Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Flying Trip to Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is very cool place. Last time I saw it, I was a teenager, and I remember it as being exciting. Later, I actually got into real caving. Now after many years and some real caving, the caverns are still very nice.

It has been my sons spring break, and for a while I was worried I would get so tied up at work I would not get a chance to enjoy life. Having our own plane makes things flexible which is good and bad. Since it was flexible, we could delay our plans to the last minute. But then they are endangered of not even happening.

The Trip Down

Well, we made it off. We had to delay a day due to snow showers, but the next day was beautiful. We took pictures of Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo on the way. Our route was klmo-pub-lvs-cnx-cme-kcnm with initially a planned stopover in KLVS.

Our son who is 6 has had a terrible time with air sickness in the last few trips. This time we tried dramamine and it worked wonders! He watched his DVD in bumps and did not get sick. Then fell asleep. Yeah, we can enjoy trips again.

We had a little bit of a tail wind, and our son was asleep at our stopping place, so we went the entire way without stopping. 4.8hours. We were ready to get out of the plane when we got there, but it was nice to be at our destination.

The Airport

Cavern City Air Terminal (KCNM) was a quiet airport with lots of runways. 3/21, 14RL/32LR, 8/26. They are all in pretty good condition too. I guess it used to be a Air Force Base or something, and they also have a lot of different runways for windy days. When we got there, the FBO was very friendly. Parking was free, and there was a self serve pump. We got a rental car from Enterprise, and we were on our way.

Cavern City Air Terminal aerial view
The Town

The town was fairly small with lots of older hotels. We stayed in the Best Western Steven's Inn. It was pretty nice. Some rooms are better than others though. There was a hot breakfast buffet included in the price which was convenient. There was also a Holiday Inn Express which was recommended, but we did not stay at.

Lots of BBQ places in town. We tried out the Red Chimney BBQ which had good food and lots of things to look at on the walls. We heard No Whiner Diner, Pecos River Cafe, and Lucy's Mexicali were good ones to try as well, but we did not get a chance.

There is a nice river going through town with a great playground for kids, a "beach" with non-powered boat rentals, small golf course, and a river walk.

Carlsbad aerial view

The Cave

The cave entrance has two options to get in. Take an elevator 750' down or walk in the natural entrance through a winding trail that is about 1 mile long. We opted for the natural way in and the elevator at the end.

Carlsbad Caverns entrance
The cave is BIG and has high ceilings most everywhere. So for people a little timid about caves, it is easier than most. The big room at the bottom is about 1 mile to walk the perimeter and has 50+ foot ceilings.

Lots of pretty formations are in the cave. There are pictures on the national park web site, and here are some of ours.

Carlsbad caverns formations

Carlsbad caverns formations
There is also an opportunity to see the bats fly out at the end of the day. But it is a little awkward to do. We were finished shortly after lunch and the cave closes at 5pm. The bat flight when we were there was around 6:15. Town is a good 1/2 hour away. So we went back to town and did not feel like going back to see the bats. Maybe next time.

The Flight Back

Time to go home. High winds and turbulence were reported. I have had a couple of very bumpy experiences on the east side of the rockies (Sangre de Cristo range) which is the way we went to Carlsbad. Once before I tried just on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo range, and it worked well, so we tried it again. It was a little out of the way, but not much. kcnm-cme-saf-skx-k05v-gosip-pub-klmo It was a little bumpy, but not too bad. We did either get a slight tail wind and only updrafts. The wind comes from the west, and then causes updrafts when it hits the west side of the range. I think the other side would have been a lot bumpier and have on and off downdrafts. I think the west side path may be my path of choice in the future.

Once again. Give Carlsbad Caverns a try! It is a long ways by car, but very reasonable by plane.


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