Four Corners Loop Underway

We are wrapping up day 2 of the Four Corners loop, staying the night in Carlsbad, NM.

Day 1 didn’t start off great with a long delay and eventual change to a new airplane while connecting in Dallas. But, we finally arrived in Albuquerque and made our way down to the Old Town district for dinner. In the square, a live band played music while onlookers danced and enjoyed the cool desert evening. We ate at a small Mexican restaurant called La Hacienda. The food was above average, but the sopaipillas were phenomenal.

After dinner, we started driving to Roswell, as we were hoping to make Day 2 a little less driving. We received a dramatic lightning show in the distance along the way. A quiet night in Roswell, a we awoke refreshed after a tough flying day and ready to start the New Mexico part of our tour. To keep the morning light, we stopped by the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

We continued on to the Guadalupe Mountains and into Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Much of the yuca and plants along the route were scorched, but we didn’t have time to investigate, as we had 2pm reservations for the Kings Palace guided tour. General admission to the caverns is $6 per person, but the National Park Annual Pass covers that fee. As we have many parks along the route, we bought the Annual Pass since it will be less than the total fees for all of the parks along the loop. The Kings Palace guided tour is an additional $8 per person and is not covered by the Annual Pass. ┬áThe guided tours sell out quickly, so we had made our reservation online 6 weeks before our trip.

We met our ranger for the guided tour and he gave us the background about the unique way the caves were formed. Unlike most caves that are formed by flowing water, Carlsbad Caverns was formed by sulfuric acid rising from the petroleum buried deep below the mountainous landscape. We saw stalagtites, draperies, and soda straw formations along three main rooms on the one mile-1.5 hour tour. The rarely seen formations and expert insight truly make this guided tour worth the money and time.

Once we were sent along our way for our self-guided portion of our subterranean hike, we made our way to the Big Room, a 1.4 mile loop which is covered by general admission. This is the largest area of the cave and is seen by more than 500,000 tourists annually. The large formations and strategically placed lighting make for a breath-taking, yet accessible scene. The Chandelier was one of the most dramatic sights, along with other aptly named fixtures, like Lion’s Tail. We were quite impressed and sad to leave the caverns after nearly 3 hours underground. We were able to get some fantastic low-light photographs, which hopefully we can upload tomorrow.

Near dusk, we headed down to the natural cave entrance, where we heard a brief program from the ranger. At around 7:30pm, the Mexican freetail bats began to make their nightly flight from deep within the cave. In all, nearly 350,000 bats leave the cave in around 1 hour, some flying less than 10 feet above our heads. Though they didn’t come out as the giant swarm described in the guide books, it was still quite a sight.

I am finishing up my Roswell Alien Amber Ale from Sierra Blanca Brewing Company in Moriarty, NM and preparing for our drive to White Sands National Monument tomorrow.

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