Volcanoes! Land of Fire and Ice, Part 3

Our path meandered along the lava tube, following its course away from the volcano and toward the ice cave. When we reached the bottom of the hill, we passed the trading post and took the trail leading to the cave.

Volcanic Rock

Volcanic Rock

Even though the elevation was lower at this point, the volcanic rock was still abundant. Signs were posted reminding us to keep off the rocks. Stories came to mind about past visitors who had wandered off into the vast volcanic wilderness and gotten lost. Survivors, who found their way back, had been severely injured from walking on the sharp, jagged edges of the hardened lava.

Cold Vent -- An opening in the earth's crust

Cold Vent — An opening in the earth’s crust

This trail was much shorter than the earlier one and it wasn’t long before we saw large vents where part of the earth’s crust had collapsed, carving out holes into the ground. Cold air spewed out of these openings. Archeologists suspect that these vents were once used by the Anazasi to help keep food cold during the warm summer months.

Staircase leading to the Ice Cave

Staircase leading to the Ice Cave

Just around the bend from these vents, were sixty-nine wooden steps leading to the ice cave. From the top of the stairway, the cave appeared to be simply another vent, although much larger than the ones we’d previously viewed. Down, we walked, vertically, with each step bringing into clearer sight the opening which now resembled the mouth of a cave. The farther we descended, the closer we got to understanding why this was referred to as an “ice cave.”

Glimpse of Ice Cave from the stairwell

Glimpse of Ice Cave from the stairwell

The stairs led to a wooden platform right inside the crescent-shaped fissure. Rounded on all three sides, this cave was a collapsed section of the same lava tube we had been following from the Bandera Volcano. Twenty feet deep, the floor’s thick ice filled out the entire base of the cave.

Ice Cave

Ice Cave

Solid, cloudy white ice mingled with the pale green arctic algae, giving the floor of the cave the appearance of an ice skating rink. Named the “Winter Lake” by the Anasazi, the ice cave’s temperature never reaches above thirty-one degrees. What a contrast this cold cave is today in comparison to what the fiery volcano and hot lava tube was thousands of years ago.

Belonging in the “Land of Enchantment,” this blend of fire and ice is how I will always remember this little slice of New Mexico. Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano are reminders of a time, long ago, when a volcano erupted and spewed out hot, sizzling lava. This flowing, searing gel formed a tube all the way down the mountain side where it eventually collapsed, only to create a cavern of eternal ice. What a marvelous sight that must have been! Fortunately, today, there is a place where we can view the remnants of that time: a place of fire and ice aptly named the “Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano.”


This ends my series on Volcanoes! I feel blessed to have been able to relive my summer of volcanoes through this blog. Once again, I will be taking some time off to go exploring, but will return to Paths to Adventure and Praise in a few weeks to share more of my adventures and pictures of God’s creation.

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Volcanoes! Morro Rock

The core of an ancient volcano, Morro Rock, juts out of Morro Bay, located on the central coast of California.

One of thirteen volcanic plugs along the California coast, Morro Rock juts out of Morro Bay, located on the central coast. (A plug is a remnant volcanic neck).

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Volcanoes! Land of Fire and Ice, Part 2

Beautiful views on our hike up to the Bandera Volcano.

Beautiful views on our hike up to the Bandera Volcano.

We resumed our morning jaunt by walking up to the Bandara Volcano.

The air was dry and crisp, filled with the scent of old-growth Juniper, Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. Interspersed among the conifers were Aspens and Gambal Oaks. It was cold enough to wear fleece jackets and and hats as we began our ascent.

The owner’s pet, a big fluffy tan dog, guided us to the volcano. We followed her, trudging half a mile up the hill and gaining 150 feet in elevation, to the blown-out cinder cone.

Soft rounded dormant volcano with lava tube. (Lave tube is underneath the long, rocky, mounded dirt.)

Soft rounded dormant volcano with lava tube. (Lave tube is underneath the long, rocky, mounded dirt.)

The views from the trail were magnificent. Off in the distant were the soft rolling mountains of ancient volcanoes. Now, rounded and loaded with trees, these sleeping giants complemented the panoramic landscape. Twenty-nine of these dormant volcanoes exist in this area, known as the El Mapais region. From one viewpoint we could see fifteen of them. Directly below us, a lava tube snaked its way through a chasm in the earth.

Lava Tube

Lava Tube

Over seventeen miles long, this lava tube is thought to be one of North America’s longest. Long ago, when the outer layer of lava hardened first, the hot flesh of the volcano poured through the hollow tube. Today, black, shiny, sharp lava rocks, dyed with the colors of white, yellow and red minerals are strewn haphazardly all over the mounded dirt tube and beyond. With the passing of time, these colors have been painted by calcium, sulphur, sodium and iron leaching from the lava rocks. Twisted old-growth evergreens sprout from among them and were scattered all around us throughout our climb. We continued on the trail to the source of this tube.

Part of the lava tube collapsed. The opening in the far left corner shows it continuing under the ground.

Part of the lava tube collapsed. The opening in the far left corner shows it continuing under the ground.

The air was cool and breezy at the crater breach, leaving us both a bit breathless but somehow invigorated on this chilly spring morning. The deep blue of the clear sky contrasted with the crater’s red and brown dirt. Dark green pines, which started at the top of the hole and spilled down into the inverted V-shaped cone, were sprinkled throughout the dirt and rocks.

Crater of the Bandera Volcano.

Crater of the Bandera Volcano.

This particular volcano is referred to as a cinder cone. Indeed, it resembled a cone rising up from the earth’s floor and then collapsing in upon itself. So much dirt had been blown out of it that now it gave the appearance of a funnel with approximately 1/3 of the side gone.

This reversed look was caused by two stages of one eruption of the Bandera Volcano. The first stage developed the cinder cone, which now rises 8372 feet above sea level. The second produced the massive lava flow which is nearly twenty-three miles long. At the end of the entire eruption, the lava suddenly fell back down the main vent, causing the bottom of the cone to be deeper than the outside lava flow. The crater now measures roughly 1500 feet across its mouth and is 800 feet deep.

The stillness at the volcano was interrupted only by the sound of the wind blowing across its mouth. One lone tourist joined us at the metal-fenced lookout point. We posed for some pictures and headed back down the trail, chatting with our newfound friend.

Once again, our furry companion led the way.

…to be continued next Wednesday

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Volcanoes! Psalm 95:4

Bandera Volcano

Bandera Volcano at Land of Fire & Ice

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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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Volcanoes! Subway Cave & Lava Tube

Subway Cave & Lava Tube near Lassen National Park, Northern California

Subway Cave & Lava Tube near Lassen National Park, Northern California

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Volcanoes! Mount Lassen

During the month of May, I will be featuring volcanoes! A few years ago, during our summer travels, my husband and I noticed that everywhere we went, volcanic activity was mentioned. Our first stop was Morro Bay on the California Central Coast. Next, we spent a week at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. We completed our volcanic tour at a neat little place in New Mexico called “Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave.” That summer, we learned about the different types of volcanoes, about volcano cores and lava tubes. It was a fascinating experience and I quickly became interested in exploring more of this type of landscape.

As usual, I will post pictures of nature with praise verses. Also, throughout the month, I will include pieces of a travelogue I wrote about the Bandero Volcano and Ice Cave.

My first post is a snap shot of Mount Lassen, the largest plug dome volanco in the world. Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few places where all four types of volcanoes can be seen: cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes.

Mount Lassen

Mount Lassen

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