Volcanoes! Land of Fire and Ice, Part 1

Zuni Mountains where the volcano and ice cave reside.

Zuni Mountains where the volcano and ice cave reside.

Although time has passed since I last drove through the “Land of Enchantment,” I still enjoy reflecting on my visit to this alluring place of mystery and contrasts.

From her forested mountains and high deserts, where days can be scorching hot and nights freezing cold, to the numerous caves hidden beneath her surface, where temperatures remain constant all year, opportunities for exploration abound. The wildlife is abundant and varied. Sagebrush-dotted deserts are packed with rattlers and jackrabbits; mountains, which overflow with dark green pine and fir, shelter deer and elk; and caves house thousands of bats. The remains of Anazasi civilizations scattered between her borders shroud her past with intrigue. For me, however, New Mexico exposed a different side.

Location of the Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano

Location of the Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano

Positioned on the Continental Divide, deep in the heart of the Zuni Mountain Range, another one of her treasures was revealed: a contrast of fire and ice. Thousands of years ago, when the earth erupted violently and spewed fire from its belly, fire and ice collided in this portion of New Mexico. Today, remnants of that catastrophic event are still visible in the form of a volcanic crater, lava tube and ice cave.

Sign for the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano

Sign for the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano

Named the “Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano,” this privately owned piece of nature can be found by following the signs on State Highway 53 just off Highway 40 near Grants, New Mexico. My husband, Dan, and I were privileged to step into this land of contrasts two years ago. We began our day at the “Ice Cave Trading Post,” an historic log cabin built in the 1930s and now used as a combination gift shop, snack shop, museum, and ticket office.

Historic Log Cabin

Historic Log Cabin

After paying our admission fee and obtaining a trail map, we examined remnants of Anasazi pots, some 1200 years old. These had been discovered among the lava beds surrounding the area. Our interest was especially piqued because we had just completed a quest, exploring ancient Anasazi ruins in both Arizona and New Mexico. It had been a pleasant surprise to learn that these ancient people had inhabited this area also and we were anxious to see the sites.

to be continued next Wednesday…

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