On the 4th day of the trip I made my way – taking the scenic route – from Santa Fe, NM to Holbrook, AZ. The beginning of the drive was nothing too special. I stayed on major interstates through Albuquerque and on to Grants, NM. Once I made it to Grants, I exited I-40, fueled up, and took some scenic back roads for a couple of diversions.
I had read about a place called the “Ice Cave” and thought it sounded a little hokey, so it didn’t make my list of sights to see. But, as I was driving on Ice Cave Rd, I kept seeing these large, gaudy signs encouraging me to make a stop. When I finally saw the turnoff to the Ice Cave, I thought, “What the hell?” and pulled in. It was a pretty place with big Ponderosa pines and dark volcanic rock. Even though it was 70 degrees there was still snow on the ground from a big snow a week before (and the elevation was just under 8,000ft, which helps).
After walking down a steep staircase, I made my way down to the Ice Cave. Turns out it was just a small cave with ice inside. The temperature stays around 31 degrees all year round in the cave, so the ice is always there.
Next up was a stop at El Morro National Monument, which was just a few miles down from the Ice Caves. El Morro, which is also known as Inscription Rock, is a giant sandstone outcrop in the middle of the high desert. Because there is a permanent source of water at the bottom of El Morro, travelers have been stopping there for centuries, marking the rocks with various inscriptions through time. It seems El Morro doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but it’s well worth a stop. I enjoyed it much more than I expected.
Shortly after stopping at El Morro, I crossed the border into Arizona on I-40. The plan was to head to the Petrified Forest and take some sunset pictures of the Painted Desert.
The Painted Desert
When I first arrived at the park I found myself in the Painted Desert. I had hoped to make it down to the Petrified Forest and then back up to the Painted Desert for sunset, but didn’t have the time (and the park is HUGE!). So instead I hung out at the Painted Desert, traveling from viewpoint to viewpoint taking photos as the sun set.
Before I knew it, it was cold and dark and time for me to head on to my motel for the night. There’d be more time for more pictures tomorrow.