We returned to Carlsbad Caverns National Park the day following our guided tour of the Lower Cave to explore the Big Room. We entered through the “Natural Entrance”, A 1.2 mile paved path leading down 900 feet into the cave. Visitors not inclined for such a walk can take the elevator, and we had to take the elevator out because they close the gate of the natural entrance at 3:30.

Ranger John (it is possible that we do not always act our age).

Ranger John (it is possible that we do not always act our age).

The amphitheatre at the Natural Entrance where seasonal ranger programs are offered along with viewing of the bats emerging from the cave for a night of insect-gobbling.

The amphitheatre at the Natural Entrance where seasonal ranger programs are offered along with viewing of the bats emerging from the cave for a night of insect-gobbling.

Looking down into the Natural Entrance.

Looking down into the Natural Entrance.

Looking out the Natural Entrance.

Looking out the Natural Entrance.

Going down the rabbit hole.

Going down the rabbit hole.

Looking back at the light of day…our last glimpse before descending into the dark (but artificially lit) depths of the cavern.

Looking back at the light of day…our last glimpse before descending into the dark (but artificially lit) depths of the cavern.

We have arrived in wonderland.

We have landed in wonderland.

Walking through the Big Room feels unreal. I felt alternately like I was on another planet or that I was in a cartoon, infiltrating the lair of an evil villain. No pictures can express the magnitude of the scale, the intricacy of the formations or the strangeness of walking through this ancient interior where inorganic minerals create organic shapes.

Looking into the alien world of a hollow mountain.

Looking into the alien world in the middle of a hollow mountain.

Hall of Giants - these stalagmites stand about 60 feet tall.

Hall of Giants – these stalagmites stand about 60 feet tall.

These swiss-cheese walls really boggled my mind. Walking through such an unfamiliar landscape leaves one feeling confused and unbalanced.

These swiss-cheese walls really boggled my mind. Walking through such an unfamiliar landscape left me feeling confused and unbalanced. 

Another speleothem type, a “Lion’s Tail”.

Another speleothem type, a “Lion’s Tail”.

This feature looks like a family of jelly fish to me.

This feature looks like a family of jelly fish to me.

Many draperies.

Many draperies.

Caves are so a mysterious and difficult to explore, that new cavern rooms are still being discovered. The most recent discovery occurred last Halloween. Some researchers climbed up a rope installed in the middle of the Big Room to enter an area named Sprit World (what a place to visit on the day of spirits!). As they were looking around the room, they noticed an unexplored passage. They went through the passage to discover an unknown room, 100 feet in diameter!

That white vertical line is the rope hanging down from a hole in the ceiling.

That white vertical line is the rope hanging down from a hole in the ceiling, a 255 foot climb.

On the drive into the park in the morning, who did we see bicycling up the road but our friend Ralph? Ralph and Helen had just arrived in Carlsbad after stopping in Marfa, TX, and invited us for dinner. They treated us to delicious food (John even got to eat his first steak of the trip, something he doesn’t get from this vegetarian cook), and we had a great time hanging out into the night.

6 Thoughts on “Carlsbad Caverns Part 2: Natural Entrance and Big Room

  1. Emma Erickson on January 30, 2014 at 3:50 pm said:

    Hi Guys! I saw the caverns in the late 1950’s with my family on a road trip around the U.S. in a converted bus. Mom and Dad and 6 kids! Yikes! The thing I remember most was Carlsbad Caverns…yes, amazing! Love ya!

    • That’s a lot of kids in a bus! Now, when you say bus, do you mean a VW bus or like a school bus? Have any other recommendations we should hit up in AZ, CA and north?

      • Emma Erickson on February 2, 2014 at 10:44 am said:

        It was an old city bus that our family converted to sleep 8 with all the needs. We even had a picture of it in the L.A. Times being the first one of its kind…the birth of the motor home…my dad was pretty ahead of the times! This was in the 1950’s. Love you guys!

  2. Extraordinary photos. I hope I get to go there someday. I have to go down to my computer now and see these on the big screen rather than my iPad. Continue the good work Heidi. And John I want to see some more funny photos!

  3. Reading this just makes me want to go back again. I agree. Words and pictures cannot describe this place. People just need to go and experience it. I’m glad you walked through the natural entrance. It was truly spectacular. A must for anyone who can.

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