Dacen turned 10 today…double digits! We woke up to a beautiful morning camped here at Brantley Lake State Park just north of Carlsbad NM and had donuts for breakfast (birthday boy’s choice).
We packed a lunch and headed to Carlsbad Caverns. Since Dacen is in 4th grade this year he gets an annual pass to our national parks…so, our cavern entrance fee was waived!
We enjoyed lunch outside in the sun. Its January and NM is known for high winds, but it was actually really nice for a picnic.
Then grabbed Jr. Ranger books for the kids and headed to the natural entrance.
If I was ever a park ranger I think I’d really enjoy a stint at Carlsbad Caverns. I love the desert mountains, the remote location and the cave itself is just so stinking big. And the formations never cease to amaze me.
I’ve been through the main caverns probably 6 or 7 times and every time I have ridden the elevator out of the cave. But this time the elevator was not an option….it was out of order. So we walked out the natural entrance which was a super cool bonus. If you’ve ever been in a wild cave on your own you know how easy it is to get lost because things look so different on your way out of a cave. The paved path and handrail made getting lost pretty hard but it still looked so different on the way out….like two caves for the price of one (oh wait, we didn’t pay any price to get in today!!). On our way out a little man in a helmet passed us on his way down into the cave. He was looking down but said “yer on the home stretch” in a cheery voice. It took my brain a bit to process all the info but I turned around and said, “is that Mr. Bemis?” to which the man replied, “couldn’t be….they wouldn’t let that guy in here”. Sho nuf!! It was Tom Bemis.
Oh, you don’t know who Tom Bemis is? Let me tell you. This guy has served Carlsbad Caverns since, well, I don’t know but its been a long time. There are several wild caves you can get access to on your own….but some require a ranger to go with you and Tom Bemis led me and my buddies on a trip through Ogle cave. This guy is TOUGH and, despite his back/spine injury, can jug up a rope out of a cave faster than I’ve ever seen anyone go. Tom retired in 2009 but now works as a consultant….he was supervising the electricians working in the cave today.
Brielle was nervous during our trip into the cave and around the Big Room about the fact that we had to walk all the way out. She asked if I’d give her piggy back rides on the way out. But once we got started up she did great….never once asked for a ride on my back. Its quite a hike out of the cave but with a few rests along the way we all made it!
We came back ‘home’ and Steph made biscuits and gravy for dinner (the birthday boy’s choice). He wanted mystery cake too but it was late and so we’ll try that for tomorrow night. Tonight we sang happy birthday to Dacen over a dish of ice cream and a Girl Scout cookie. Dacen said, “this was the best birthday ever!” I agree.