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Left Hand Tunnel
     The Left Hand Tunnel tour is one of several wild cave tours offered in the park. A wild cave is a cave that is neither lit, nor paved. It is essentially undeveloped, and in it's natural state. This is the easiest of the wild cave tours. The Left Hand Tunnel is accessible from the main parts of the cave, if you know where to go. It is a nice, tidy bit of adventure, for those who wish to do a bit of wild caving, but are not inclined to the climbing, and crawling that the more challenging wild cave tours offer. The park has decided that the tour will be taken by candle light, to give a feel for the early days of Carlsbad, where visitors toured by the light of candle lanterns.
     The photos below, are not great; but they do give a feel for the cave, and for the tour given. Though there are no paved paths, as such, the park does lay down tapes. The tapes mark out trails, and are there to keep visitors from wandering around, and impacting the cave. Light levels were low, as there is no light down in this cave. The candle lanterns called for wide open apertures, and low shutter speeds. Towards the end, on the way back, we were permitted to use flash, and I managed to get a few photos which, though superior in quality, lacked the atmosphere of the those taken by the light of the candle lanterns.

We meet near the elevators to the main part of the cave. We will descend, and than take a slightly different path, to one of the undeveloped portions of the cave system. Our candle lanterns sit on the table, awaiting a light. The ranger taking the role, will lead the tour, while her partner will follow up behind.

So we are on our way. Lanterns were lit upon our arrival in the caves, and we were shown the way to the Left Hand Tunnel.

Picking our way between a pair of tape markers, which indicate the trail. The markers keep all visitors on the same path, and thus limit the impact on the cave.

Heading down through one of the narrow areas. Our candle lanterns only give a small pool of light, making the cave seem quite mysterious.

Cheating a bit, and using a flashlight, to get over a small rise.

The passage narrows, in spots, and the progress can be slow, over the uneven paths. The blue tape, to the right of the photo, is a surveyor's mark.

We stop, for a moment, as our ranger guide explains some features of the cave. We also spend a brief time, in total darkness, as our lanterns are extinguished.

Though this is a "wild" cave, a small bridge has been built, to cross a rather deep fissure.

The group proceeds, lanterns in hand, along the path.

One more stop, to hear a bit about the cave, and to look at some features. The rangers love these caves, and enjoy showing them off to the public.

Our guide, illuminates the ceiling, pointing out a few interesting structures, including cave bacon.

We look up, as our ranger guide illuminates the cave bacon, and some other features on the walls and ceiling above.

This is an example of cave bacon. It is being back lit by a flashlight. The translucent ribbon like deposits are stained by mineral seepage.

Though the trip out was  conducted under the flicker of lantern lights. Flash photography, and modern illumination, is permitted on the way back.

Though this is a bit off of the beaten path, and is not a developed section of the cavern system, there is nothing inferior about the formations in this tunnel.  The park wishes to preserve many sections of the cave in their natural state, for the future.

A rock waterfall seems to cascade down the wall of the cave.  The colors of the newer deposits are different enough from those of the preceding layers, to set them off.

Wandering through the delicately featured, yet awesome features of the Left Hand Tunnel.

We cross the bridge, on the way back, and look down into the water below, with flashlights.

One last ridge to cross, and we are nearly back at our starting point. Note the variety of colors in all of the formations, and surrounding rocks in these photos. The park neither needs, nor uses colored lights, in the developed parts of the caverns.

Some visitors need a hand up the side of the path. Unlike the developed parts of the caverns, these paths are not kept level or provided with handrails.

We walk into what looks like a large mouth waiting for supper.

The cave narrows, and seems to rear up, turning into a tunnel, as we near it's end.

The last leg shows another little bridge. Near the entrance, Left Hand Tunnel is heavily modified. It was used to hold rock from the excavation of the elevator shafts, and was also used as a source of rubble, for construction and leveling of some of the paths.

The way out. We near the fence, and gate, which closes off the left hand tunnel, from the rest of the main level cavern system.

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