. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Land of Fire and Ice

On our second day of our road trip, we visited sights in El Malpais National Monument, again south of Grants but in between Hwy 53 and Hwy 117. We started off in “The Land of Fire and Ice” and visited the privately owned Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano.  Our first stop there was the Old Time Trading Post, built in the 1930s along with a saloon and dance hall. At the time the Zuni Mountain Railroad was operating. They kept their beer cold using ice from the Ice Cave. Now the Post deals in jewelry, rock specimens, and other wares from local Indian Tribes.

Bandera Lava Flow
Along the gentle hike to the Ice Cave, Aa lava jutted out on both sides of the trail. The Bandera Lava Flow formed as jagged, broken lava that formed when the surface cools and hardens while the lava underneath is still flowing. There are lava tubes, sink holes, and Indian ruins along the trail. At the end of the trail is a stairway down to the Ice Cave. The temperature in the cave never gets above 31 degrees Fahrenheit. As rain water and snow melt seep into the cave, the ice floor thickens and is currently 20 feet thick. The deepest ice dates back 3,400 years. The green color of the ice is caused by an Arctic algae. It is a natural ice box: 20 feet of ice (including the back wall) in a well-insulated cave, shaped to trap the cold air. The Ice Cave was known to the Pueblo Indians as the Winter Lake.
The Ice Cave

After we walked the Ice Cave Trail, we headed back toward the Trading Post and onto the Volcano Trail, which led to the Bandera Volcano. The trail wound through the lava flow, past a spatter cone, and through the trees (Ponderosa and Pinon Pines mostly). The trees often had their tops blown off from lightning strikes. We found out that the lava flow is rich in iron content, which tends to draw lightning strikes to the trees growing in it. At the end of the trail is the great crater left when the Bandera Volcano, a cinder cone,  exploded 10,000 years ago. The crater is nearly 1,400 feet wide at the top and roughly 800 feet deep. The elevation at the look out point is 8,036 with the top being 8,367. It is a very impressive crater.
Bandera Volcanic Crater

Next stop: Sights along Hwy 117 in El Malpais National Monument.

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