An Ice Cave in New Mexico with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

We are going inside a 10,000 year old lava tube to see an ice cave.   Wow!   We have never done anything like this.   Grants, New Mexico is a few miles south of I-40, and home to the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano.

Here we are at the entrance to the ice cave and Bandera volcano.

Here we are at the entrance to the ice cave and Bandera volcano.

We are in the West Central Zuni Mountain Range, on the continental divide.   First we stop at the Ice Cave Trading Post.

The Ice Cave Trading Post

The Ice Cave Trading Post

This is a combination museum, gift shop, information station and where we pay and register to visit the ice cave.   The artifacts and ancient pottery on display are 800-1,200 year old.   This is privately owned property, so we are happy they let tourists visit the ice cave.   The Bandera Volcano erupted about 10,000 years ago, creating lava tubes, leaving volcanic rock and making conditions right for the ice cave.   We are following an ancient lava trail to the ice cave.   This lava rock was tossed all over the ground.

Scattered lava rocks

Scattered lava rocks

Along the way, we are enthralled by these ancient twisted trees.

Ancient twisted tree

Ancient twisted tree

This hole in the ground, insulated by lava rock, served as a natural underground refrigerator, before electricity was available here.

Natural underground refrigerator

Natural underground refrigerator

The native American Indians occupied this land for years.   This cave entrance in the back of the photo, is really an entrance to a lava tube.

Native American Indians used the lava tube like a cave.

Native American Indians used the lava tube like a cave.

Continuing along the lava trail, we go down 3 flights of open stairs for a total of 69 steps.   We are going into the partially destroyed lava tube.

Lave tube with top collapsed. Stair railing on the left

Lave tube with top collapsed. Stair railing on the left

We will never be completely underground and in the dark, as the top of the lava tube is partially collapsed.   We are almost at the ice cave.   This sign explains what we are seeing.   The temperature on the ice never exceeds 31 degrees F.

Why does it stay frozen?

Why does it stay frozen?

And it gets hot here in the New Mexico desert during the summer.   This is the ice of the ice cave.

Ice is very old and never gets above freezing.

Ice is very old and never gets above freezing.

We are here, but mom could not get good photos of us and the ice.

Soapy and JB Duck at the Ice Cave

Soapy and JB Duck at the Ice Cave

The ice shows blue and green colors, reflected from the sun.

Colors reflect on ice and on rocks

Colors reflect on ice and on rocks

This is the first time we were in a lava tube and this is our first ice cave.   Leaving the ice cave, we appreciated the red bark on these trees.

Love the red bark on this tree

Love the red bark on this tree

We hope you will visit an ice cave soon.   It is really interesting to see.   When you come here, you can also walk to the top of the volcano.   It was very windy when we were there and we have seen volcanos, so we did not walk to the top this time.   Maybe next time if it is not so windy.   This is the last stop on our desert road trip.   We really enjoyed all the places we visited and the things we saw.   We hope  you also enjoyed seeing this part of the United States with us.

Happy Easter 2016

Today is Easter Sunday.   The reason for today is the Resurrection of Jesus.

The Resurrection

The Resurrection

Easter is a very serious holiday, but we also have a lot of fun with it also.  The Easter Bunny comes to our houses and brings us colored Easter eggs, soft toys in the form of bunnies, ducks and chickens,  and every Easter basket also includes some of our favorite candy.

Easter basket with toys and candy

Easter basket with toys and candy

Often the Easter Bunny brings other favorite treats for our enjoyment.   Flowers are a popular Easter gift also.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks, wish you all a very Happy Easter.

The Wind Blew and the Snow Came and Kept Coming

Snow and wind started while it was still dark.   When we woke up we could not see out our north windows.   The wet snow was plastered on the glass, on fences, on walls, and on trees.   This was Denver, Wednesday morning.   What happened?   Monday and Tuesday it was 70 degrees here and sunny.   Snow and wind dominated Denver until about 5:00 p.m.   During the day we stayed inside.   The snow flakes drifted in the air, then swirled in the wind, twisted in all directions and then floated to the ground.   The visibility was very limited.   But looking through the patio windows was beautiful.   The world seemed so fresh, silent and clean.   Like we were isolated from the world.   And we were.   We could not leave Denver.   All our interstate highways were closed.   All our roads through the canyons were closed.   Many major city roads were closed.   Our city and county government offices were closed.   Our Denver International Airport was closed.   Yes, it really was quiet.   We stayed inside; baked chocolate chip cookies.   Then, we ate cookies and drank lots of herbal tea.   We like snow days, but this was a lot of snow.   When the snow stopped, we had two feet of beautiful heavy wet snow on our backyard table.   We did not go outside until Thursday morning.   The wet snow had been compressing since it stopped falling.    I, Zeb the Duck, am surrounded by so much snow here.

In the snow on my backyard table

In the snow on my backyard table

Even the hot tub, which is against the house, has a lot of snow.

Hot tub cover

Hot tub cover

The wet snow clung to the trees.   Our neighbor’s tree if fine, but many trees broke.

Tree blanketed in wet snow

Tree blanketed in wet snow

Many of them fell on power lines.   About 200,000 people were without power.     Many schools were still closed Thursday.   The roads were a mess.   Early melting and then freezing resulted in so many accidents.   Thousands of people were stranded in their vehicles.   Police and National Guard were trying to help them get home.   As our intense Colorado sun came out Thursday morning, the snow covered trees glistened.

Snow covered trees glisten in Colorado sun

Snow covered trees glisten in Colorado sun

Then the snow began falling from the trees.   Our spring snow was fast, fierce, and of short duration.   Snow is so pretty and so quickly melted.   We hope everybody loves where they live.   We do.   Our intense sun is one of the reasons.   Remember, when we went to bed Wednesday night, there was 24 inches of new snow in our backyard.   These photos were taken last evening, Friday, less than 48 hours after the snow storm.

We see grass on this golf course

We see grass on this golf course

You can see patches of green grass on this golf course near our house.   This sports field also has patches of green grass.

Can you see more grass here?

Can you see more grass here?

Of course we have  lot of snow still on the ground, but a lot of melting occurred in less than 48 hours.   The sky is dark and we are expecting a couple more inches of snow Friday night and Saturday morning.   But, we do love our Colorado.

It is Natioinal Chocolate Covered Raisin Day–Let’s Go to a Movie

Today, March 24 is National Chocolate-Covered Raisin Day.   This information comes from http://www.punchbowl.com   Click on Reasons to Celebrate at the bottom of the page.     Nestle Raisinets are one of the most popular candies for movie-goers.   Raisins are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, iron, calcium and certain B vitamins.   Add some dark chocolate into the mix and you’ll also get a healthy dose of antioxidants and important minerals.    So, let’s eat some Raisinets for our health!   And they taste good, too.

We have Raisonets with Dark Chocolate and also with Milk Chocolate. Yum!

We have Raisinets with Dark Chocolate and also with Milk Chocolate. Yum!

The photo is over.   Let’s eat them!

Petrified Forest National Park with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

Here we are, entering another National Park.   Remember this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, but several parks are older than 100 years.

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

But, what is petrified wood?   This is the explanation from the National Park Service.   Approximately 216 million years ago, these trees died and fell in a river.   They were buried beneath layers of silt, mud, sand and volcanic ash, which protected them from decay.   Mineral laden ground water percolated through the layers,carrying silica from the volcanic ash and other trace minerals.   The absorbent dead wood became saturated with the minerals.   The silica, or quartz, crystals slowly bonded with the cells of the tree replicating the organic material in perfect detail.   Eventually, silica replaced the old material.    Wow, that is pretty involved.   The short version is a log is petrified when all the original plant material is replaced by minerals.   First stop for us was the museum and Visitor’s Center.   This is a petrified tree stump.   We love the colors in the petrified wood.

Colors of petrified wood

Colors of petrified wood

Check out this long log.

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons.   Don’t we look little?

This log, sometimes called “Old Faithful”, is 35 feet long and weighs 44 tons.   Big and heavy.   We are still in the northern Arizona desert and we loved this blooming cactus.

Blooming cactus

Blooming cactus

This is Agate Bridge.

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

The bridge is formed by a fossilized tree, 110 feet long.   This tree flourished in a lush tropical forest 217 million years ago.   The supportive concrete span was built in 1917.

There is a river bed under the bridge

There is a river bed under the bridge

It was very windy when we were here, so we rubber ducks had to be protected.   We did not want to go in the river under the Agate Bridge.   There are really two parts to the Petrified Forest National Park.   Interstate 40 divides the park, with the petrified forest part south of the highway, and the area north of I-40 is the Painted Desert.   These great colors are in the area of transition.

Colorful

Colorful

Years ago, before interstate highways were built, Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles was a favorite road.   Route 66 came through this part of Arizona.

Route 66. An American favorite

Route 66. An American favorite.   Route 66 crossed the Petrified Forest National Park.

We also saw this 1932 Studebaker by the road.   This is a real piece of Americana.

1932 Studebaker

1932 Studebaker

So many people drove this road and there are so many great memories here.    Aren’t the colors of this Painted Desert beautiful?

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

There are many such lookouts into the canyon.   We stopped at several of them.   This is the famous Painted Desert Inn, now a National Historic Landmark.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn

We went inside.   The old soda fountain is still there.   We really liked this petroglyph.

Petroglyph

Petroglyph

Everything in this park is so wonderful and colorful.   This is a panorama from the overlook of the Painted Desert Inn.

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

What an incredible view to watch the sunset and sunrise.   We hope you stop to see the Petrified Forest National Park and also enjoy the Painted Desert.     The gift shops here are wonderful also.   We brought home some heavy bags.   Petrified wood plaques are very heavy.

50,000 Years Ago A Meteor Landed in Arizona

Several hundred thousand tons of rock, traveling 26,000 miles per hour, collided with the earth 50,000 years ago.   What a fiery explosion, a force greater than 20 million tons of TNT there was in northern Arizona.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks, visited Meteor Crater.

Let's go inside and learn about the meteor

Let’s go inside and learn about the meteor

Entering the building we examined the Holsinger meteorite.

Holsinger Meteorite

Holsinger Meteorite

This is largest fragment discovered from the 150 foot meteor that crashed into the earth.   Much of the meteor vaporized on impact.   First we watched a short movie about the impact of the meteor and the resulting crater in the earth.   Our crater is not the oldest, nor is it the largest, on planet earth.   But it is the best preserved.   The isolated location and the dry Arizona desert, with only 7 inches of moisture annually, has not allowed much erosion or change to the site.   Our crater is 550 feet deep.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater with monument to Apollo astronauts at bottom

That is deep enough for a 60 story building to stand inside the crater and not reach over the top.   The hole is more than 4,000 feet across, with a circumference of 2.4 miles.   This hole is big enough for 20 football stadiums with games being played and 2 million spectators to fit comfortably within the crater.   That is big!   It was a very windy day; the tours around the crater rim were cancelled due to wind.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater

We ducks were outside, but we had to sit by this trash can so we didn’t blow away.

Meteor Crater with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

Meteor Crater with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

But we had to be outside to see everything.     From 1964 to 1972 the Apollo astronauts trained here at Meteor Crater.   The surface of the moon has meteor craters and the astronauts learned how to move on the surface and what types of materials to bring back to earth.   This is a test capsule for the astronauts.

Apollo Test Capsule

Apollo Test Capsule

Can you imagine living in a capsule this size for several days?   This capsule is really small.   Let’s talk about the speed of the meteor when it collided with the earth.   We said it traveled at 26,000 miles per hour, but how fast is that?   If you left New York, traveling at 26,000 miles per hour, you would arrive in Las Angeles in FIVE minutes.   That is fast.   When you visit Meteor Crater, remember that it is on private property, and there is a real ranch here.

This is a working ranch. Be careful.

This is a working ranch. Be careful.

The cattle are free range cattle, no fences, so they can cross the road.

Free range cattle next to road

Free range cattle next to road

Be careful.   If you hit a cow, nobody wins.   This is a National Natural Landmark.   For more information visit http://www.meteorcrater.com

Joshua Tree National Park with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

In the desert of southeast California, we entered Joshua Tree National Park.

We are entering Joshua Tree National Park

We are entering Joshua Tree National Park

As you know, this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, so we are visiting some national parks this year.    The desert has so many types of vegetation and pretty cactus.

A silver color desert plant

A silver needled desert plant

This silver one caught our attention.   The western part of Joshua Tree National Park is in the Mojave Desert.   This desert is more than 3,000 feet above sea level.    This is a Joshua Tree.

We are in front of the Joshua Tree

We are in front of the Joshua Tree

Joshua trees are really a species of yucca plant and are a symbol of the Mojave Desert.   The waxy, spiny leaves expose little surface area, efficiently conserving moisture.   Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet tall–at the leisurely rate of an inch a year.   Our Joshua Tree has flowers.

Joshua Tree Blossom

Joshua Tree Blossom

Joshua Trees bloom February through April.   The flower is pollinated only by the Joshua moth, and branching occurs after flowering.   These trees are not scarce in Joshua Tree National Park, nor in the Mojave Desert.

Many Joshua trees

Many Joshua trees

They are referred to as the Tree of Life, similar to the Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert.   The rock formations here are great also.   This is Skull Rock.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

You know how it received that name.   The rocks were formed by underground volcanic activity eons ago and have evolved to todays rock formations.

Formed from underground volcanic activity

Formed from underground volcanic activity

We love them.   The eastern part of Joshua Tree National Park is in the Colorado Desert.   This desert is less than 3,000 above sea level.   The Colorado Desert is a lower, hotter and drier desert than the Mojave Desert.   The Colorado Desert is a sub division of the Sonoran Desert.   Of course there are no boundaries between the deserts, just a subtle, gradual change and the appearance of lower creosote bushes.

Creosote bushes

Creosote bushes

There are many Cholla Cactus here.

The Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus Garden

This fenced area is called the Cholla Cactus Garden.   Let’s go explore.

Let's go see the cactus garden

Let’s go see the cactus garden

The signs say not to touch the cactus, or even get too close.   The needles cause pain–going in and coming out of your body.   Here is new growth on the cactus.

New growth on the cholla cactus

New growth on the cholla cactus

When the needles turn brown and fall off, the remaining cactus arm resembles woven, hollow stalks.

The arms look hollow without needles

The arms look hollow without needles

Even though this is a sub division of the Sonoran Desert, the large cactus do not appear.   We did like this desert plant with the huge flowering blossom.

Desert plants blooming in March

Desert plants blooming in March

The desert is just so full of different vegetation and so many surprises.   We hope you visit Joshua Tree National Park, or some national parks in this, the Centennial year, of the National Park Service.