Gadling Destination: Carlsbad Caverns NP

Years ago during a cross-country drive with an old girlfriend, I visited
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I’d read about the caves in a guidebook
and saw some faded postcards in a store, and none of this much inspired me. I figured the caves were a kind of lame,
hyped-up tourist attraction like the World’s Biggest
Ball of String
. I was wrong.

Carlsbad Caverns is amazing. The gaping breadth of these underground cathedrals, the unfathomable ornateness of the
limestone formations, will make you wonder if you’ve just stumbled into a fantasy underworld, (or, perhaps more
appealing to young pop culture fans), onto the set of the Matrix.

The caverns were formed 250 million years ago when a 400 mile long reef covered the area here in New Mexico, forming a
happy habitat for sponges, algae and prehistoric crustaceans. Over time the reef was buried, the water evaporated, and
a massive expanse of lime existed here. Then came the rains, and the water dissolved the lime that was underground,
leaving behind magnificent underground chambers.

And I mean magnificent. Sure, you’ll bring your digital camera, but the fact is, no photo you can ever see will ever
do justice to how cool these caverns are in real life. The caves are open all year round and you can tour many of them
with a guide and/or without.

So if you’re heading out on the road this summer, perhaps also embarking on that once-in-a-lifetime cross0contry road
trip, don’t forget to stop in New Mexico and check out the caverns.