We next dipped back south to visit Carlsbad Caverns. In another internet research fail, e arrived in the early afternoon to discover that they were limiting cave tour numbers for social distancing (totally smart and good) by handing out timed passes in the morning (just wish they said this part online). So we were out of luck for that day, but decided to take advantage of this reason to stay in town for the night and catch the bats at sundown. To fill the hours before this phenomenon, we made a quick trip across the border into Texas to do a short hike through Guadalupe National Park, which is adjacent to Carlsbad Caverns park.
The hike we did was only a couple of miles but in the dry 90 degree (plus) heat under full afternoon sun it felt a lot longer. We chose this trail because it was the furthest north, was supposed to be pretty, and took us to two natural springs and had a little shade. The first spring was just a small pool surrounded by tall grass, and the path seemed forever to go through desert, cacti, twisting trees and canyons. After I had assumed the first spring was the last, we were overwhelmingly excited to find the second spring, which was located in a shady oasis with a stream, rocks, and relaxing water sounds galore. We sat in the shade for quite a while, traded hats for photos, and may have been overexcited to see water.
It was time to head back into New Mexico to see that thousands of bats emerge from Carlsbad Canyon at sunset. Due to pandemic concerns, the usual amphitheater was off and people were viewing from the parking lot while listening to a talk over the radio from a ranger stationed on the roof. Man, were there a lot of bats taking off in swirling groups every few minutes. Eat all those bugs, bats! I got some good videos of the bats but photos do no justice, though the sunset was photogenic for sure.
The next morning after enduring some bizarre midnight, weeknight fireworks being set off as seems to the a pandemic tradition for no sensible reason, we were off to the Caverns to snag those early times tickets. The tour groups were self guided and limited to 25 people per 15 minute time slot, which was a blessing not only for distancing in the most enclosed space you can imagine, but also allowing it to really feel like you were exploring the expansive cave like a vanguard spelunker at times. I took a million terribly lit photos, a few of which show the amazing stalagmites, stalactites, columns, draperies, pools, crystals, and the rest. The ‘Big Room’ is well named, and made the dinky caves we’d seen in Colorado seem sad. While entering the cave, we were treated to the beautiful experience of hundreds of swallows swooping in and out of the entrance to nests just inside. The sound of the flying adults and the cheeping babies echoing in the cave entry hall is indescribable.
After the caverns (fun fact- the ranger told me there’s no difference between caves and caverns, just a branding choice) we retraced our steps north to Roswell, home of all things UFO. The ultimate roadside attraction! While the UFO museum was closed because NM mandated all museums closed for Covid, we did visit the gift shop, take in the alien adorned road signs, street lights, murals, marketing ploys, etc. One place that was open was a blacklight “spacewalk” experience run by a nice dude who gave out stickers, glow sticks, and encourages people to come through as many times as you want in a day. We went through the path but once, and I had a fun time while Kevin was underwhelmed, but I paid for us both so he couldn’t complain. We had lunch at the flying saucer shaped McDonald’s across from a Dunkin’ with a beefy alien advertising outside.
This town has leaned in to the hype, and I was all about it. I wouldn’t say I’m a believer, but I’m not a disbeliever and the universe is so huge I find it difficult to say we are the only life out there, but whether it’s little green guys probing humans, that maybe not so much. What I do know for sure is that I had a fun time seeing all the crazy here!