Nighttime Feeding and the Living Desert

We last took you through a visit of Carlsbad Caverns. But  just wait until we tell you about what happens every night at dusk at the entrance of the cave.

But first, after our long day of touring the cave, we went back to the campsite, took a long swim at the beautiful pool and soaked in the spa! Yes, the campground we stayed in was divine!

After dinner, we arrived in plenty of time to view the amazing happenings at the cave entrance.  We got good seats in the amphitheater that is erected near the cave entrance which is encased by a primitive, but beautiful stone wall.  The rangers arrive well before dusk, and they give a talk that is chalked full of information about the Mexican Free-tailed Bats that live inside Carlsbad.

The ranger told us that approximately 300,000 bats live within the cave.  You have to remember that this was 1985, because more recently it has been estimated that close to a million bats live inside the cave walls.  (We even found one website that bragged over 8 million bats within Carlsbad Caverns – okay, we really think *that* was a gross exaggeration, but who really knows?).  Whether their estimation was a bit off in 1985 or the Mexican Free-tailed Bat population has increased in 25 years – well, we’re just not quite sure.

Mexican (or Brazilian) Free-Tailed Bats, Tadar...
Image via Wikipedia

The bats leave the cave right after sunset to feed along the Pecos River.  They can travel several hundred miles to feed in an evening.  They come out of the cave in a swarm that resembles a massive number of tiny black spots.  They leave the cave at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour,  but after gaining flight they can reach 40 to 60 mph.

It is a rather eerie, but awesome sight to see the bats come out in their swarms to feast for the night.  They can take up to 1 1/2 hours to completely vacate the cave for the evening.  Truly, a sight to see!

Once the bats finished leaving the cave, we rode the motorcycle back to the campground (in the dark).  Laurie kept insisting there were bats tangled up in her hair on the ride home, but Bill knew better.  We arrived at the old motor home to get a night’s rest for the next day we were leaving the area to continue on our trip.  But before leaving the Carlsbad area, we visited the Living Desert State Park.

Living Desert State Park opened in 1971.  It is located atop the Ocotillo Hills at the Northwest edge of Carlsbad.  They offer an unusual zoo and botanical garden that lends the visitor an opportunity to experience the Chihuahuan Desert.

We took lots of pictures of the greenhouse full of cacti.

Greenhouse Full of Cacti

And we took more pictures inside the greenhouse full of cacti.

More of the Greenhouse Full of Cacti

Then there was this really cool looking “Smiley Face” cacti!  That’s not the proper name for this particular species of cacti, it’s just what we call it!

"Smiley Face" Cactus

Laurie posed in front of a beautiful blooming cactus!

Laurie Poses with the Blooming Cactus

Bill posed in front of a Century Plant.

Bill Poses with a Century Plant

We got a picture of a blooming Century Plant.  What’s so special about a blooming Century Plant?

Blooming Century Plant

Century Plants are of the Agave Family of cacti.  They only bloom once in their lifespan.  The blooming spike is so large and grows so fast that it saps all the resources of the plant.  The plant being sapped of all its nurturing features dies soon after blooming.  The lifespan of a Century Plant is approximately 25 years, then it blooms, then it dies!  Isn’t that that amazing?!?!  Hence, it’s called the Century Plant, because it basically blooms once per century.

There were many other flowering cacti in the park too.

Flowering Cactus

And even more flowering cacti!

Another Flowering Cacti

There was a wonderful display of animals at the Living Desert State Park also.  Although we did feel sorry for the animals as it was hot, muggy, and hardly bearable for us humans.  This little badger was trying very hard to hide in a little corner of his caged area – trying to find some shade!


This mountain lion didn’t seem to mind the hot, very hot, beating down sunlight at all.

Mountain Lion

And we also captured this pretty good picture of a bobcat!

Okay, maybe not that good of a picture, but you must remember we had this little Pentax 35 mm.  You know the kind of camera that you actually remove the film, then take it to the store to have it developed!  That’s the kind of camera we were using – no fancy add-on lenses, nope!  We did have a slight “zoom” feature on that old camera, but even that was a fairly new feature for cameras back in 1985.

We hope you enjoyed our visit to the Living Desert State Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

We left the area around noon on July 14, 1985 to drive on to Alamogordo, New Mexico, then on to a little tiny area in New Mexico that we seriously didn’t even know existed.  We ended up in Silver City, New Mexico – and boy, oh boy, were we ever in for a big surprise at the wonderful sightseeing options that were open to us there.

Join us next time as we travel down the road in our little old motor home!

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Filed under New Mexico

5 responses to “Nighttime Feeding and the Living Desert

  1. fiveboysmom

    Great information. Sounds like a lot of fun too. I wish we could have waited for the bat encounter but my cousin didn’t want to drive the winding path out of the park after dark. To date the only bats I have seen in the wild are in my own yard–and I just can’t get a good picture of them in the dark. I think the trail camera caught it once but they are fast enough it was just a blurr.

    By the way, another cousin once sat on a century plant and then had to lay on her stomach for a week or more. It wasn’t as big as the one Bill is standing in front of, however.

    • OW! We feel for your cousin!! That must have hurt! Bill once sat on a cactus plant in CA. The boy (who was only about 2 years old at the time) laughed and laughed and laughed. He thought it was quite funny! Needless to say Bill ended up picking stickers out of his back side for days!

      Yeah, the winding road into the park is a bit treacherous. We wish you could have seen the bats at night too. The ranger talk was just as exciting as the actual viewing!

  2. lively4Jesus

    The pictures and the story are wonderful! Thanks so much for your diligence and time!

  3. Kathy S


    I finally got around to reading about your and Bill’s fantastic adventure. I am in awe of all that you did and learned. You two were so smart in doing something like that when you first got married; who has time later. That was surely a trip of a life time. Do the two of you ever think about doing a sequel during retirement?

  4. Kathy S,

    Thanks for visiting! We are so happy that you found some time to join us! We have certainly thought about doing a sequel during retirement. First, we need to get a certain member of our family through college, then we will seriously consider it!

    We were so fortunate to do this while we were younger! So many had told us that, and we truly did realize it while we were traveling.

    Thanks again for visiting! Hope to see you soon!

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