Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 42: Quick! To The Batcave, Day 2

September 6, 2011 - The morning came quickly upon us, and honestly, we weren't ready.  Both Bruce and I have a hard time waking up some mornings; this morning was no exception.  However, we had an appointment with the deeper levels of the Carlsbad Caverns.  We got into the truck and drove quickly back up the same road we travelled the day before.  One thought was on our minds; were we late for our first tour?

The Left Tunnel Tour

We managed to make it in time for the tour just as the group was sitting in the classroom going over the rules.  Bruce and I were very happy to make it on time and eagerly sat through the discussion of what the tour was about and how to be safe while exploring it with our guides.

The Left Tunnel is an undeveloped area in the caverns especially known for it's pristine pools and stunning natural features.  The tour would last about an hour and a half, and would take us into a part of the cave system that very few people have ever seen.  Even the entrance to the Left Tunnel was hidden and not on any map so as to keep the natural beauty of the cave intact.

This tour is unique in the fact that it is done entirely by candle light.  Each member of the tour was given a lantern with a single candle.  We explored completely by candlelight, which added a different flair from the main tour of the day before.  Additionally, candlelight explains the unique artistic quality of the photographs I was able to take of the Left Tunnel.

Stalactites in the Left Tunnel Tour

This giant column is best seen by candlelight.

A whole in the roof in one of the rooms in the Left Tunnel.

This hole goes into another room in the Left Tunnel.

We later learned that one of the reasons to explore the Left Tunnel by candlelight was to see how it was seen by early explorers and tourists.  They would have only had a candle to explore a cave system devoid of bright lights, a paved walkway, and informational signs along the way.  The Left Tunnel experience was a very exciting way to explore part of the Carlsbad Caverns.

Break To The Surface

With the tour ended, Bruce and I headed to the cafeteria to eat a breakfast (or was it lunch) before our next tour.  I took this opportunity to do some more shopping at the gift shop, including a long-sleeved shirt because spending hours in the caves was getting cold.

The amount of bat items for sale amused me.  They had shirts with bats on them, key chains, toys, jewelry, and even Christmas ornaments with bats on them.  There was so many things you could purchase with bats on them that I was more than a little worried about Bruce; how was he going to carry all of this stuff back to the truck?

The Lower Cave Tour

We had planned everything just right because after we unloaded Bruce's knickknacks in the truck, it was time to start our next tour.  Again, another familiarization with the rules of the caves followed by the actual tour.  A three hour tour in the deeper parts of the cave was only accessible by climbing down three ladders into the darkness.  I was a little nervous at first, but didn't want Bruce to think I was a chicken.

Some of the more memorable features included The Texas Toothpick, The Rookery, and The Bat In The Wall.  We walked forever, following a small path that led us around the enormous cave that sat underneath The Big Room that Bruce and I had seen the day before.

Having learned something from photographing the Left Tunnel, I played around with the settings on my camera and got some amazing pictures of the Lower Cave.

The ground was extremely uneven and, in some parts, a little scary.

This formation looks like giant, pointy teeth.

A forest underground.

Part of a roof in the Lower Cave system.

Private Bat Show

At the end of the tour we headed back up the elevator to the Visitor Center.  After wandering around for a little while we decided to head back to the campground.  It was here that Bruce would have an amazing experience and, of course, I was without my camera.

After dinner I went to take out the trash and along the way saw bats flying around the main lobby of the campground.  They were apparently eating the bugs that clustered around the large halogen light; and they were feeding like maniacs.  I quickly went back to the camper to get Bruce.  Not only did I know that Bruce really wanted to see bats up close and personal, but this swarm was more active and a lot closer than the ones we saw the first night at Carlsbad Caverns.

Bruce stayed there for a while just watching the bats.

Later on that night, once the bats had moved on, Bruce and I enjoyed some quality time around a campfire. We discussed many things and nothing at all, but we both had a good time doing it.  We went to bed late that night, with dreams of underground worlds bathed in soft light and of bats, at least I am sure bats were in Bruce's dreams.


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