Carlsbad Caverns: A Must See for a Scenery Buff!

WHEN DID WE GO: August 5-6, 2017

WHY DID WE GO: USA Road Trip - en route to Mesa Verde from San Antonio, TX

HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: Probably 2.5 hours

WHERE WE STAYED: Carlsbad KOA (more below! I loved it!) 

THE BUMMERS - NONE!

Yay you don't have to hear me complain! Haha but really, this place was amazing! Ya it was a little crowded and ya, the elevator lines were insane when went to leave and we had to hoof it at a rather rapid pace to get out of the caverns, but it just added to the adventure!

THE HIGHLIGHTS

UMMMM....THE CAVES. 

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Visiting caves was one of the things that I definitely wanted to do on this trip. Since we opted for the Maker's Distillery instead of Mammoth Caves while we were passing through Kentucky, this stop in Carlsbad was non-negotiable! And this place did not disappoint! We rolled in probably around 2:30pm and it was hopping already, but fortunately, if you're just doing a self-guided tour, then you can fly through the line and get straight to touring. Heed the Ranger's advice and guidance about preserving these places and maintaining the health of the native bat populations (there's a serious concern about fungal disease that is decimating bat populations in certain caves). Once you go through a quick debriefing, you're on your way! And it's an incredible experience. I was blown away by the caves just as we were making our way down into the main gallery. I think I was even irritating my girl Kristin with all my pictures, but I just didn't want to miss anything! 

We slowly made our way down and when we were finally at the bottom I was just blown away. I've been in caves before, but I was young and I couldn't fully appreciate how freaking beautiful these natural wonders are. Now that I've experienced it as an adult? Damn, every time I have the chance to explore caves, I just might take it. The rock formations were incredible, almost alien, and no formation was the same. I literally couldn't' get enough. Give yourself at least 2, if not 3 hours here to fully appreciate the majesty of these caves.

  • Photography advice. It did take me about a million tries before I finally figure out HOW to go about taking pictures in the caves. I'm not super great at using all the fancy setting on my camera (guilty as charged friends), so basically it was an ass-ton of trial and error. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get frustrated. But what I learned was this - nix the flash and be as still as humanly possible. When you're in super dark areas trying to take picture and you don't know how to do exposure times and all that craziness, then the slightest movement can make your pictures blurry. You might be thinking, "Well, then just put on your flash dumb ass!" Ha. Tried that too actually and when you put on a flash, in most of the places, you either wash out your subject or you illuminate the foreground and completely lose the background beauty in your photo. So again, work without flash and try to keep very still. And be patient! It took me a bazillion tries before I finally started getting good pictures!

They also have a bat flight program at like 6 or 7pm, but we didn't stay for it. Speaking of this program, I have to tell you about my favorite part of the day.

Okay, now I have a story for you!One of my favorite parts of the day was when we were leaving. They tell you as you go in, especialyl when you go in in the afternoon, that you have to either be in line for the elevators or on your way hiking out of the natural entrance by 5:30pm. This is because they start turning out the lights in the cave so that the bats will start to come out for their bat flight program after hours. They warn you about long elevator lines in the evening, but either we didn't believe them or we just underestimated what they meant by lone lines. I think it was the latter. Anyway, wE went to get in line for the elevators and the wait was like 90 minutes long. Say what?! I was not about to wait in that line. So we decided to just hike out of the natural entrance of the caves.

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We'd seen people doing it and though they were huffing and puffing. But we figured that we're in pretty good shape so we would be fine. The problem. It was 5:15-5:20 and we needed to be back to the entrance trial by at least 5:30 before they started turning off the lights. Creepy right? I was just imaging us getting dive-bombed by huge bats like something straight out of Indiana Jones. Haha. Fortunately that didn't happen. But what did was that we got our asses handed us my that trail. It was 1.25 miles, which is not a tough distance in the slightest. But the kicker was the 750 foot incline over that 1.25 miles. Basically, we were walking straight up for 1.25 miles. I now understood why so many people were huffing and puffing. It was RIDICULOUS! We power through and got to the top but damn were we exhausted. Haha we considered that our workout of the day and snapped our wonderful post-hike exhaustion pic (above right).

I can hear you all reading this right now going "How the hell was this one of your favorite parts of the day?!" Honestly, cuz it was so damn memborable. It's a part of my trip that I will ledimiately never forget. And that's always something that I'm striving for in my adventures!

      GORGEOUS KOA. Another thing I loved about this place was our absolutely gorgeous KOA (right)! We stayed at the Carlsbad KOA and it was one of my favorite KOAs of the whole trip. It was nice and flat with great places to pitch tents. But the bonus? They actually put the tents right next to the showers and bathrooms, they had ice cream socials (and one was happening the night we were there) and they had stargazing! It was one of my favorite KOAs of our whole trip. Ya, it may have stormed on us a bit that night, but it was still an incredible night of camping. And one of my best nights sleep of the camping trip as you can imagine after all the walking we did!

      THE AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL PASS. I've written an entire post about how worth it this pass is, but this stop in Carlsbad Caverns was the first instance where I really started to realize it's value. When we arrived at Carlsbad Caverns, there wasn't an entrance fee as I had expected (And was the norm for the rest of the trip!). We went into the visitor's center only to see some advertisements about the pass and something about getting in free. So the next thing you know I was running back to the car (through the rain!) to get my pass while Kristin waited in line. We ended up doing our entire tour for FREE with the pass! 3 ish hours of incredible experiences, photos and entertainment and we didn't pay a dime for it! That's a win!