Carlsbad Caverns Diary 2006

Diary of caving trip to Carlsbad Caverns NP, April/May 2006

4/21/06 Got on our way to Carlsbad Caverns today. Drove 360 miles to Casa Grande Arizona. We met Rob and Dorinda Lindvall there. We all went out for a delicious Mexican dinner at Cynthia’s. I had beef and chicken fajitas which were delicious.

4/22/06 Drove only 140 miles to Wilcox, AZ. My Streets and Trips map programs misfired saying it was 200 miles. I wanted to go to a National Monument but the Lindvall’s weren’t interested so we played Mexican rail dominoes instead. The short drive gave me plenty of time to barbeque a 3# pork loin roast which had been pre-marinated with jalapeños sauce from Sam’s Club. We had a green salad, garlic onion rice, and green peas with it, all prepared by Rob. Yum yum.

Drove about 188 miles to Las Cruces NM. I watched about 4 NBA playoff games on satellite TV during the afternoon. Played a few rubbers of bridge with the Lindvall’s before dinner. We made fajitas with the left over pork roast for dinner that night.

4/24/06 Drove about 220 miles to Carlsbad, NM. Drove through Guadalupe NP which as many trails. I hope to go back about 50 miles to hike one or two of their trails. Stopped at the Carlsbad Caverns NP to pick up our cave tour tickets before checking in at the Carlsbad RV Park in the town of Carlsbad.

4/25/06 Drove out to the Caverns about 25 miles SW of town for our first 2 hour 1.5 mile guided tour called Left Hand Tunnel. This was called an off trail tour and the lighting was provided by candle lanterns which were carried by each caver. The size of the group was 15 so it was quite intimate. The temperature was a very refreshing constant 56 F. Rob had some trouble negotiating the trail on this tour and was not able to do the final 300 yards. He also had trouble hearing the guide oration on all of the tours. I learned to always talk to Rob so he could see my face as he was quite adapt at reading lips. The formations, pools, and fossils were very impressive. Our guide Ken from New Zealand was excellent and provided us with interesting history about the cave discovery and exploration. In the afternoon we all did the 2 hour guided Kings Palace tour. This area was all artificially lighted with huge formations and high ceilings. It was the biggest group of any tour we took at perhaps 40. The girl that did this tour was an air head that had a hard time getting her facts right.

4/26/06 We all walked the self guided 1.5 mile Big Room free tour at 10:00 p.m. It was an awesome tour. The trip to Carlsbad would be worth it, even if all you saw was this tour. We all had lunch at the visitor center restaurant which had good food for a NP restaurant. At 1:00 p.m. I alone started the Lower Cave tour orientation. We had to wear a hard hat with light and gloves to protect the cave. We had to provide our own 4 AA batteries. The elevator drop down to Lower Cave was about 860’. The tour started out with an 8’ rope repel. Than 3 ladders down about 60’ to the cave level. Once down the difficulty wasn’t too bad although many areas required that one used your gloved hands to make it up, down, or around a very tight corner. The trail was marked off with colored tape. The formations were very pristine and beautiful while you observed them from very close range. There is more water at this level and several beautiful pools. Only 12 people per day are allowed down to Lower Cave. We had a female leader and a male ranger bringing up the rear. Both rangers where excellent. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone who is in relatively good physical condition. Near the end you were given the option of crawling 30’ through a tunnel, so you can determine if you would like to do some real caving. I declined the crawl and bypassed this tunnel. I got a bit winded climbing up the ladder and on a steep portion on the way out.We grilled hamburgers at our trailer for dinner.

4/27/06 We visited the federal government WIPP Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in the morning. This is for low level nuclear waste items, not spent fuel. It was quite interesting. We were shown a video about the operation. The cost of one container is $850,000 and they use up to 30 of them in one day. They are stored in underground salt bed tunnels 2,150’ deep.Next we went to Living Gardens Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park which was very interesting. The birds and animals were all endemic to Chihuahuan Desert in this area. We had leftovers in our trailer for lunch. Ate at a Mexican Restaurant called Lucy’s Mexicali for dinner. I don’t understand why people love Mexican food so much? We then drove out to the entrance of Carlsbad Caverns at 7:00 p.m. to watch the bats depart for their night foraging. They finally came out about 7:40 p.m. by the thousands. These were apparently the migrating bats on their way north. It was neat to see them even though it was raining lightly.

It hailed lasted night for one hour the size of large marbles. Meghan was petrified and shook for hours. I was worried about damage to the truck and trailer, but both survived without dents. We started back today. Drove to Las Cruces, NM and stayed at the same Las Colinas RV Park which had roses at your sight, a free Margarita party, and free breakfast in the morning at a cost of $38 per night. Had left over Fajitas for dinner.

4/29/06 Drove to 280 miles to Tucson and checked into Western Way RV Park off Ajo Road near the Living Museum. This park is upscale and the facilities were very nice. The night Dorinda and Bob purchased large chicken tenders which we barbecued with mustard marinade served with fresh sautéed spinach and white rice. Every body loved the chicken including me. Also had a nice bottle of Chardonnay wine which Dorinda provided. Played rotating Chicago style bridge with the Lindvall’s which was lots of fun. Linda actually survived as the leading scorer this day.

4/30/06 The Lindvall’s came over at 8:00 a.m. and I prepared sour dough pancakes with bacon for breakfast. After clean up we drove to the Living Desert Museum where we toured for about 2.5 hours. We then returned to the trailer to prepare white rice and we played some more Chicago style bridge in the RV Park clubhouse. Dorinda Lindvall emerged has the high scorer for the trip. The trailer AC froze up so I turned it off to thaw out. We then went to the San Xavier Bac Mission for a couple of hours in the 97 degree heat. Came home about 4:00 p.m. and I prepared chicken and pork fried rice which was quite tasty even though we could not find any sesame oil to season it in this predominantly Spanish area. The Lindvall’s were very tired so we said our goodbyes all exclaiming that we indeed had a fun trip made even better by each others company.

5 /1/06 Got up about 7:30 a.m. making coffee, bacon, eggs, and some delicious homemade hash brown potatoes for breakfast. We then drove north east through Tucson and up to Mount lemon which is 8,000’ high. The habitat goes from desert at sea level and eventually changes to very pretty and large pine trees. They had a fire about 3-4 years back but it was still pretty and the temperature started at 97 F. at bottom and was 70 F at the top. Had a huge piece of homemade sour cherry pie for lunch at a café in the town of Summerhaven. Started back and stopped for a short hike on the Butterfly trail which was a killer elevation wise. It dropped about 650’ in 1.25 miles. I was slow but had no problem negotiating it although it made my calf’s sore for 3-4 days. Linda had no problem at all and of course Meghan was ecstatic to be running in the wild.

Left about 8:45 a.m. for home. We listened to a fantasy audio book called WIELDING THE RED SWORD to pass the time driving on the long stretches of desert isolation. Stopped about 2 hours in El Centro to see Scarlet and Joe Willingham. Continued on and then stopped at the Acorn Casino Restaurant for light dinner. Got home about 8:00 p.m. after 430 miles, way too long of a day. Unpacked only a few things and went to bed early.

Last updated on February 6, 2019