Sunday, November 21, 2010

October 30. Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the rugged foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains, with miles of caves cutting through a Permian-age fossil reef. The park's showpiece is Carlsbad Cavern, a series of enormous rooms that make up one of the world's largest caves. Unlike most limestone caves that form when surface water flows through cracks in the rock, these passageways in the Guadalupe Mountains are the rare product of sulfuric acid. Oil deposits mixed with the water table to create an aggressive chemical that dissolved holes in the subterranean limestone. As the mountains rose over a period of 20 million years, the caves dried out, revealing Carlsbad. A steep, paved trail leads into the cavern's natural entrance, which measures 90 feet wide and 40 feet high. The cavern has more than 30 miles of surveyed subterranean corridors and great chambers. Formations range from small, delicate growths to massive stalagmites, stalactites, and columns. Many are tinted by iron and other minerals present in the limestone. We entered through the natural entrance, although there are elevators to take you down. Mr. Hawthorne is still complaining about this. Somehow, it didn't register when he was told he'd be making an 800-foot descent. Then three-quarters of the way down he realized that was 80 stories. At that point his legs didn't want to do what his brain was telling them to do and both went into spaghetti mode. I thought this was rather humorous but alas, Mr. Hawthorne found no such humor in this turn of events. He will never not take an elevator again. My problem with this cave is it's DARK. You remember those paintings back in the 70's or 80's of the children with the BIG EYES? That's what I felt like in this cave. I couldn't open my eyes wide enough and I still couldn't see crap. Reading in my AAA TourBook, I suggested Mr. Hawthorne and I take the "Hall of the White Giant Tour." Here's the description: This strenuous 4-hour guided tour leads to a remote chamber. Participants must crawl long distances, squeeze through crevices such as the tight Matlock's Pinch and climb a slippery passage. Hiking boots or other sturdy shoes and four new AA batteries are required; gloves, long pants, and knee pads are recommended. Headlamps are provided. Mr. Hawthorne didn't jump at this idea. Wussy.
And he wouldn't wait until 5 PM to see the thousands of bats fly out of the cage either. When he finally saw the elevators, he was outta there.

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