Our visit to the Ice Caves
Winner In The Ice Caves and Bandera Volcano Photo Contest

Last weekend week my wife left to chaperone a high school trip out of state. This included my two eldest children, and left Zachary and me home alone. Instead of just sitting around all day, We'll a search for a good day trip destination from Albuquerque. We ended up picking the Ice Caves, southwest of Grants New Mexico, within the El Malpais National Monument Area at an elevation of 8,000 feet.. The trip will include a short stretch of mountain curve driving on high-way 53 to test this baby out. So Saturday morning Zachary and I set off.
The trip from Albuquerque goes through some Indian pueblos and some wide open spaces. The picture below is of an area I think is very picturesque. The hills are not rolling, but have shear faces. Unfortunately the pictures through the car windows and having the foreground in the shadow of a cloud do not do the area justice. So if you ever come to Albuquerque for the Albu-querque International Balloon Fiesta, the Ice Caves will make a nice afternoon outing.

So on to the Ice Caves. When you arrive you park in front of the old trading post, where you can buy all sort of souvenirs. There are postcards, Indian arts and crafts, crystals, etc. There are two trails, the one to Bandera Volcano is to the right or northeast of the Trad-ing Post, the other left or south-west of the Trading Post leads to the Ice Cave. Pay the park fee at the Trading Post and get a guide. I highly suggest going to the Volcano first. In Grants we bought Subway sandwiches and left them in the Trading Post refrigerator for later.

On the hike up the Bandera Volcano, off to the west, you can see several other volcanos in the dis-tance.

On the trip up to the top of the volcano there are several rest stops. The trip is about a half mile and only 150 feet vertical climb so those in hiking shape should not need them, but still the eleva-tion of 8000 feet might get to some. Even if you donŐt need the rest they make a nice place to sit and enjoy nature. As you can see the trail is wide, smooth (crushed volcanic ash, I wonder where they got it), and a gentle grade. Along the trail many items of interest are marked with numbered logs and the guide gives a description.

This is near the Crater Look Out Point. This picture is facing south, the lava broke through the north end of the volcano, then traveled along the west side of the volcano and then south. As the picture below shows the lava flow left a wide canyon, known as devil's playground.

The area around the trading post contains several small log condos. They were used by the Zuni Mountain Railroad workers and log-gers I suppose. The old outhouses still stand and I believe are functional since they seem to be equipped with the essential roll and maga-zines. However, conventional bathrooms are in the trading post.

The trail to the Ice Cave has several sink holes where the lava tubes collapsed. they too are small Ice Caves. They were used as refrigerators to ice down the railroad worker's and the logger's beer kegs.

This is the view inside one large sink hole.

This is looking down into the Ice Cave. The temperature never gets above 31 degrees F, even in the New Mexico sun. I don't understand this since the opening faces the south. I wonder if global warm-ing will effect the Ice Cave.

The Ice Cave cavern is fairly large, even with a 28mm lens you can't get it all in. This is actually two pictures stitched together. The green stuff in the ice is artic algae, how it ever got here in the middle of New Mexico beats me, must have been from penguins migrating north for the summer.

After visiting the Ice Cave you have to climb back up the stairs. Along the way green and orange moss have taken over the old volcanic rocks.

After all the hiking a quiet lunch in the shade of the pines was nice time to relax before the trip home.

"Honest Zachary, my school bus was just like this when I was a kid."

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