On the Road with Tom and Gloria travel blog


1930's trading post

Trail to volcano

Bandera Volcano

Steps to Ice Cave

Ice Cave

collapsed lava tube

El Morro

beauty of the cliff



Change of plans today. I was scheduled to visit Chaco Canyon National Park - a 2 hour drive in each direction. When I started the car my OnStar button was flashing red so I called the advisor to see what was the problem . It seems my backup battery is low and needs to be replaced. If I were to be in an accident it is possible they would not get the signal. No time to be driving to such a remote destination so I executed plan B - a drive on NM53, aka "The Trail of the Ancients." It was the path taken by Pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, and Coronado in their travels.

My first destination was "The Land of Fire and Ice" - the Bandera Volcano and an Ice Cave. In order to get there I passed through El Malpais National Monument ( moll-pie-ees means Badlands in Spanish) The terrain was interesting but nothing like the Dakota Badlands.

I finally reached this tourist attraction, went into the 1930's trading post building, paid my $11, and started up the 1/2 mile trail to the volcano - no easy task at this altitude. The elevation at the lookout point is 8,036 ft.

Bandera Volcano is the largest of the 30 volcanoes in the area. What's interesting is that at the end of it's eruption, the lava fell back into the main vent making the bottom of the cone deeper than the outside lava flow. The crater is 800 ft. deep and 1,400 ft. wide.

I went down the 1/2 mile to the beginning of the trail to the Ice Cave. No house inspector would ever have approve those stairs - they were wicked! The temperature in the ice cave never gets above 31 degrees so it was refreshing after my hike to the volcano. The floor of the ice is 20 ft. thick. The deepest ice dates back 3,400 years ago. Amazing! There were tons of ponderosa and pinyon pines on the trails. Smelled fantastic.

Thirteen miles further down the road was El Morro National Monument ( Spanish for The Headland). Over the centuries travelers would stop here because of the availability of fresh water. They rested in the shade of the cliff and carved their names, dates and stories into the rock. My first glimpse of the cliff took my breath away. This is a beautiful setting with such an interesting history.

Plan B worked out pretty well. It was only 2:30 when I finished my touring so I drove to Albuquerque for the night. Tomorrow - the Balloon Museum and then on to Amarillo.

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