CARLSBAD CAVERNS - A New York woman now in her 80s described a time when she was 14, on a lantern tour exploring the Carlsbad Caverns.

When the tour ended at the Rock of Ages formation in the Big Room, the lights slowly faded and a voice echoed. Several voices joined in and a traditional hymn filled the dark caverns, sending chills down her arms.

It was a memory she never forgot. This one resounding experience prompted her to write a letter to the national park sharing her feelings towards the importance of the Rock of Ages Tour.

"This letter couldn't have come at a more perfect time; our job is to inspire people and get them thinking about the importance of national parks. We never know how we will affect someone's life," park ranger Pam Cox said.

Cox plans on telling her story to whomever she can - and it's inspired a few changes for this year's Rock of Ages Tour held annually each December.

Park rangers will be holding auditions at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 at the near the famous monolith of stone, with the lights out, to ensure they find the right person for the job. The judges are looking for local voices that resonate. Those who audition should be available between Dec. 14 and Dec. 16 to perform the traditional Rock of Ages hymn a capella for a large tour group in total darkness, to hopefully inspire more memories that make a long-lasting impression.

Paula Bauer, a former park ranger, served as the voice of the caverns until she moved to Colorado this past summer for another National Park Service job.


Ranger Cox was inspired by the letter to hold auditions to fill Bauer's shoes.

The tradition began in 1929 and ended in 1944 but has been resurrected for more than eight years now and I intend to keep it alive, Cox said.

Three singers or groups will be chosen and each will be responsible to sing at one of the three scheduled nights of the tour.

For information and to sign up for the auditions, call Pam Cox at (575) 785-3131.