Carlsbad Caverns and the Mouth of Smaug

My mouth is currently watering due to an impending dose of New Mexican green chile.  We’re about to go to dinner here.  And gorge ourselves on margaritas, chile rellenos, chips and salsa.  I’m pumped because it’s going to be the last of it that we will get in awhile (can’t get it in Seattle…sigh).

While down in New Mexico for the Thanksgiving holidays, we took a break from the big city with Colin’s dad and his wife to visit Carlsbad Caverns.   We passed a whole lot of drilling rigs on the way and there were and are questions about whether New Mexico produces more oil or natural gas – scintillating conversation.

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BUT Carlsbad Caverns did NOT disappoint.  It was so awesome. The true definition of awesome…not the overused colloquialism we normally encounter.  The pictures, which were taken with my iPhone, do not do it justice.  It was enormous and impressive and delicate-seeming all at the same time.  Plus, we got to learn about how it all happened over millions of years.  The above picture is prior to us descending into the depths.

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We all agreed that the experience felt like we were on a quest from Lord of the Rings and that if we were dragons, we would definitely live in a cave like this.
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I also learned the stalactites and stalagmites are both growing!  So, they are growing towards each other!  I had thought that the water and minerals and acid were eating away at the existing rock, causing erosion which created the formations.  In reality, the minerals in the water are deposited both at the ceiling of the cave and the bottom of the cave growing the formations slowly over the years (better explanation here).  Also, in retrospect, my initial assumption does not make sense because that would mean that the caves would be growing in size over the years slowly etching towards the center of the earth and the ground we walk on simultaneously.  I realize that this is something that many children know…but I didn’t…even though my father is a petrophysicist.  Feel free to make fun of me.

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Most of the formations have stopped growing in Carlsbad Caverns, but some, which are labeled, are still forming.  Inching closer and closer to one another over millennia.

How cool is that?! Also, doesn’t that last picture look like the mouth of Smaug?  Just waiting for his next victim?  (see above Lord of the Rings reference).  They should have Benedict Cumberbatch narrate the cave audio tour in his Smaug voice.