Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wind, lava fields, and an ice cave on our motorcycle ride from Santa Fe to Show low

The strong wind buffeted us all day, we walked through a 10,000 year old lava field, and descended steep wooden steps to a natural ice cave during our motorcycle ride from Santa Fe, NM to Show Low, AZ.

Yesterday the BMW stayed parked below our second floor room at the Casa Del Toro Bed and Breakfast in Santa Fe while we walked around the 400+ year old town, visiting museums, churches and art galleries. At the farmer's market we stopped by the raptor rescue and talked with volunteers holding four different raptors.

We left Santa Fe under bright blue, sunny skies and spent the first two hours riding south and then west on the interstate system before we turned onto New Mexico Route 53, part of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.  It felt great to leave the truck and motorhome traffic on the interstate and ride along a 2-lane road with little traffic and wide views all around us.

We rode through El Malpais national monument, where molten lava from 29 different volcanoes shaped the landscape thousands of years ago. We turned off the paved highway onto a rough, black cinder road that was so bumpy Mike said he was sure he lost at least one filling. The rough road took us to a trading post established in 1880 to serve the local forestry industry and that today is the hub for short walks to both the Bandera volcano crater and ice caves.

The Bandera crater is the largest volcano in the region, erupting around 10,000 years ago with a lava flow 23 miles long. The cinder path climbed steeply to 8,000' at the top of the crater, passing by twisted trees, steep slopes, and various lava formations.

Standing at the top of the 1,400' wide, 800' deep crater we looked down the almost 90 degree slopes to the trees and boulders at the bottom.

After climbing to the top of the volcanic crater, we walked down three steep, narrow flights of steps to a cave with approximately 20' of ice on the bottom.

The Pueblo Indians knew the ice cave as the Winter Lake, and people mined ice here until 1946. The light reflecting off the green, algae-covered ice onto the rocks makes the cave seem eerie.

Back on the road, we continued through several Native American reservations, watching the scenery vary from sparse, flat grassland that stretched out as far as we could see without a house or building in sight; to towering mesas with different colors of horizontal striped rock; to dark mountains off in the distance. We stopped in Zuni for lunch, taking a break from the wind that didn't let up all day.

We stopped for the day in Show Low, back home in Arizona. The first two days of our trip we rode under cloudy, dark skies and through intermittent rain. Today the sunshine felt great, but the wind made the ride difficult. Perhaps tomorrow everything will come together for a last, perfect ride home.


  1. I'd never heard of the ice caves before. Always nice to learn something new. Love the clouds and the owl picture. I would have dawdled way too long looking at the raptors I am sure.

  2. I've heard of ice caves in other areas, but this is the first one I've visited. The raptors were wonderful and we spent a few minutes talking with the volunteers who work with them. Fascinating!

  3. Molten lava is super super hot!