Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Part 2
These stalactite blades are just fascinating! When I was a boy I pictured what it would be like to be here in an earthquake. Chop! Chop!
Some of the smaller passages like this one have captivating beauty. Note the short curtains that formed along fractures in the ceiling.
Most stalactites are concentrated along fractures that make the pathway for water to get into the cave. Look carefully to see if you can see the fractures.
Many stalagmites (on the floor) have a popcorn texture because of splashing of the falling water droplets, while most stalactites (on the ceiling) are smooth because the water flows and drips downward smoothly.
This cave has a leaky roof! I'm grateful that these caverns were well preserved by the earliest explorers. At other caves I've visited, many cave features are gone or broken off for souvenirs, and that's a shame.
The tight clustering of stalactites here reminds me of intricate lace. It's so amazing that Nature did this for us, and wonderful that the Park Service has made this easy for us to experience. I'm a believer in access for everyone, and that Nature's best should not be reserved for the footloose and super-fit.
Carlsbad Caverns almost puts the Gothic cathedrals of Europe to shame! But not quite.
The first time I visited Carlsbad Caverns as a kid, our family had recently been to Disneyland. In the caves we kept remarking, "I can't believe this is real and not Disney!" But in Pirates of the Caribbean, at least Disney did a good job of recreating the "cave smell."
I'm impressed with the new LED lighting system. The Ranger said it's still a work in progress, so I guess I'll have to come back in a few years to see the final product.
The variety of forms here is fascinating -- cylindrical and blade-shaped stalactites, popcorn and smooth stalagmites, smooth mound, wavy cascade mound. It all depends on exactly how the water flows, drips, and splashes and how consistently and how long.
Does anyone else see a ghoulish walrus here? Wally Walrus, anyone?
This cascade and its hanging curtains and stalactites is one of my favorites.
Pools of water are rare in Carlsbad Caverns because the water table dropped well below the caverns long ago, unlike other caves you can visit that still have flowing water and abundant pools. The calcium-rich water created rock "lilly-pads" here.
This fantastic cascade formed where the in-flowing water was distributed over a wide area, not concentrated in small drips.
The slight spiral of the stalactite is a bit hard to explain, but it certainly is beautiful. You'd be tempted to explain it by tilting or wind currents, but those explanations don't work here. Crooked water, perhaps? It's actually a composite of blade-shaped curtains that give the illusion of a spiral from this angle.
In the lower caves, watch for these small side-caves. This one is only about 10 feet tall, and has fantastic, delicate decorations including some curtains.
This little side-cave is only about 6 feet tall. It's fantastical enough to write a fairy story in your imagination!
The caves will exhaust your vocabulary, like they did mine!
You can have lunch and buy a T-shirt 750 feet underground! The elevators will take you back up from here. It's impossible to keep track as you go, but this spot is directly below the Visitor Center.
[Note: When I visited in April 2016, the elevators were not working. The hike back out isn't bad if you're reasonably fit, and there are plenty of benches to rest on. In fact, I recommend hiking out if you can to see most things again. The power also went out to the entire Park when we were about 200 yards up the trail from the bottom. The emergency lighting was just enough to keep us moving, but we couldn't see the cave features. It was out for about 15 minutes. The only real problem was that the visitor center cashiers' computers didn't work for over an hour!]
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3, f2.8 lens, 3200 ISO, using a monopod. "Nuthin' special!"