Imagined adventures, before the age of the internet.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to Iceland. As you may recall from my other posts, traveling to Iceland and hiking on the volcanos was a bucket list item. But as a preface to Iceland, I have to mention Carlsbad.

Having watched the 1959 film version of Jules Verne’s epic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, I’d dreamed of one day going there. In my mind, I was going to travel to Mount Snæfell in Iceland, go to the secret entrance to the cave, and travel beneath the earth to explore vast caverns filled with rubies and other crystals.  As I grew older, I realized that the idea of traveling to the center of the earth was a complete fantasy, but that the places where the movie had been filmed were indeed quite real! In the film credits, special thanks is given to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where many of the interior cave scenes were filmed.

King’s Palace inside Carlsbad Caverns where Journey to the Center of the Earth was filmed.
Impressive Stalagmite in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. 

Growing up as a poor kid in western Pennsylvania, in a family that NEVER traveled, except to maybe see my uncle who lived about 5 hours away once (seriously, that’s the only vacation my family ever went on that I can recall) Carlsbad Caverns might as well have been the moon. There was no chance in hell I was going to get out there. As close as I could get to Carlsbad, or anywhere for that matter,  was watching “where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” on PBS.

This was long before the age of the internet; a time when one had to do a bit more extensive investigation than a quick google search to learn something.  I’m realizing now that many people who might read this blog have never even set hands on a physical encyclopedia, but that’s exactly what I had to do to learn about Carlsbad.

We had a dusty plywood bar sitting on the enclosed front porch that held a collection of Encyclopedia Brittanica. I’d often check out the collection to investigate and learn about such places as and eras ancient Egypt (Another bucket list item, that I need to address). I’d skim through a couple of black and white photos and fantasize about being an adventurer who traveled to such places. That was even before I ever discovered National Geographic, which is what my 4th grade teacher Mr. Obrien had stacks of on his book shelves.

I can recall some faded black and white images of rock formations, and learned that Carlsbad was in New Mexico. Looking at a map, which is also what people did before the internet, I thought it would probably take a few days to drive there. I’d heard it took my cousins 3 days to drive out to California, and New Mexico wasn’t quite that far.

I set it to my mind, that I would one day go there, and that’s what I did!


Emerald colored lights illuminating the caverns.

I was in my late 20s before I could go to New Mexico to see the caverns, but it was a dream come true.

Laughing about something or other at the Carlsbad visitor center (and now I wear this uniform)


The landscape outside of the caverns was pretty amazing as well.

Quite possibly the first antelope I’d ever seen. (and one of the few)
The entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, before descending over 70 flights into the cave. 


Visiting Carlsbad put me one step closer to fulfilling my fantasies about Journey to the Center of the Earth, but much later I would still go to Iceland!

Have you ever dreamed of somewhere? Have you gone there? Did it meet your expectations, or did you feel let down?  Where would you like to go?



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