As a young boy growing up under the Sweet Gum, Oak and Pine Trees of East Texas, I always heard friends and family tell stories of going down into Carlsbad Caverns. I was intrigued by some of the things I heard and knew that I wanted to go down into the caverns, too. Carlsbad Caverns National Park was approximately six hundred miles from my hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Texas. More specifically the caverns are located in the Guadalupe Mountains under the Chihuahuan Desert in southeastern New Mexico. Until just a few years ago, I was still the only kid on the block who had not been down in the caverns. My wife had even been down there twice. In 2012 a family decision was made that on the way down out of the Sacramento Mountains headed back to Texas, our route would take us to Carlsbad, New Mexico. September 24, 2012 was my big day.
Having purchased my tour ticket and satisfied the National Park Service that I was free of the White – nose Syndrome, which is lethal to the Mexican Free-tailed Bat population that makes its home in the caverns, I entered the natural entrance of the eighth wonder of the world and began my 1.25 mile trek, equivalent to 79 stories, down to the Big Room. I soon realized that wearing bifocals necessitated my being extra cautious and held on to the handrails, especially since I was alone most of the way. While enjoying the various formations, I couldn’t help but play the “What if Game” such as if the electricity went off, I fell or had a medical event and lastly an earthquake. Obviously none of that happened.
Once I reached the Big Room, I joined a Ranger guided tour to go even deeper into the caverns and see even more spectacular formations. This tour called the King’s Palace tour took an hour and a half and descended to 830 feet below the surface of the earth. I certainly hope this is as close to Hell as I ever get. The Ranger told the group that the temperature was a constant 56 degrees and that in the olden days locals would have weddings and other social events in the cavern to escape the heat of the Chihuahuan desert heat. Then, wham, the Ranger turned off the lights to let the group experience total darkness. You couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. I have included a photograph of this experience. At the conclusion of the tour back in the Big Room, I decided to take the several minute elevator ride back to the surface rather than hike up the 79 stories.