Tag Archives: caves

Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave

What a fun place to visit! It’s an area owned by the same family for several generations and they are battling with the National Park Service for control of the site. I can see why the Park Service wants it, it is a treasure.

The first thing we noticed when we drove into the parking lot was the dead dog stretched out in the middle of the parking lot. It was a shocking and upsetting thing to see. It was also weird because ours was the only car in the lot. We weren’t sure if the site was open or if there was something wrong. With the dog, we wondered if this was the beginning of a horror movie.

Bob swerved so he wouldn’t hit the dog and it raised its head and yawned at us. What a relief! No horror movie–just a supremely lazy dog.  After we parked, I approached the dog carefully to see if it was ok. When I was about 10 feet away, she rolled onto her back and presented her belly for a good scratch.  As soon as I started scratching, she sighed deeply, flopped her head back down and didn’t move again.  She was a riot!  Apparently she is the owners pet and she takes it upon herself to patrol the grounds at night and keep all wildlife away.  During the day, she is comatose.

Anyway, after a chat with the owners, we learned about their battle with the National Park Service. The land has been in their family for generations. They’ve always operated it as a tourist attraction. Now they’re struggling to keep it in the face of much pressure from the National Park Service which wants to take over the operation. We also discovered we were a little early in the season for tourists. We had the place to ourselves!

We headed up the path to the Bandera Volcano. The whole area was covered in rough volcanic rock and the path was black from crushed lava rock.  The trail circled up the outside of the volcano until it reached the side where the the cone had collapsed and the lava flowed out.  It was a very windy day and the path was steep–probably the most strenuous thing we’ve done on this trip so far–but it was worth seeing. I’ve never been inside a volcano before. It was black and barren. Hardly anything grew inside. Eerie and other worldly.

After lots of pictures (and a mad dash by Bob to retrieve my new Solar Observatory hat when the wind blew it off), we returned to the little store and began the journey down the other path to the ice cave. Even in the middle of a burning New Mexico summer, the 20 foot thick ice sheet in this cave never melts. The cave is actually a collapsed lave tube where water naturally collected. Because of the prevailing winds, the shape of the cave, and the insulating properties of the lava, the cave never gets above 31 degrees, no matter how hot it is only 20 feet away.  We had to walk down an old wooden staircase to see the ice cave and that was an adventure in itself.  Of course, my healing calves weren’t happy, but what’s a vacation without sore legs?

You can see all our pictures here.

Carlsbad Cavern

After dropping Abby off at school, we headed West.   We spent another day in Kansas City with the family and got the car serviced.  As much driving as we do, the 5000 mile oil change comes around often.  In fact, after the years of traveling, the dealership in Kansas City knows Bob by name!  We also made a quick stop in Wichita where we visited with Grandma again before meeting Mom, Donna and Bill for dinner. After doing so much research on the family history, I had lots of questions for Donna and she had all the good gossip — even though that gossip was from a generation or two back!

We left Wichita just in time to miss all the tornadoes.  We got all the way to Carlsbad, New Mexico in one day of driving and woke up the next morning to all the news reports.  We were lucky, we didn’t even have much rain during our drive.

Our first official day of vacation we spent at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  It was really interesting.  We chose to walk into the cave from its natural entrance and it was well worth it.  However, we walked down the equivalent of 75 stories in about a 3/4 of a mile.  The path was at a pretty steep angle.  When I was walking, it wasn’t a big deal, but the next morning I could hardly move.  Bob said I looked like Tim Conway’s old man character from the Carol Burnett show.  Once I got going and warmed up, I was ok, but if I sat down for a couple minutes, I had to warm up all over again.  It was ridiculous 🙂

Anyway, the cavern itself was very interesting.  We spent hours down there on the self guided tour and a ranger-lead tour.  We learned quite a bit about the caves, the bats who live in them durig the summer, etc.  We really enjoyed it.  I put the pictures here. We also wanted to see Guadalupe Mountains National Park just over the border in Texas, but the wind was so bad, visibility was down to a block.

In fact, the wind was so bad, we couldn’t really get around. There was so much dust in the air, visibility was low. We went to the Denny’s near our hotel for dinner; going any further was dangerous.  As we walked into the Dennys, there was a notice on the door asking patrons not to ask the staff questions about the “unfortunate event” and that the police investigation was ongoing.  Hmmmmm.  After we ordered, I did a little digging on my iphone and found that a waitress had been murdered there only days before.  It was a horrible story, she was killed at random by a stranger who then shot himself and later died.  I wished I hadn’t looked.