After our cold, hand-numbing encounter, we journeyed underground, or rather, into a cave. Our next stop was Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The funny thing to keep in mind is that Nicholas is night-blind; he has a rare genetic eye disease that prevents him from seeing in dim or dark places. So hiking down into a place devoid of all light seems counterintuitive.
“What will he be able to see?” One may ask. Well, nothing. But, hell, we wanted to visit all the national parks, so Nicholas was going in blind, literally.
The mouth of the cave was larger than I expected, a black shadow waiting to consume victims. Honestly, I was a little uneasy. It’s not like I’m a fan of the dark either. We marched on, nevertheless, switchbacking deeper and deeper into the noir. Unlike Mammoth Cave, which does only guided tours, Carlsbad allows visitors to do self-guided walks through the caverns. This also indicates that the path is idiot proof, one way in, two ways out: back the way you came or up the elevator. Despite how easy the trail was the park didn’t account for night-blind folk, but let’s be serious, why would they? It’s a cave, and caves are dark. With this being said, the cave was poorly lit. There were lights at measured intervals along the ground, and some lamps illuminated the caves prominent stalagmites and stalactites. These illuminated features were about all Nicholas could see. The wondrous formations were everywhere. Stalactites formed monstrous mouths, baring teeth; colossal columns stood like stanchions supporting the ceiling from collapse.
While I looked all around me, Nicholas shuffled behind me, faithfully clamped on to my shoulders. The pressure from his hands was building a sizable knot in my neck. Imagine a giant, bearded toddler and that accurately depicts Nicholas in the dark. Helpless, he waddles close and flat-tires me often.
When we made it out of the cave, I asked him what he thought. His only comment was, “we should have brought a headlamp.”