Were it not for the sunsets and sunrises in New Mexico, the southern part of the state would have driven me crazy. Not knowing what to expect and not having asked a whole lot of questions, I booked 3 nights at the Carlsbad KOA. Since I left Marfa at dawn I arrived well before check-in, but my I-slept-in-my-car look must have helped, because they let me check into a cabin early. I hauled in my sleeping bag and groceries and promptly took a 4-hour nap. I woke as the sun was going down, made a giant salad, and watched the show through the window.
Aside from the brilliantly colored skies there are a lot of rabbits and cacti, but not much else. The town of Carlsbad is not exactly a tourist destination, offering nothing more delectable than Buffalo Wild Wings, which I was happy to visit after my second day there. It was more that 3 nights was too much, no matter that it fit my schedule well. I spent a fair amount of time twiddling my thumbs, napping, and staring at the wall. However, hanging out in a cabin for a few days was infinitely better than my original plan, which was camping on a nearby lake.
Carlsbad Caverns are enormous. I cannot put into words how amazing it is to walk up to a giant hole in the ground and then spend 30 minutes navigating a switchback trail all the way to the bottom, passing dozens of different kinds of formations in the half light, and almost no people.
The trail is very steep, lowering you about 750 feet over 1.25 miles. My tricky knee was protesting pretty loudly by the time I got to the bottom and walked out into the Big Room. The cave is the biggest by volume in North America; you could easily hide a city bus in the space and have room for dozens more.
The caves are filled with every texture and shape imaginable. If you walk in thinking about Willy Wonka, then you will see chocolate fountains and taffy everywhere. There are dinosaurs, sand castles, dragons, silk drapes, and light sabers everywhere you turn. It is a fantastical, magic place. The air is extremely humid and a comfortable enough temperature thatwandering around is very pleasant.
There is some water in the caves; the photograph below is of some nearly still, incredibly clear water - you can see a small ripple on the right side.
I took the elevator back to the top, watching the counter show how many feet from the top I was instead of how many floors. Then it was back to my little cabin for some more hanging out.