We left the noise and hustle bustle of San Antonio to drive west and north to Carlsbad, NM. It’s a pretty desolate place – mostly oil rigs along the road. At one point I saw the car thermometer read 105 degrees! We quickly learned that in this part of the country you never pass up a fueling or bathroom opportunity!

I was a little leery of the hotel, a Best Western, that had mixed reviews. There weren’t any other ‘dog’ options so we didn’t have much choice. Apparently, the hotels in Carlsbad are heavily used by the men who work the oil rigs and  can be rowdy.  Turns out, the hotel is very nice. It’s clean and spacious – big enough for Bailey to play frisbee! The restaurant here is pretty good too.

We moved into mountain time yesterday and were tired from the drive so we crashed early. This meant that we could get an early start today. We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns near opening time which meant no crowds and much cooler.

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I’m ready to hike!

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Approaching the entrance to the caves. It’s a little disconcerting to look into this dark hole in the ground! Every night, people gather here to see the bats fly out.

It’s hard for me to find the words to describe my experience visiting the caverns. We walked down into the caverns via the natural entrance. Before we entered, we were given an overview of the rules by a ranger. He asked that visitors not touch anything, talk in a whisper (since noise travels far) and don’t throw any coins in the water (what a dumb custom!)

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The mouth of the whale

As we descended we were just amazed at the beauty. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was so glad we got there early since we were practically alone there. It was quiet and serene – no noisy kids or foreign tourists. It was different once we reached the main cavern since many visitors take the elevator down and don’t have that transition of walking down over the course of an hour and getting accustomed to the caves.

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Descending into the dark

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Looks like bones

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I know what this looks like but it’s cool!

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The stalactites had ‘popcorn’ formations

We took the King’s Palace tour. A young, enthusiastic ranger gave us the tour. She talked about how the caves were formed, what effect the outside world has on the caves and what the caves give to the outside world. It was fascinating. In one of the rooms she turned the lights off so we could experience total darkness and silence. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt – serene and comforting but also a little scary.

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A room in the King’s Palace. It was hard to get good photos with my wimpy flash.

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Looking up

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A very large stalagmite

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Having people in the photo gives an idea of the scale

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Stalactite meets stalagmite creating a column

We were well-prepared for touring the caverns. The website recommended good hiking shoes, water and a jacket. After being down there for over 2 hours I was chilled to the bone! It never felt so good to exit into the sweltering dry heat!

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Enjoying the caverns

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Hard to describe how beautiful it is below the earth

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The green lake is  8 ft deep but looks shallow due to the crystal clear water

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The rock formations grow so slowly that it will probably take 1000 years for these formations to meet

We’re heading to Santa Fe tomorrow!

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When Bailey doesn’t have a sofa, he makes do with a chair!