CARLSBAD – After forty years away, former National Park Service park guide Tom Lorig traveled back to New Mexico this week to return an historic sign to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The painted wood sign, which marked well-known Mirror Lake in the Big Room of Carlsbad Cavern, will be added to the park’s museum collection. It is the first of its design to be added to the park’s collection.
Lorig, who now lives in Bothell, Washington, toured the cave recently and reminisced about his time as a park guide from 1968 to 1973. Lorig obtained the sign when new lighted signs were installed in 1973. He and other employees were given permission to take old signs. “The Mirror Lake sign was the most coveted one,” Lorig said, “because of the mirror-image text that read right-side up when reflected on the surface of the pool.” At the end of his recent cavern tour, Lorig said, “I’m glad the sign is back at Carlsbad Caverns. This is where it belongs.”
After leaving Carlsbad Caverns, Lorig worked as a ranger at Yosemite and Saguaro national parks before becoming a registered nurse and moving to Washington. The Mirror Lake sign stayed with him and was displayed on his mantel in Washington. A few years ago, Lorig began to think about ensuring the sign’s preservation and first had the idea of returning it to Carlsbad Caverns. The opportunity to do so arose this year while on a road trip to the Southwest. The sign traveled back to Carlsbad Caverns from Washington in the backseat of Lorig’s truck.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park occasionally receives donations from former employees and visitors, including old photographs, posters, and other items featuring the park. Most recently, George Eugene Hill, of Williams, Arizona, donated a box of 35 mm slides from his time as a park guide at Carlsbad Caverns in the summers from 1961 to 1963. Donations such as these help Carlsbad Caverns and other parks piece together history that may have been lost or obscured. Safely preserved in the park’s museum collection, these items are important pieces of the story of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.