Total Miles Travelled: 335 Miles
Time in Car: 5 hours
Today started early for me. I couldn’t sleep and woke up constantly through the night finally giving up on blessed slumber at 5:02am. I wasn’t going to wake the boys until 7:30am so I decided to get a jump start on the day and began loading the truck up with our gear. We were on the road by 8:15am and headed for another day of adventure!
Hold on there partner! As you travel from Roswell through Vaughn, New Mexico on Hwy. 285, you better be careful as you might get caught in a neighbor’s feud across the highway! Enter the Cowboy Rukus, giant cowboys on either side of the highway, pointing at each other as if they are having a shootout! They are 18 feet tall wooden cutouts that were created by artist John Cerney and are modeled after the two cowboy brothers who own the land. Wave to them as you go by!
Our 1st stop at Josh’s request was a Chick-Fil-A since he wasn’t sure when he would get his favorite food again! Hahaha!
As you travel this route, you will begin to see more signs announcing you are on the famous Route 66! Make sure to stop along the way at the themed gas stations as they have great Route 66 stickers, keychains, shirts and old photos taken from years past.
As we travelled through Albuquerque West on Interstate 40, we were excited to stop and see this cool place, Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano! To get there, you turn South off Hwy. 40 onto Scenic Loop 53 at Grants, New Mexico and drive for about 20 minutes. It is well worth the side trip if you are willing to take a diversion on your way to Gallup.
When we arrived and paid the entrance fee, we decided to hike up the short trail to the Bandera Volcano first since it was getting warm outside. This is known to be one of the most accessible volcanos in the country. The Bandera Crater is considered the largest volcanic cinder cone in the region. First the cinder cone developed, then a massive lava flow broke the side now allowing us to walk right above it! Bandera’s lava flow is said to be nearly 23 miles long!
The crater is nearly 1,400 feet wide at the top and about 800 feet deep. The elevation from the lookout point at the railing is 8,122 feet. It is about a 15-20 min beautiful walk to the overlook. You pass impressive lava fields and remnants of the volcano’s path so long ago.
After seeing this interesting marvel, we headed back down the trail to see the Ice Cave on the property. Now this was cool! Literally! The ice cave is located in a section of the volcano’s collapsed lava tube and guess what? The temperature never gets above 31 degrees…ever!! Now if that wasn’t interesting enough, the ice thickness at the bottom of the cave is about 20 feet deep resulting in a natural ice box! What?? The manager of the property advertises in their pamphlet that the deepest ice is the oldest of course and dates back to 1100 B.C. I think it is neat that the Pueblo Indians in the area refer to the ice cave as Winter Lake.
In order to see the bottom of the cave, you descend down about 70 steps and you can feel the dramatic temperature change with each step down. When we reached the bottom of the steps, it was cold! It felt amazing in the 85 degree dry warmth of the day!
The ice didn’t look very pretty but the green tint was from the Arctic Algae nestled in the ice below.
It was scenic walking back up the stairs looking through the opening of the cave from the bottom…thinking that ancient people use to come down into that opening at one time and mine the ice there for their families. Pretty cool!
So, our vote is that if you are in the area, The Ice Cave & Bandera Volcano is a must stop that provides a unique look into history first hand. You can find more information here: http://www.icecaves.com
Once we visited the gift shop, it was time to keep moving on the Scenic Route Hwy. 53 towards El Morro National Monument, about 125 miles west of Albuquerque.
Now, I have to be honest with you about this as I wasn’t expecting much from this location but boy was I in for a surprise! El Morro was my favorite stop thus far on the trip.
It had been a long day already driving and stopping but we ended up spending almost 2 hours here and here is why! To find out more information about the park, click here: https://www.nps.gov/elmo/index.htm
“El Morro is a cuesta, a long formation gently sloping upward, then abruptly dropping off at one end. The land is made up of sandstone layers deposited by wind, desert streams and an ancient sea” – El Morro NM visitors pamphlet
Definitely expect the weather to be hot and dry, so make sure to take a small backpack with you if you plan to hike to the top on the Mesa Top Trail with water for everyone and a snack if you have littles. The museum inside has beautiful exhibits about the ancient people of El Morro and you can watch a 15 minute video about the history of the land, people and wildlife.
There are two trails to choose from…one is Inscription Rock which is a paved .5 mile loop trail that passes carvings in the cliff dating back to early 1600’s and then the Mesa Top Trail which is a 2 mile loop trail and takes you to the top of the mesa to the ancient Pueblo ruins and a view to die for.
We decided to head to the top first as we were excited to see the views we had heard about! Enjoy these pics as we began the ascent to the summit of the mesa!
After a good amount of stairs, we made it to the top but the trek was not challenging so highly recommend this trail upon your visit. We got to see the ruins at the top which was so incredible…to think that hundreds of people lived on top of El Morro at one time…complete family units!
Then it was time to head down and we did the Inscription Trail. You can get a loaner inscription pamphlet that shares what each inscription means and the year it was inscribed as you walk along this paved trail. Hi-Five was the designated reader for us this time and he was a great tour guide!
After all this fun, we were ready to get to our second Air B&B experience and this one we had been excited about for a while because it looked to be pretty remote, had a beautiful pond in the backyard and the decor was very New Mexican. When we arrived, we were even more excited. The property manager, Walker, lives on site and was immediately willing to check in and let us know if we needed anything he was there. He was very welcoming, and the house was in pristine shape! I highly recommend the Enchanting Adobe home with swimming pond if you are in the Ramah, New Mexico area. Unfortunately, we were only able to stay one night on our trip out west, but being only 2 miles from El Morro NM, this house would be a perfect home base for a 2+ night enchanting stay. You can find the house listing here if you are interested in knowing about about Walker and this comfortable and clean home! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/24714910
So after a busy day #2 on our West Coast Adventure, we were pooped but were so relieved to have a comfortable and beautiful space to rest our weary heads before we headed to camp at the Grand Canyon the next day.
Safe travels and remember, embrace the journey you are on as it is yours and yours alone. No apologies, no excuses, no explanations needed to anyone. Be the best version of you today!
Owl, Hi-Five and Eagle