in Carlsbad and created a sensation. People clamored to see the marvelous cave. White took them on tours that began with a 170 ft descent in a bucket once used to haul bat guano from the cave. Word spread to Washington DC in 1923 and the caverns were made a national monument.
Jim White named all the different areas and the names are still used today. This is the "Papoose Room".
Also part of the Papoose Room.
The "Queen's Chamber".
The "Queen's Draperies" - very spectacular.

The Ranger had a "blackout" where we got to experience the permanent inky blackness of the natural cave. While in the blackness, she related that Jim White had been a hundred feet from his kerosene lamp when it ran of fuel and he only had 3 matches in his pocket. He found his way to the lamp with 1 match, the 2nd was a dud and with shaking hands he had to put kerosene in the lamp and also light it. He ended up pouring the fuel on himself but managed to light the lamp without turning himself into a torch.

This is one of a couple of tight spots we had to go through on our tour.
Another pool of water under a ceiling of stalactites.

Called "Bashful Elephant", it is easy to see why.
The "Vieled Statue".
"Green Lake", a drip pond which is 8 ft deep.
After the tour, I went to see the Natural Entrance which been closed as the bats where hanging out there yesterday. This entrance follows the original explorers route which descends 750 ft. We took the elevator from the visitor centre - much easier!
Sitting in an amphitheatre at the Natural Entrance, I waited to see the evening flight of the bats of Carlsbad Cavern. This mass exodus happens at dusk, when thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats fly in swarms in whirlwind spirals from the cave for a night of feasting on insects. These bats are very small, their body is the size of a thumb and the wings spread about 12 inches. While the bats are leaving, thousands of swallows are arriving and enter in downward spiral swarms in turn to bats leaving. The swallows go into the cave to sleep until the morning when the bats return and they then leave. Although some of the bats are migrating south and should be gone after the end of October, there were still thousands and it was very impressive.
When I got back to the RV park, I was told we were invited to a BBQ dinner made by Eric and his wife Trish who were camping here as well. The Bennetts were also invited along with the owners of the campground and another couple. Eric had wood-smoked the meat for several hours and it was delicious. What a friendly campground!

No comments:

Post a Comment