It was a drive day from Colorado to southern New Mexico so of course, we planned to be up and out early and of course, we slept in and didn’t leave until about noon-lol.
We drove through New Mexico from top to bottom. This state is l-o-n-g…and really desolate (at least on the path that we drove.) Seriously, there was nothing – no signs, no towns, no scenery –nothing.
Bless Scott’s heart -as the kids played electronics, sang karaoke with a snake as a microphone (LOL), and watched some shows, I read and he just drove- and drove – and drove.
About an hour north of Carlsbad – where we were going to see the Caverns- is the town of Roswell. We stopped to eat and gawk and look for aliens and UFOs. We were not disappointed. I am not sure we would have gone to see the town for any other reason, but it was right on our way and it was pretty fun to see the touristy alien atmosphere of the town.
We checked into our hotel room after dark – of course…
There are ranger-guided tours of different parts of the cave that are offered for a fee and then a self-guided (with cool audio for a minimal fee) trip that guides you through the natural entrance to the cave and the main chamber. Before we even decided – Luke finished enough of the booklet – just sitting in the visitor center before we even set foot in the cave-to earn his junior ranger badge! They announced his name over the loudspeaker and then challenged him to complete the entire booklet for an additional patch. Challenge accepted!
We decided to just do the self-guided tour – which would take a few hours, eat dinner in the park, and then attend the evening ranger program…which was about the bats that live in the cave. Apparently each night in the summer, right after sunset, all the bats (all of the 200,000 bats that live in the cave) swarm out to go look for food…how could we miss that?
The cave was amazing!! SOO beautiful…and strange…and sort of surreal. Some comparisons the kids made were to an undersea landscape and an alien world. The features were very large as was the space underground, it was a bit chilly and so it was good that we had sweatshirts.
We all teamed up for the audio tour (so as to rent only 3 of the audio tours rather than 6 or 7). The audio tours were hand-held speakers that once a number was punched in, gave information on that particular feature in the cave. We were able to listen with 2 at a time or one would listen and then punch in the number for the next person to listen. Grace and Joe teamed up and seemed to be quite the pairing.
All the kids finished the ranger program and earned the badges – Luke completed every requirement on the booklet and earned the patch in addition to his badge!
We stayed for the bat program which was held right after sunset….and as we were walking to the viewing area we came across a rattlesnake – a real live rattlesnake – right in front of us- WHAT???
The rangers were notified and came out to shoo all of the gawkers off – informing us that should anyone be bitten – the nearest hospital for an anti-venom shot was an hour away!! The kids were not phased by this but I surely was !!!
We sat down for the ranger talk to lead up to sunset…the rangers provided information and answered questions on the bats that lived in the cave. There is not a specific time for the bats to start the flight – as it is just a natural phenomenon.
On the night we attended, the rangers were worried about an electric storm that was passing through and it became a race as to whether the bats would come out before they cleared the park for the storm. We were able to see the bats swarm for a few minutes and then the rangers thought the storm was getting too close and had to end our viewing…it was worth the wait though, even with the abrupt ending! (no pictures were allowed during the event – but there are pics available to get an idea of it online.)