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Backpacker Magazine – August 2009

Natural Wonders: Ice Caves, Bison, and Huckleberries

Three treks to life-list phenomena

by: Jayme Otto

(Photo by Ken Archer)
(Photo by Ken Archer)
(Photo by Chuck Haney)
(Photo by Chuck Haney)

NEW MEXICO'S ICE CAVES
Cool off in the Southwest's natural freezer.

The Wonder
Though they lie beneath a sun-scorched desert, the 10,000-year-old Bandera Ice Caves never get warmer than 31°F. Ice, 20 feet thick and glistening blue-green, forms when rain and snowmelt seep into the collapsed lava tube and freeze in the winter air that sinks into the cave. The result: a 60-degree temperature drop as you climb down a ladder into the maw of the pit.

The Way
From the visitor center, 100 miles southwest of Albuquerque, take a half-mile trail lined with twisted cedars to the rim of Bandera Volcano, where you can look into its 800-foot-deep crater. Then, circle back to the visitor center and follow the Cinder Trail .7 mile to the cave. A person-size hole in a jumble of rocks reveals a wooden staircase that drops 75 feet to the frozen floor. icecaves.com


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