For some reason I was considering skipping this park. Mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t showered since Austin, and I was ready to get to my Aunt’s house in Colorado Springs and relax. But leaving from Guadalupe, Carlsbad is literally right down the street.
The air was extremely cold upon arriving at the visitor’s center. I ran inside to check everything out. I stamped up my National Parks Nat Geo book, along with my passport, and then I chatted with one of the rangers.
“Have you been in any caves recently?” the ranger asked.
“Actually I was just at Mammoth Cave and Ruby Falls.”
“I have to clean your shoes then.”
The ranger then went on to explain White-Nose Bat Syndrome, a disease ravaging bats in the Eastern US, and told me that tourists and travelers can pick up the fungus on shoes or articles of clothing and transmit it. The ranger then gave my shoes a good cleaning and I was off to the caverns.
Unlike both Ruby Falls and Mammoth Cave, the walk up and entrance into Carlsbad Caverns is stunning. Tourists weave their way down a number of steep switchbacks into a massive cave opening. Swallows chirped and streamed out of the cavern as I strolled down into the mouth of Carlsbad Caverns. The next few hours were spent as you would expect, with me wearing an enormous grin, mouth agape, constantly muttering things including:
What the fuck??
Thinking back I was happy that I hit up these parks in the order that I did. It was a perfect. Ruby Falls in Tennessee first, then Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and then Carlsbad Caverns as the main course. Let me sum it up this way:
Ruby Falls = “Cool”
Mammoth Cave = “Ah, Super Cool”
Carlsbad Caverns = “Say WHAAAAAA?!?!”
As I made my way a mile down into the caverns, I was thinking the whole time Mammoth Cave isn’t mammoth – Carlsbad Caverns is mammoth. After hiking a mile down, I finally arrived in the Big Room. Stalagmites and stalactites the size of cars. At one point I turned to an older couple.
“My brain is having trouble processing this. It’s too amazing.”
Big Room is an understatement. I walked the mile route around the Big Room, completely stunned. They even had a gift shop/restroom setup down in the caverns, which sounds tacky, but it’s actually really great. The whole time in the bathroom I was thinking, hell yeah, peeing in Carlsbad Caverns. For a minute I just pretended I was Batman.
So my advice – don’t visit Mammoth Cave after Carlsbad Caverns. And by the way, the pictures and video do this place absolutely no justice. You MUST come see this place for yourself.