7. Carlesbad.

The Mammonstrous cavern sits below the earth in southeastern New Mexico in the Chihuahuan Desert right up against the Lincoln National Forest and the Guadalupe mountains. The cavern is one of the 113 caves in the National park formed from sulfuric acid eating away the limestone earth rock. The “Big Room” of Carlsbad show-cave is the 2nd largest chamber in the world—nearly 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and it reaches up to 350 feet high.

The natural innards of the cave, the multitudinous formations, the vast heavenly chambers, the scale and presence of this place, though I did attempt, could not be reasonably presented in photograph form or any form for that matter other than a present moment. So I limit this documentation to the surrounding desert and the man forms in the bowels of one of the deepest limestone caves on earth.

Corey and I toured the park, the coral fossils, the Mescalero Indian remnants, the plantlife, wildlife, and touristlife.

We sat at the “natural entrance” to the cave in the later afternoon of June the 3rd. That wholesome afternoon yellow lay on all the stone, the prickly pear, and the faceted backs and bellies of the endlessly flapping cave swallows as they navigated in and out of the mouth devouring evening bugs and hollering chirps.

At the deep dark hole we waited, as did many others upon the amphitheater-like stone benches built at the mouth of the cave. We waited for the regular nighttime departure of the Mexican free-tailed bats. The Mexican free-tail is the most dominant bat species in the cave. The colony, according to the Q & A Ranger, sometimes reaches over a million bats. Guano mining in the early days of the cave had reduced the colony. He estimated that on our night we’d see 100,000. As the moment approached, any digital device (cameras, phones, video) had to be off’d to prevent disturbance of the bats echolocation.

The bats came. And it was a sight. You could watch and listen to them twist up cloudily in thousands from the deep entrance then flick off over a desert shrub and sand hill to begone. Or you could stare at the rising swirl indirectly, abstractly, and the rhythm of their action would create a mirage much like the distant flicker of black-asphalt-highway-heat. The flowing spectacle lasted nearly an hour.

The professional photo they have on the National Park Service Guide:

We tent crashed in the public land of the bureau of land management near a wild cave in the desert. The next morning, we walked down the 80 story deep entrance and self-toured Carlesbad. For the 1st half hour or so sunlight fingered in from the entrance to the depths. Then all light was unnatural and minimal. People carried their own headlamps and flashlights to browse as they chose.

From Carlesbad we headed northwest through more Lincoln National forest and the Sacramento mountains to The White Sands National monument. We saw earth eating devices and got a little tour of a deep mountain man's taxidermy studio.