October 23, 2011

10/22/11 - El Malpais NM

El Malpais National Monument is near Grants, NM.  It's pronounced mahl-pah-ees.   I stutter on this one, even though I took Spanish!  El Malpais means badlands, and they are really wicked.  You sure wouldn't want to take a wagon train over this stuff!!!  ("Head 'em up, move 'em out"--no, wait, that's the Rawhide theme song.  I can't remember the Wagon Train lyrics.)
Driving south on NM Hwy 117 next to El Malpais National Monument.   On one side are sharp black lava rocks from the volcano and on the other are smooth sandstone bluffs. 
We stopped at the BLM Visitors Center.  The ranger was mightily impressed with his own education and vocabulary—he was using $5.00 words that only someone with a degree in geology would have been able to follow.  Didn't impress either of us.  (And he didn't answer my question either!)
We hiked the trail at the Lava Falls Area.  The McCartys flow is about 3000 years old, and the youngest lava flow in the region.  It's like Hawaii, only without the flames & smoke.
You hike from cairn to cairn so you don’t get lost.  You’re not supposed to leave one cairn until you see the next one.  George watched for the cairns; I only had to watch for him.  As usual, he's pretty easy to spot!
Part of the lava looked like cracked and broken asphalt.  I think we've driven on highways that look like this...
Some of the splits in the lava are really deep.
Now I know where lava rocks for barbecues comes from. 
I’m fascinated by the stuff they call Ropy Pahoehoe. 
There’s a pygmy forest of twisted contorted ponderosa and pinon pines growing on the lava. 
And wildflowers.
We stopped at La Ventana Natural Arch on the way back.  I wanted to see blue sky through the arch, but they won’t let you hike all the way up. 

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