Tired but excited, we got to Carlsbad Caverns early to avoid the crowds. It was quiet as we descended, the few people who were there whispered. It was as, if not more so, otherworldly as White Sands, but in a completely different way. Cave swallows flew and dove in circles as we weaved our way down. As we looked up, the light from the outside grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared entirely.
I felt good. I had my son on my back in his carrier, my husband, daughter and I all had our cameras ready. With a whopping three hours of sleep, I was ready to go. My daughter is fascinated with rocks recently, so we stopped at every formation, reading the little signs posted at each one. My son oohed and ahed in his carrier, and occasionally stopped to give me a hug. We were at the top of our game. And then we hit bottom.
We finished the descent and got to “The Big Room”, a level cavern with different formations that is about a mile long walk. We let my son out of his carrier, thinking it would be nice to let him stretch his legs. This was a mistake. After not sleeping well the night before, and it being close to his nap time, he was happy to be out of the carrier, but not happy to go where we wanted to go, at the pace we wanted to go, or to stay on the path. My daughter also had hit a wall. Never the less, we didn’t hike all the way down not to look around once we got there. Besides, after we took a look in the Big Room, we could sit and eat the snacks we had packed and take a rest before trekking back out.
Sometimes when you’re a parent you forget things. Like, you forget to pack snacks before taking a strenuous four hour hike with two small children. Luckily, hundreds of feet underground, there are restrooms, tables, a small snack shop, and even a small gift shop. We got a roast beef sandwich and a yogurt parfait to split between the four of us. And we were ready to return to the surface.
Return To The Surface
Now, there are elevators at the caverns. So, if after you’ve hiked down, you don’t want to hike back up you can take the elevator. I remember going to the caverns with my family when I was young and taking the elevators, much to my dismay. I always felt like I was missing out on the whole experience. I was young and naive. I was stupid.
The elevators were out of order when we were there. Finally, I was going to get the chance to hike out. With two small children, my son now on my husband’s back, I was ready. By now it was almost noon. Those crowds we had avoided on the way in, were now coming in in droves.
Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the lack of food, but I seriously thought I was going to die on the hike out. Surrounded by tourists, hundreds of feet underground, I just wanted to lie down and call it quits. And we weren’t even half the way back up. Thank goodness the path has benches all the way up, and thank goodness I have very patient family members. I think I stopped to catch my breath at every single bench.
Cow Puns and Home
On the drive home there was a herd of cows. They were all standing in a line, facing the freeway.
“Those cows look like they’re up to something.” I told my husband.
“Hmm? Oh. Yeah they do.” He said, his eyes on the road.
“I think it’s a moo-tiny.” I said, and proceeded to laugh at my own joke for the next five minutes.
In forty-eight hours my family and I saw so much of what New Mexico has to offer and I thought about how much the state has given me. It has given me my family. My husband who I met in high school, our two kids. It has given me people to share my life with. And a captive audience for my cow puns.