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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.