Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Into the Underworld

Sometimes we step away from the keyboard and mouse, and go out into the sunlight for a real adventure. Of course, we don't always stay in the sunlight. This morning—very early for a Sunday—I met with some co-workers who are traveling with me, and we made the 2.5 hour trip from El Paso, TX, to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.
Before taking the plunge into a place of interest or dungeon, it's helpful to know where you'll be going. We started at the natural entrance to the cave (seen at the top of the diagram) and covered the blue and red paths. (The green path is for ranger guided tours only.)
From the bat amphitheater through the natural entrance, we descended 750 feet under the surface of the escarpment. If we had been here at dusk we could have watched the bats depart from their home (The Bat Cave) in search of insects to eat. Of course, the best time of year for that is in July and August as the bat pups join the hunt.
We descended into the twilight zone, and this was the last sight we had of the entrance. From here on out, any light was artificial.
Our adventure was just beginning though, as we entered a world unlike anything on the surface, where the seemingly delicate forms had been molded over millennia. (Much of the light and shadow you see in these pictures was designed by a theatrical lighting designer.)
We encountered beings of stone ranging from very the small through man-sized (as at left) to the epically gigantic (see below). In the short term, we were more a danger them than they were to us.
Like guardians of the underworld, they both beckoned us forward and forbade our interference in the affairs of their realm.
The cave holds several reminders of the precarious nature of the initial explorations made by our forbears. This ladder, or what's left of it, descends another 200 feet into the chamber below, much of it swinging free in the open darkness.
Rumors of the Cave's demise have been greatly exaggerated, though it is more dormant now than in times past. This has more to do with the climate of the Chihuahuan Desert than human activities. In fact, Gaia is more than prepared to erase the evanescent passage of these flitting humans. On the path laid out for us, the pale foundations of new stalagmites are already growing.
Millennia hence, those foundations may form something like the Rock of Ages, a behemoth ancient in the extreme. It looked upon us as we might look upon a mayfly, perhaps casually contemplating what it must be like to only measure our lives in years instead of eons. Wondering why we would possibly think that it might be cleft for us.
Not everything was awe inspiring. The dolls put on a play for us in their tiny theater of gossamer stone. We laughed in delight, applauding their grand drama.
Strange to encounter a Portuguese Man-o-War floating serenely as we passed. (If not for the magic of our artificial suns, we would not see our own hands, much less the great treasures around us.)
Over 100 years after Jim White first set foot inside the cave, we flitting humans have yet to explore the entire system known as Carlsbad Caverns. From the highest point in the Big Room, I took this parting shot. In an attempt to make this post like my WoW Nerd in Deutschland series, I wracked my brain to try to remember any place like this pre-Cataclysm (about when I quit), or any other MMO I have played. I mean, sure there are caves, and they may have pointy things on the floor and ceiling, but there is nothing like this amazing world we explored today under the mountains of New Mexico.
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