November 20, 2019.
1.25 miles | 2:15 hr. |minimal ele. gain
After navigating the Hall of the White Giant ranger tour, we ate some lunch and took the elevator down to walk through the “Big Room.” Before we were allowed to get on the elevator, we reviewed the cave rules with a stern ranger. She said the usual stuff, like don’t touch the cave, don’t take your latte down there, etc. But then she mentioned something that caught my attention: “Please whisper while visiting the cave in order to preserve the cave’s natural quiet.” Now, that was a rule I could get behind. I am a person who really values quiet. I get irritated by large, chatty groups, loud drones, Bluetooth speakers, barking dogs. Preserving the quiet, I like that.
We stepped out of the elevator and into an enormous room. Yes, it was aptly named. I could hardly wrap my head around the scene that unfolded in front of me. It was majestic. Unbelievable. Awesome.
CLICK. CLICK. . . . CLICK. FLASH.
I whipped my head around. What was that stupid beep? Of course, it was a tourist. Someone who couldn’t figure out how to turn the sound off on her camera and who was also using a flash. And to make it even better, she was taking photos literally 30 seconds apart. It must have beeped a hundred times before I just stopped in my tracks and waited for her to get down out of earshot. Once she was gone, the cave was silent. Aaahhhh…
I hope no one has to sit through a thousand photos taken with a flash on that cheap digital camera. I only posted a few of my own crappy photos just so you get the idea. In fact, even the nice, professional photos on Carlsbad’s website were uninspiring. But being there, in that space, I felt an immense sense of connection and awe. It’s just one of those places you have to experience to understand.
We walked slowly, with many stops. Aaron busied himself taking panoramas and videos. I mostly just listened to the audio guide and looked around. There was so much to see. The paved path led us through the cave and brought us up close to many distinct cave features. This cave is so deep underground that naturally, no light would enter this room. So the park service hired a Hollywood lighting specialist to design a system to illuminate the cave. As a result, we get to see these spectacular rock formations in beautiful light.
I marveled at the jellyfish-like stalactites, the ribbon-like draperies, columns of cave popcorn and mineral shelves overhanging pools of water. Each step brought a new perspective. It took us two and a half hours to walk just over a mile. We really immersed ourselves in the cave.
With few exceptions, most visitors were speaking quietly and being respectful of others. I appreciated that effort. In the silence, the cave felt even more magical. I couldn’t imagine being in there on a busy day.
On our way to camp, we swung through the town of Carlsbad to re-supply our grocery stash for the next few days. Back at our site, I made a big pot of chili and sipped on a glass of red wine. Since I’d forgotten to pack bowls for our trip, I made use of our Styrofoam cups from Whataburger. I felt bad about the Styrofoam, so the least I could do was re-use the cups as many times as possible along the trip. They came in handy several times!