Carlsbad Caverns were splendid beyond words, I won't even try to describe them but I'll post a bunch of pictures. I will explain a little about the unusual geology of the area. Most caverns are located in large limestone formations created millions of years ago by industrious little sea creatures like algae, sponges and shellfish. Many caverns are created by water from the surface flowing through cracks in limestone formations, dissolving the soft rock, and creating the large rooms and passageways. Then, over hundreds of thousands of years, groundwater seeping into the spaces and dripping and flowing creates the stalactites and stalagmites that make up the amazing formations, including columns, chandeliers, crystals, sheets, curtains, and everything in between. What is unusual about Carlsbad is that the major work of hollowing out the ancient coral reef was not done by flowing water, but by hydrogen sulfide rich water seeping up from fossil fuel deposits below, reacting with the water in the limestone to create sulphuric acid. This acid ate away the limestone much faster than just flowing water and contributed to the many unusual and enormous rooms of Carlsbad. Most of the formations were then created in the usual way, water seeping into the caverns over millennia. Carlsbad is mostly a dry cavern now, there is very little dripping water, partly because is it located in a desert on a warming planet. The two and half miles of trails through the main part of the cavern are very easy and well planned and maintained. You can do side trips and additional sites for a fee but we found that two and a half miles was plenty. The NP works hard to preserve and protect the cavern and have pretty strict rules. What we really liked is that it is self guided and you can really take your time and enjoy the cave. Thayer and I had fun playing with our cameras and experimenting with different settings and effects.
|Main Entrance Carlsbad Caverns|
Heading back into Texas (sigh) we drove a few miles down the road to Guadalupe Mtn. NP. These beautiful, rugged mountains are made of the same limestone as Carlsbad and probably even have caves and caverns underneath. The highland areas, at 8000 ft. resemble a northwest forest rather than a desert habitat. We didn't visit this area but it looked very beautiful in the video. There are two main entrances to the park, the first being McKittrick Canyon, arguably the most beautiful place in Texas. It has a very different ecology than the surrounding areas, many plants and animals are hold overs from way back when there was more water around. A stream flows through the canyon, though you can't always see it as it goes underground for long stretches. The gray and brown cliffs tower above the creek bed and forests of pine, cactus, maple and even Texas madrone trees fill in the low areas. What really stands out is that the stream bed is filled with white boulders, all rounded and shaped from tumbling downstream during the flash floods that happen fairly regularly. These white rocks came from the cliffs above but the brown and gray coloring gets worn off on the way downstream, exposing the white sandstone. It is quite beautiful. In 1930 Mr. McKittrick built a beautiful stone lodge about half way up the canyon, above the flood areas and lived in it for many years. He donated the lodge and the property in the 60's, initiating the formation the park.
|Guadalupe Mtn. NP|
|Homesteader spread with springs|
|View from Frijole's|