Carlsbad Caverns Trip Report 2004

by Paul A. Rosales

Over the years, Victoria/I heard about the beautiful Carlsbad Caverns, and honestly, I had no idea where there were. We'd been to the Shasta Caverns in northern California and the Cathedral Caverns near Huntsville (AL) and that was fun. Finding that Carlsbad Caverns were in not-so-far New Mexico, fellow SoCAL RV pilot Trish Russell and I put together a Memorial Day weekend trip to visit them. We put the word out on our SoCAL RV-list, and by the time Memorial Day weekend arrived, we expected that we'd have 9 RVs on the ground in New Mexico sometime Saturday: 6 from SoCAL, 2 from Phoenix and 1 from Front Range (near Denver), cool! We departed Rosamond around 9am which was the best I could do as I work swings and didn't get in bed until 8 hours earlier. The other SoCAL RVs had departed the day before so we were a solo ship to NM. We had a nice 2.2 hour flight towards Phoenix across the desert floor we've flown over many, many times. Here are some pics arriving into Phoenix: The Raceway, Stellar Skypark, on final to runway 22R at Chandler (CHD) and the cafe;

After a nice lunch and fueling, we continued on passing north of Tucson (TUS), over San Simon (SSO) VOR, south of Deming (DMN) and Las Cruces (LRU) towards El Paso (ELP). Here's a tethered (drug interdiction?) balloon near Deming and a couple of pics of El Paso and El Paso International;

Just a few minutes out of El Paso, I saw what I thought to be an 'out of place' rock formation;

As we approached Cavern City (CNM) airport near Carlsbad, the ground took some interesting 'turns' that looked really strange to the eye;

After landing 2.5 hours later, we found 8 of the 9 RVs on the ground with Tom and Nickie Emery arriving shortly after we did;

We had a couple of hours before we needed to be at the caves for the evening Bat Flight so we spent some time visiting poolside. Left to right is Sue Ehlinger, Gary Zilik, Larry Schneider, Chuck & Pam Miller, Victoria Rosales and Carolyn Zilik;

We then loaded up the rental vans and went out for dinner at Happy's :-) Here's are some fun smiles from Katie & Tom Velvick, and Todd Ehlinger;

The bats begin emerging from the Caverns at sunset so we arrived about half an hour before that. We listened to a talk from a Park Ranger and waited for the first bats who were 'cleared for takeoff';

WOW, what a sight to see! Thousands and thousands of bats, coming out of the cave in swirling, climbing spiral up, and at some point, they 'punch out' and head for the Pecos River to munch on bugs! The rangers put the number of bats at around 300,000, and the bats kept coming out of the cave for at least the half hour we watched :-) In the last picture above, you can see the bats so thick in the distance that they appear like smoke far in the horizon... I also tried to get a picture of the bats with the moon as a backdrop. What you see are dark swirls of thousands of bats, lots of them! This Bat Flight evening program is definitely a MUST SEE!

After the bat flight, we drove back to Carlsbad, ~30 minutes, and then had a late night dinner followed by some hangar flying at the local Chili's :-) Following Sunday morning breakfast, we drove back to the caverns where we spent some time inside the Main Visitor Center reading all about how the caverns were formed and such. We then started the self-guided tour, but we first had to pass the 'horse';

The entrance, of course, is the same one the bats flew out of the night before;

After you enter, there is a sign that really gets your attention;

I have to tell you that from this point on, we saw nothing short of SPECTACULAR formations, and there is no way I could begin to show the beauty of what lies below the earth's surface... I will point you to some pictures on the National Park Service website that will do a better job than I ever could showing you a few of the beautiful sights that await you! So, how much time is needed to enjoy the caverns? One day would be enough to take the walking tour and enjoy the bat flight the same evening, but if you'd like to get down and dirty, a second day could be used to go on some of the guided wild caving tours! trip! After a fun-filled day of walking (you will do a LOT of that!), we drove back to town for an evening wine & cheese cruise on the Pecos River that Trish had arranged with a local business. Here's the 'gang', the Zilik's and Tom Emery, Victoria and me (in my Van's Aircraft shirt, of course!);

After the cruise, we had a fantastic Italian dinner at the Pasta Cafe;

I can't say this enough but it is just TOO MUCH FUN flying with, touring with, eating with, visiting with, BEING WITH fellow RVers :-) If you can get a group together, by all means, do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Monday morning, it was time to head for home. The 2 Phoenix planes along with Bob and Nancy Watson left early to beat the Arizona heat while the rest of us slept in. We arrived to the airport to find local RVer Larry Pardue on the ramp :-) I don't know why but I thought that Larry was based out of Las Cruces but that's just where I see him every year.

After we packed up and fueled, we saw the Emery's off continuing on to Pennsylvania (following Tom's retirement :-). They were followed by the Ziliks and finally the SoCAL group;

Larry offered to take us on a tour of the Guadalupe Mountain range which we gladly accepted! The top center picture below shows one of numerous cavern openings, and Larry told us this one was so big that helicopters have flown into it! The last two are of, I believe, Guadalupe Peak;

Saying goodbye to Larry, we continued west for home as a 4-ship gaggle using the two basic rules of flying with a group;

Here are some pictures of New Mexico, Deming Airport and the Chandler cafe;

From Phoenix, it was across the Colorado River near Parker (AZ) and back home to Rosamond (about a 6 hour trip westbound from the Caverns).

We put about 11 hours on the plane, and we had another fun trip, traveling with a fun group in some very fast & fun planes!!!!

So keep poundin’ them rivets because it's ALL worth it! Paul & Victoria

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