Thursday, March 3, 2022

New Mexico day 6: Carlsbad Caverns

We packed up in the morning and headed to Carlsbad Caverns -- for anyone keeping track, this was the number two place I wanted to visit in New Mexico. We took the mountain route via Cloudcroft (pretty!), even seeing the tiniest bits of snow, and cute, odd little Artesia. But then we arrived at Carlsbad Caverns! We had some time before our reservation, so we sat in the picnic area and ate our packed lunches (a good call -- we didn't realize how long we'd be in the cave!) and then went in. 

We decided to walk down from the natural entrance rather than taking the elevators, and it was 100% the right choice. It's dark but paved and mostly level. And of course, mostly downhill. 

To get to the natural entrance you walk through the "auditorium" where, in summer, people can sit and have a front-row seat to watch tens of thousands of bats fly out of the cave at sunset. It must be amazing. 

I loved the switchbacks down the steep entrance slope -- they reminded me of Walter's Wiggles in Zion. 

We were happy that there weren't a lot of people walking down or up -- because voices carried like crazy in the cave. It got dark, it got cooler, and we just kept going down, down, down. You lose about 750 feet over the course of 1.25 miles and about an hour. 

It felt like we'd been underground for a very long time. I mean, I knew Carlsbad Caverns was big, but I had no idea that it was HUGE. Like, huge huge. 

So we headed around the Big Room -- which I had honestly thought was, yes, a big room, but one where you would see the cave from one vantage point rather than another 1.25-mile loop that twists and turns and climbs up and down. 

It was also interesting that -- though the parking lot was rammed when we arrived, we really didn't see many people in the cave itself. And we walked and walked and walked. 

I should note that it wasn't as "bright" in the cave as these pictures imply -- there were some lights on some of the formations, but it was quite dark even with our underground eyes. 

We finished the loop and arrived at the site of the underground snack bar. Darn you, COVID and seasonality, for keeping this closed except on weekends. Because, man, popcorn IN A CAVE???

Then up up up the elevators -- 752 feet -- and we were back up top. 

On the way out of the park we took the 9.5 mile, one-way "loop drive". I enjoyed it -- I like a little dirt road driving! Of course, we weren't in our Subaru and were in a mid-grade sedan, but it was still fine. 

Then back on the highway and a quick pass through Artesia again for our home for the night:

When I was planning the trip, we wanted to find a cute, alien-themed, independent hotel. I thought I found one, booked it, and then when we arrived we realized that, well, it wasn't quite what we were looking for. Note: it was super clean, the bed was firm, and I'm sure it would have been fine. But I went into the bathroom -- also super clean -- and immediately looked up other places to stay online. I found one close by, then walked out of the bathroom and started telling Wil about it. Turns out he had done the same thing. So we booked the other place and then walked out of the room and to our car and drove to the very, very nice Home2 Suites by Hilton. 

The room was huge and very comfortable, there was a hot breakfast buffet in the morning, and -- crucially -- it was much closer to "downtown Roswell" so we could walk around rather than drive around. Perfect. 

We wandered around a bit admiring how much the city had BOUGHT IN to the alien theme, had an odd but nice dinner in a local favorite called Peppers, and then massive ice creams at Yoly's Paleteria before collapsing in our super quiet, verrrry comfy hotel room. 

** A quick note about this post -- I'm catching up with my New Mexico memories and backdating blog posts to each day. 

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