Day 33--Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Breakfast was included with our hotel stay, but the service was slow and the options were limited. While we waited, I went to the front desk and got directions to the very nice manager's doctor's office, having finally decided that I needed to see a doctor about my icky health. Our morning was consumed with Ben sleeping in and us visiting the doctor's office. I had to have blood taken, which made me pretty queasy, much to amusement of the nurse because I was wearing the "American Blood Donor" shirt that I had gotten for working at the blood drive at school.
We had lunch at Subway and then drove to the famous Carlsbad Caverns. The radio information we were tuned to said that many tourists find it hard to believe that the caverns exist below the surface of the hilly landscape with the stubbly brown grass and weeds. I would definitely agree with that statement. I kept expecting to see something that would indicate that we were approaching the caves, but there was nothing outstanding about the desert scenery.
We decided to go the Natural Entrance route, which is how the caves were discovered. We entered through the Bat Amphitheater, where we saw hundreds of swallows flying because it was the middle of the afternoon. But at night, tourists come to see the "flight of the bats." Apparently the bats are actually the reason the caverns were discovered--because people were mining for guano (bat poop), which seems to be an important fertilizer. Kind of gross.
Our knees were soon sore and Ben's legs were twitching from the constant downhill walkways. The lower we descended, the less light there was, until the natural light disappeared altogether. Down and down and down and down, until we were 750 feet below the surface, in the cool darkness of the caves. They were beautiful, in a very earthy way. I could identify the stalactites and stalagmites, but there were also swirls in the rock and clusters that looked like grapes and huge boulders and dozens of other types of formations. I was incredibly impressed. After we finished the hour and a half Natural Entrance hike, we explored the beginnings of the Big Room, a cavern so big that it is a little over a mile around the loop.
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