Big Bend and Carlsbad National Parks
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns
It was quite a long drive to Big Bend national park which is on the border of Mexico. It wasn't that bad though as the scenery was stunning, we stopped quite a few times to take pictures of the vast expanses of fields and mountains. The roads were so quiet that we got a photo of us lying in the middle of the road, we didn't see any other cars for hours! We passed through some thunderstorms with really impressive lightning, the storms made the views even more spectacular and dramatic, have a look in the Big Bend and Carlsbad photo album to see! It was beautiful and dramatic at the time but we later found out that the area had had a tornado warning that evening which we had no idea about! But luckily there were no tornados to be seen!
We arrived at Big Bend National Park and saw some wildlife straight away, which was exciting, there were lots of hares with enormous ears that kept running in front of the car so we had to keep our eyes peeled! We found a spot a bit off of the main road down a dirt track and parked up. Luckily you can park and stay anywhere in a national park for free as long as you are 200 metres off the main road. We cooked some dinner and ate it watching an incredible sunset over some distant mountains, the colours reflected onto the clouds constantly changed and i couldn't stop taking photos as it got more beautiful by the minute. The photos, as you can see in the adjacent album were stunning! As we were washing up we heard some coyotes howling and thought it was probably best to get in the van!
The next morning we left early as we were heading for another national park, Carlsbad Caverns and we wanted to get there early enough to have a look round. The drive to Carlsbad wasn't as interesting as the day before, until the last moments where we drove up some steep mountains with only a tiny wall between the car and a big drop! It was pretty scary but luckily I had got used to the size of the van by then so just took it slow. We got to the visitor centre and headed down into the caverns for a self guided tour. The cavern is a huge cave which is over 300 million years old and is filled with stalagmites and stalactites. The photos i took don't really capture how incredible it was but you'll just have to trust me! We saw the bottomless pit which was slightly disappointing as it's not actually bottomless at all, the early founders couldn't see the bottom thus came the name. More modern scientists however have found that the bottom actually lies around 140ft down. After having an explore through the cavern we headed back up and cooked some dinner, a lot of ants decided to join us for dinner but we managed to fend them off long enough to eat!
We then headed back up to the visitor centre for what is called the bat flight. At the natural entrance to the cavern there is an amphitheatre facing the cave. Every evening at 1930 there is a free program for the flight of the bats. Basically every evening at dusk all of the bats exit the cave to feed on moths and mosquitos and other bugs. There are approximately 400,000 bats that exit so the view is quite spectacular! The program started with a park ranger giving information about bats and the history of the caverns and answering some audience questions. You were not allowed to have any technology switched on after the program began. The reason they gave for this ban on technology was that it could be noisy and distracting and may disturb the bats. The ranger then went on to say that we needed to keep as quite as possible so as not to disturb the bats and to encourage them to come out. The ranger also asked for any children who were crying or being noisy to be taken up to the back of the amphitheatre so as the keep the area as quite as possible. She then proceeded to speak, into a wireless microphone, which was projected through speakers around the amphitheatre on full blast. She kept mentioning how we should all be really quite and i couldn't help but think that if she stopped talking into a massive sound system maybe the bats might want to come out!! Finally someone saw a bat and the ranger stopped talking and within minutes thousands of bats were swarming around the entrance to the cavern. They would do 4 or 5 circles of the entrance of the cavern and then fly up and out over the mountain towards the black river which is rife with insect life. We were in absolute awe at the sheer amount of bats flying above us, some swopped across the amphitheatre and were no more than a couple of feet above our heads. It was an incredible experience and i'm really glad we stuck around for it! I do think they should turn down the rangers flipping microphone though!
After the bat flight we headed to a Walmart who luckily let us stay the night as there was no where we could park up in the Carlsbad National Park. The nice thing about being in the desert is although it's boiling hot during the day it gets a lot colder at night so the van is much nicer to sleep in, we even used the duvet!