I was just in time for a quick look around the Carlsbad Caverns National Park visitors center before the cave opened at 8:30AM. General admission was $6. Less than a movie! This early in the day, there were only about 30 people waiting to go in.
The National Park Service makes many warnings about how strenuous the Natural Entrance is, but I think it is the only way to go. Entering into the Cavern through the huge hole in the mountain has to be more impressive then just going down an elevator. As I approached the cavern, I could hear the chattering of many birds or bats. The sound revealed itself to be coming from hundreds of cave swallows swooping in and out of the mouth of the cavern.
The open spaces along the natural route down into the caverns is enormous and thanks to fixed lighting, there is usually at least one direction where you can see for hundreds of feet. There is a paved trial, much of it quite steep. It is often damp, but there are handrails and a good surface. The cavern is 56 degrees and 90 percent relative humidity.
It took a little over a hour to go down the mile trail, stopping for dozens of photos. I'm glad I took my tripod. The hard part of taking pictures in the caverns is that the eye can see things over a wide range of brightness at the same time, but the camera cannot. Serious photography in the cavern would require both a tripod and some additional lights.
When the trail lets out at the "Big Room" you have gone down 750 feet. I spent another hour and walked a little over another mile, following the trails around the perimeter of the irregular 14 acre, Big Room.
copyright 2006-2009 by Keith Stokes.