I'd have to say that the rolling terrain of southeast New Mexico is some of the least attractive I have seen anywhere. My earlier trip to New Mexico involved the central to northeast part of the state, a beautiful mountainous area with lots of trees and river valleys providing some great scenery. Making the situation worse in the Carlsbad area is the fact that it is rich in oil, natural gas and potash - leading to mines, power stations and well-head pumps located all over the place. To make things worse, it means that major power lines and smaller distribution ones to run the pumps criss-cross the landscape no matter how far from civilization you think you are. Most of our 5-hour drive down from Albuquerque took us through the same sort of terrain including Roswell, the 'flying saucer' city. There was a good reason why the US Government set off the world's first Atomic blast at Alamagordo - not far west of Carlsbad!
Fondest memory: The nearest escape from Carlsbad for a bit of scenery is up on the hills of the Living Desert State Park or a bit further west and south as you enter the Guadaloupe Mountain range - which actually has its own National Park (in Texas) not far from Carlsbad Caverns.
Look out for Draperies.
The creation of each formation depended on water that dripped or seeped down into the limestone bedrock & into the cave. Draperies were hung where water ran down a slanted ceiling.
Favorite thing: Marvel at the amount of time that is required of nature to make this formation. It takes about 70 years to build up just one-inch length of the limestone rock! So, can anyone take a guess how long it's going to make such formations?
Favorite thing: Another corner of the caves. I can't help but wonder about the past travelers who had been here when it was first discovered! How did they descend into the depth of the caves & how much courage was needed???
Join a ranger-guided caving tour. This is certainly a must!
KING'S PALACE (US$8): 1 1/2 hours tour.
Daily: 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm.
Fondest memory: We started the tour descending to 830 feet below the surface. There's 4 highly decorated chambers not huge but with detailed stalactites & helictites some with formations like popcorns! Draperies are commonly found in this part of the cave as well.
Fondest memory: This 'Christmas Tree' is a natural structure. Over thousands of years, tiny drops of water will fall from the ceiling, leaving bits of limestone both from where it falls and where it hits the ground. Thus, stalagtites (from the ceiling) and stalagmites (from the ground) can grow. The white colour indicates that it is FRESH, darker colours show old structures.
Fondest memory: There they go! Thousands of them. Once they are out, they will circle and circle and circle above you, trying to determine the direction of their flight. Immediately, the birds of prey fly in, too, to catch a snack. +++ Ladies, don´t worry: They do NOT attack or get entangled in your hair. :-)
Fondest memory: NOT really a FOND memory: There are thousands of bats in there. They will leave you alone in the caves since they sleep during the day and leave the cave at around sunset (see below). But if you have any doubts, don´t go there. I felt a bit funny - but maybe I have just watched to many Dracula-movies.
Favorite thing: An abundance of fluted column stalagmites can be found in the King's Palace. These stalagmites are so much bigger than those I've seen elsewhere in the world.
Favorite thing: Lookout for mind-boggling formations in the Papoose Room: the most highly decorated room in King's Palace.
Check with the ranger about geology. One said the age of most formations in this cave is about 800,000 years!
Now, how's that for perspective!
Fondest memory: This gigantic formation can be found all over the caverns though I hardly see them in caves of China.
Fondest memory: staring in awe. I live not far from similar caves (Nuremberg, Germany - 'Fränkische Schweiz'), but I have never seen stalagmites and stalagtites that big.
Fondest memory: At the entrance, they will give you a kind of cassette recorder that will tell you all about the sights down there. You can choose among several languages.
Favorite thing: join the Ranger Talk about the bats in the little theatre at around sunset. Check in the visitor center for times.