We started a little late on day 2 and reached caverns around Noon. There are 2 major tours in the caverns, First one is a self guided tour of the big room which is one of the largest cavern rooms in the world the second one is a ranger guided tour to a set of rooms called Kings Palace. We decided to do start off with the big room tour. The big room can be accessed by a mile long hike down the natural entrance of the cavern or alternatively thru an elevator ride. The choice was easy, we chose to hike down. The climb down was fairly steep and the first part of the cave had few formations. Towards the end of the hike is when you start seeing a lot of formations. We passed through devils spring, witch's finger and iceberg rock(200k ton rock that broke loose from the cave ceiling thousands of yrs back!!), Bone yard on the way down. The end of the hike puts you in the big room. One thing that struck me about this cavern was its enormity. Right from the entrance, to whole way down & of course the big room was unbelievably huge. NPS has done amazing work with the lighting and had kept it close to natural. It really accentuated some of the formations in the caverns.
The big room is a very large room with a square footage of around 8.2 acres, You could fit around 14 football fields into this room!! This room had tons of gigantic formations. We saw various different types of formations like stalagtites, stalagmites, columns, Soda straws, drapes, mushrooms, dams etc.. Some of the key structures we saw are The giants, Temple of Sun, Grand chandalier, Lion Tail, Bottomless pit, Mirror lake etc. We took around 2.5-3hrs to tour this place. There is a huge lunch room/visitor cente in one corner of the big room. Here you could eat in the restaurant at 750ft below ground level !!!
On Day 3 we accidentally bumped into one of my old friends Deepak & his wife Priya. It was a big surprise as this place is very remote and is one of the last places i would've expected to meet a friend. Anu and I hiked down the natural entrance again with Deepak & Priya. All of us went for the Kings Palace tour. This is one of the most ornate rooms in the whole caverns. This was a ranger guided tour. It was a very different experience, All the lights were turned off and each of us carried a lantern to give us a flavor of how the initial explorers experienced the caverns. There was one point in the tour we were asked to turn off all the lanterns to give us a feel of the darkness. It was so pitch dark and we couldn't see our hands placed 1 inch from the face!! On completion of the tour we did some more sight-seeing of the big room to finish the day.
On the final day of our tour we decided to go for a short scenic desert loop near Carlsbad caverns. The drive was on unpaved road and you could see lot of desert vegetation & wild life along the way. We sighted couple of musk deer & few birds during the drive. On completion of the drive we headed to Guadalupe mountains national park. This is about 35 miles south of the caverns. The drive was across a vast stretch of desolate land with no civilization. Guadalupe mountains national park is one of the least developed of the national parks. The best way to see the park is by hiking. There are very few roads in the park. We did a short hike(2.5 miles) at smith springs trial in the Frijole ranch. The hike was very scenic and provided a great view. We were able to see almost up to 50+ miles. The park also hosts the highest point in Texas - Guadalupe peak at some 87xx ft. I had done this hike couple of yrs back.
All good things come to an end :-( . We started the long drive back to Dallas around 5pm and reached home around 2am in the morning. Overall this has been a wonderful trip. We really enjoyed the sights & scenery of both Carlsbad caverns and Guadalupe national park. If you like solitude and you want to get away from the maddening crowds, nothing to beat western Texas & new Mexico in the continental US !!!