|Natural Entrance to the Carlsbad Cavern Bat Cave|
- Balconies Cave in Pinnacles National Park in California
- Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico
- Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park in California
- Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
- Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
- Lava Beds National Park in California
- Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park in Nevada
- Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah
- Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota
|Shark Mouth Feature|
|Natural Entrance Amphitheater|
There are more than 100 entrances to caverns in the park. I spent two days in the bat cave bowels in a reverent state where I was awed by the beauty and complexity of everything I saw. On the first day I took about four hours to walk into the Bat Cave to reach the beginning of El Salon del Gigantes (The Big Room) to see a cavern that could hold three football fields containing thousands of natural wonders.
Throughout the journey no headlamps or flashlights are required as the pathway is gently lit by artificial lights. Originally designed by a Hollywood lighting specialist the accent lighting surely deserves an Oscar for lighting design.
The route is 100% on a hard surface that provided excellent traction in humid environs of the cave. This is so unlike the early days of the caves operation without elevators when visitors were lowered in buckets that doubled as hoppers for hauling out enormous quantities of bat guano for local agricultural use.
At the start of my visit the elevator that carries visitors down to the bottom had just broken. It got stuck in emergency brake mode and in recovering normal use the large motor burned out. As a result everyone had to both walk down and back out on the steep path of the cave. All the ranger led cave tours were cancelled and everyone received free admission to the cave if they could walk in and out. This no small feat for mere mortals.
There were lots of generous and dedicated parents hauling complaining children back up the 800+ feet to the main level. I counted over 80 steep switchbacks on the route.
On my second trip a week later the elevator was still not back in operation and I couldn't take any of the six National Park Service ranger guided tours. I wanted to take the Left Hand Tunnel Tour, an historic candle-lit lantern tour through an undeveloped section of the cave on unpaved trails.
Despite the cancellation, the Big Room holds enough splendors to satisfy any visitor. Shared here are some of the highlights of my stroll through the room.
|The Lion's Tail|
I highly recommend that Carlsbad Caverns National Park appear somewhere near the top of your must visit travel list.
|One Happy Old Geezer Spelunker|