By Paola Guillén.
After the Fourth of July, many El Paso families decide to go out of town. A similar phenomenon occurs in the other fifty states. The destinations are as diverse as their tastes, but there is a unique place in the universe, somewhere in the twilight: Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
It is located in the American part of the Chihuahuan Desert, near the Guadalupe Mountains. There, nature and its immensity captivate its visitors. You can descend with loved ones into the depths of the Earth in an atmosphere that goes from the pure to the almost magical.
They say that at beginning of 1900, a 16-year-old American cowboy discovered Carlsbad Caverns. Jim White saw in the distance what looked like a column of smoke. When he went to investigate the fire, to his surprise he saw an avalanche of bats emerge from the Earth.
Full of curiosity and using rudimentary means, he explored that gap from which the Mexican short-tailed bats emerged. White went from surprise to fascination as the extent that he was investigating held cavities, rock formations and wonderful mazes.
With the passage of time, 117 caves have been found within the mouth gaping at its visitors with its capricious rock formations, beauty and immensity.
Entering the cave, we realized that atmospheric moisture and low lighting create an enigmatic atmosphere. At first it is difficult to get used to, but you’ll gradually grow accustomed to the beautiful space and surprising shapes.
Starting the tour, guides explained that we would travel around seven kilometers in two and a half hours at a normal pace. They also informed us that if we decided to stay until night fall, we could admire the flight of bats—the very sight that caught the attention of the Jim White hundreds of years ago.
The descent is a great adventure as one’s eyes adapt gradually to the gloom, the purity of the path and the temperature that can reach 54 degrees Fahrenheit or even lower.
The guide told us that those amazing formations that we saw on our way were created by water, the temperatures and the reactions of minerals.
He informed us that scientists named them stalactites, stalagmites and helictites. This is due to the way they develop, as some hang from the ceiling and others emerge from the floor. The greatness of these formations is enhanced by lights and shadows, strategically placed to highlight the great display that nature provides us.
It is striking that these deposits and rocks have been forming for 500,000 years, well before the cave was discovered.
Because the tour is long, there are small benches and rest areas placed so that visitors can recover their breath and continue their descent into the depths of the Earth. I confess that one experiences a comforting fatigue.
It is appropriate to point out that this tour is not recommended for people with health problems, in particular back, knee or heart ailments. Although the guidelines insist on it, it is admirable to see grandparents and toddlers appreciate such beauty.
I think that the curiosity, temperature, lighting, echo of the voices and sound of falling water drops serve as words of encouragement for the walker who feeds on their energy.
Everything seems to have relationship with the past of the cave. More than 400 years ago, it was under the sea. However, it is fascinating that now it’s not only bats that inhabit it, but also some carnivorous crickets, spiders and bacteria that prefer to live below the sunlight.
Returning from the depths to the warm and extraordinary reality of the desert can be done via a few elevators. These connect the Grand Bedroom in the lowest part of the cave with the surface.
Under the Earth of Carlsbad, at only about two or three hours from the Borderland, there is without a doubt a spring of pure nature. It’s a site where bats perform a unique ritual at sunset, a ritual humans have called, “The flight of the bat,” which is something that you can only see in the immense sky of Carlsbad National Memorial Park.