This is a shot of our lantern tour group as we began our journey. You can see our ranger guide at the first of several stopping points where we paused for explanations and questions. The lanterns were lit at this point, since the next stop would be in darkness. And oh, yes, the 'lanterns' were single-candle affairs and not much by way of illumination until eyes were well-accustomed to the dark.
The bats use this entrance to the cave, but have chosen to confine themselves to a side chamber where we were not permitted to go. Seems that bat guano fumes are not healthy for humans. It is the decay of the accumulated guano that elevates the temperature in the nursery chamber to around 90 degrees F, which baby bats thrive in.
The hike downward into the cave was precipitous. I don't know the angle of descent, but it was difficult to remain in control and not just go tumbling forward. I had visions of myself rolling down the pathway like a human bowling ball, mowing down people left and right. A scary thought.
It got worse. Not only was the descent steep, but
it got rapidly darker. This photo was the last I was able to take without benefit of flash.
It was soon so dark I couldn't see the path in front of me and there were no handrails to guide by. Getting closer to a lantern-bearer made things a bit easier, then there were finally handrails to help 'steer' by.
On we went, for 1 1/4 miles, for a total descent of some 800+ feet. The fronts of my thighs ached for the next two days!
I cannot begin to describe the interior of this cave. It ought to be rated as one of the wonders of the world. Awesome, magnificent, incredible -- none of these words come close. Incomprehensible is the best way I can think of to describe something like this. We spent a good deal of time exploring the perimeter of the "Big Room," another hike of 1.6 miles. The camera flash was useless, but I was able to get a few video clips that don't show much by way of the grandeur of the space. I won't post any pix here; you'll just have to go there for yourself. It's well worth the trip.
Were it not for the elevators, I would still be in Carlsbad Cavern. No way could I have walked back up the way we came down!
We availed ourselves of the gift shop -- T shirts, post cards, and other small mementos of the trip -- and were on our merry way back into the sunshine. We headed south towards El Paso, along the Guadalupe Mountains and the Capitans, then into the rolling desert plains. I think I have some comprehension of "desolate." What a vast empty place! Mile after mile of -- nothing!
No trees, no mountains, no houses, no cars, not even road kill! Just the unrelenting scrubby desert and the road straight ahead to the horizon. After a hundred and however many miles of bleakness, we came into El Paso. A stop for gas and munchies, and we headed back to Las Cruces.
One more day of vacation left. I had Bead Store as top priority on the day's activities, so wasted no time. I was not disappointed. The women at Unravel had pointed me in the right direction. The bead store was quite marvelous and my flight carry-on gained a couple of pounds for the trip home.
We stopped by Unravel to say our goodbyes and thank the people who had given us so much great advice about the area. We found new and different folks there this time, but no less friendly!
Tuesday morning found us up early for the drive to El Paso and the flight back home.Sunrise over the Organ Mountains from the Lotsaburger parking lot.