into the land of fire and ice…

Yesterday was a grand day for adventure.  New Mexico is a land of vast beauty and extremes.  We have alpine forests (in grave danger of disappearing if we continue to play politics with science) and rugged desert terrain.  We have high-altitude and low.  We also have some of the most striking landscapes in the world. I say world as opposed to just the US because when you start to list the attractions you realize they stack up with those around the world not just here in the states.  From White Sands, to Carlsbad Caverns, from the Valle Caldera (a dormant super-volcano) to Tent Rocks it is no wonder movie studios are flocking to our state in record numbers in order to use the land of enchantment as a backdrop. 

One of the common misconceptions is that somehow the desert lacks color, nothing could be farther from the truth.. and while we are talking color let me just say, until you have seen a New Mexican blue sky you really don’t know blue.

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It has been very, very windy here, a normal spring phenomenon. Each year I hear myself saying it is windier than the last.  Whether this is actually true or not I don’t know.  When the sun came up yesterday and the winds were calm I knew it was a rare window for day trip to adventure.  Woke up the son and headed out.  Road trip ritual dictated that we stop at a convenience store and stock up on the treats reserved for the car only.  So fully stocked with gas and crap masquerading as food we headed off.  West.

I had seen the signs for the Ice Caves forever,  every time we had ventured west past Albuquerque,  but we had never had the opportunity to follow them.  It was the perfect day to remedy that once and for all.

Just to the south and west of Grants, New Mexico (about 2 1/2 hrs. from the house) is El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area.  Malpais was named by the Spaniards who navigated around the treacherous area and called it as they saw it, simply, “bad land.”  And just why was it given this name?  Because it is a one of the largest lava fields in the world, if not the largest.  It includes among other things,  a 17 mile long lava tube.  It also contains another of nature’s great wonders, ice caves.

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Since 1946 the Candelaria family have run a tourist concession that includes an ice cave and access to the cinder cone of the Bandera Volcano, the largest cinder in the area which produced a 23 mile long lava flow.  

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The ice is a beautiful green color because of the arctic algae that lives within. The temperature inside the cave remains at a steady 31 degrees fahrenheit year round.

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Humans are very predictable… if there is a place to leave our mark we are desperate to do it.  Will anthropologists someday be studying a slice of petrified wood with a “dangerous dave” mark  just like they pour over petroglyphs today?

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The Bandera Volcano.  Last eruption 10,000 years ago the crater is nearly 1400 feet wide and 800 feet deep.

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After exploring the volcano and ice cave it was off to another part of the area for a three mile hike.  My time away from New Mexico proved to be a strong negative as I experienced my first ever bout of altitude sickness.  Luckily it was short lived although I am still worn out today from a pretty simple hike.  The trail wove in around the Bandera Lava Tube which is 17 miles long.  Can’t wait to go back on a warm summer’s night for the daily bat migration.

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All in all it was a wonderful day.  Another last chance to spend time with the son as he barrels into adulthood.  And the best part?  We left many things unseen so there will always be an excuse to go back.

Over the next few days I will be posting some B&W images from the day on my flickr and facebook accounts www.facebook.com/photographybybytegirl and www.flickr.com/photos/bytegirl 

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One comment

  1. Wonderful shots and commentary. As a western movie aficionada, I have often noticed New Mexico in the credits. Gorgeous and varied country, indeed.

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