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Carlsbad Caverns, Day 2
by Stormy on June 29, 2005

The Natural Entrance Route is a huge bore heading down into Carlsbad Caverns, all 750 feet of it, to the very bottom. Thankfully, it's not a straight drop.

In the morning I returned to Carlsbad Caverns to continue my scheduled tours. The first thing on the agenda was taking the Natural Entrance Route from the Bat Flight Auditorium down to the Big Room. There are a lot of warnings around that this route is not for the fainthearted. It's steep, it's long and there are really no spots stop for a break. That includes bathrooms and snack bars. If you want that, take care of it outside or wait until you reach the Big Room. The mouth of the cave alone is an overwhelming view. Standing before it and looking up, you wonder what power is holding all of that up. There's big. There's huge. And there's unbelievable! This is the same opening that I sat in front of the evening before, watching bats taking flight. This morning the mouth of the cave was pretty busy with activity, too, but this time it was the day shift, consisting of swallows. Thankfully the 750 foot descent isn't a straight down drop. It's a gradual descent to the bottom with what seemed like hundreds of switchbacks, taking the trail past thousands of amazing formations. I'd stop and look and realize that you need a full day just to walk this route. There's too much to see, too much to do. Traffic coming into the cave by means of the Natural Entrance was fairly light this morning and I could take my time getting down, knowing that I still had another tour to get on at the bottom. It took me a little over an hour to make the mile or so hike, but that was easily eight or ten hours short of what it would take to truly appreciate the scenery. My reward at the bottom were the lights of the cafeteria in the Underground Rest Area where I would meet my tour. If you're healthy enough for a mile long hike down the Natural Entrance Route, it is an absolute must. Nowhere else in this cave, even in the Big Room, do you get the feel for how big the cave is like you do walking down this continuous entrance shaft into the cave. A few years ago some friends of mine asked a ranger if they could walk back up the Natural Entrance Route. The answer is never in the summer, but if you have a sense of adventure and want to do a serious elevation gain hike, you will be allowed to take on this challenge on slow off-season days. Remember, before the elevators were installed, this was the only way in and out of the cave!

View from the roof of the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center.
(taken by Jennifer on June 29, 2005)
Going in down the Natural Entrance can be quite a challenge. You can see how steep and winding the trail is in the daylight at the cave's mouth.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
A shaft of light can be seen above, showing the natural entrance. The light from this gaping hole does not last for a very long time. Carlsbad is a very deep and long cave.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
A forest of formations can be seen in the cave. Enchanting scenes like this are far too frequent as you walk the trail.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
There is water seeping down into the cave. Here you can see the perfect catch of a drop hitting the surface of the water.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
A vast variety of formations in all sorts of colors can be seen during the descent.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
Creative background lighting emphasizes the drapery covered flowstone.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
This ranger is smiling because she found a good place to rest.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
Scenes like this just make your jaw drop. You can't even say “wow!” without drooling.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
The Whale's Mouth. Finally, down in the Big Room!
(taken by Jennifer on June 29, 2005)
Popcorn encrusted formations decorate the passages of the cave.
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)
Civilization at last! Sit down and relax, have a snack, pick up a few souvenirs and mail your postcards. Don't forget to use the potty before heading out on your tour!
(taken by Max on June 29, 2005)


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