After surviving the alien infested city of Roswell, we decided to spend a weekend checking out the bats near Carlsbad, NM. We also decided that it would be a great opportunity to test out our ‘wildcamping’ or ‘boondocking’ skills (which typically involves finding some public/friendly land, parking your rig, and living out of it) since there didn’t appear to be too many great RV Park options nearby. Plus, we really like the word ‘free’. We’re finally getting the hang of the whole ‘not run your engine battery/house battery down’ when not plugged in deal (Jake is still playing with the wiring in the always funky Dyna). And since our first attempt (back in August) to find a free, Dyna worthy (she’s big) space turned into an epic fail (and we ended up at a nearby NPS campground), I did a lot more research this time. We found a decent sounding space that was close to the Carlsbad Caverns sited online, but rumor had it that this space had been blocked off with large piles of rocks. We decided to go for it anyways, knowing that there was some BLM land around the area. We also decided it would be best that we didn’t ‘scout’ in Dyna, so the Red Rammer and I left Jake and Dyna parked in an empty parking lot and ventured off to find our patch of dirt. And yes, the rumor of the ‘dispersed spaces on Dark Canyon Rd’ being closed was true. However, we were able to find a suitable space for Dyna to park for the weekend just down the road and in a bit more remote location (awesome!). While the area is clearly being pillaged of it’s natural resources (i.e. lots of mining/oil rigging/rental of BLM land happening), we didn’t see a single car drive down ‘our’ side road while we stayed there. We did get visited by a tarantula, some weird birds that were very interested in cowpies, and a herd of open range cattle. It was quiet at night, provided ample area of runs/bike rides/geocaching in the mornings, and was a relatively short distance away from our target destination: Carlsbad Caverns. Overall, good first wild camping experience. We’re pretty excited to start doing more of it.
So, we came to see the bats. And we did get to see the bats. But we also were surprised with just how much cave there was to Carlsbad Caverns! Its one of our National Parks, and usually that hints that its a pretty accessible place ( thanks to all the awesome men of the great depression building us stairs and walkways), which can also mean that its overburdened with visitors and rules. And yes, the ‘self guided tour’ of the caverns was entirely on a paved walkway through the cavern. But DANG! it was still so awesome. Initially we were disappointed that even as of the Wednesday before (we went on a Saturday) we were unable to purchase tickets to one of the ranger led tours into a closed off cavern. If this happens to you when you visit Carlsbad Caverns (which you should), don’t fret! The ‘big room’ (self-guided) tour is still 2.5 miles of awesome. We also hung around for the ‘bat flight’ which typically happens at sunset from May to October. Basically, you sit around a small seating theatre outside the mouth of the cave and wait for a crap-ton of bats to fly out of the entrance to eat a bunch of bugs all night. There is a ranger who talks about bats and answers question, the most important question being: “how many carpets long is the cave?” This brilliant question was asked by a 5 year old boy who was entirely serious and was even able to help the ranger answer him by later specifying that this unit of ‘carpet measurement’ should be based upon a 20′ long carpet. Brilliant. Anyways, we waited around for a long time while the ranger answered about 500 questions about the cave, bats, and bat poop (non of the other questions were nearly as insightful as the carpet question, and therefore, not worth repeating). Then, suddenly, the bats all started flying out! It was pretty awesome. And smelly. But mostly awesome. If you ever get a chance to watch such a thing, you should. Even though its smelly.
Until next time: Same bat time, same bat channel.