We were late beginning our travels this year but we'll catch up fast, as we are touring most of the Western National Parks and Monuments of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah in the National Park's Centennial Year.
We must stop and recognize President Theodore Roosevelt, regarded as "The Conservation President". He started what was to become tour National Parks System with Carter Lake, OR; Wind Cave, SD; Sully's Hill, ND; and Mesa Verde, CO; and our National Monuments of Devil's Tower, WY; El Morro, NM; Montezuma Castle, AZ; Petrified Forest, AZ; and the Grand Canyon, AZ
WOW What a Start! Thank You President Theodore Roosevelt
El Malpais National Monument
We're starting at El Malpais National Monument just 200 miles from home. We've driven by these volcanic Bad Lands hundreds of times in our leisure and working lives, but never have we stopped and visited. We invite you to come with us and see the beauty and depth of this 115,000 acre NM National Park. It is coupled with the El Malpais National Conversation Area of another 263,000 acres. The two comprise some 378,000 acres which is a large ranch in NM; i.e. the Armendez Ranch - one of Ted Turner's ranches surrounding Elephant Butte is 363,000 acres. Ranches are thought of in Sections not acres, so the perspective is 378 sections and that is a big ranch.
Incidentally, if any of you are Western Novel Fans, Louis L'Amour wrote a novel by the Name of 'Flint'. I love L'Amour's novels, as the guy in the White Hat and the biggest fist always prevails. Now Flint was a scoundrel in the East, until he arrived in the west at Grants and the El Malpais. The Bad Lands of Lava made him realize the Man he was. You'd enjoy reading Flint.
Why not start at the Visitor's Center in Grants, operated by the National Park Service. Like all things done by the National Park Service this is excellent. Staffed with knowledgeably, helpful and friendly professionals.
Isn't this landscape design and the mix of the Navajo sandstone with the black lava Very Impressive.!
We spent three days driving though the Monument, which included La Ventana ( the window) and El Moro National Monument being they are relative contiguous.
The Lava bed was started some 115,000 years ago, and the last eruption is dated only 3,000 years ago. But look at these pictures of its rawness. It is little wonder the Spaniards call it the El Malpais or Bad Lands. The flow stretches for 50 miles north to south, and you are looking west in this picture. I'm standing on a hight sandstone bluff of some 200 feet above the lava beds.
Again when you see this word (download) underlined and in blue that indicates it is a hyper link to the full scale picture. When you open it you'll also see that your mouse pointer is a round plus sign, click again and the part of the photo where your pointer was will enlarge again. This is great if you might want to see more detail in a particular view. When you want to return to this page just tap the return arrow. Try it you might like it.
We walked this trail for about a mile into the lava beds just to experience the feel of the rawness and beauty.
The Trail we were following was fairly well marked by "Cairns", piles of stones; but one still needed to pick the way very cautiously. That's why we use our diamond willow walking sticks, that we cut in Alaska.
The East side of the Malpais down NM 117 is the border between the Acoma reservation and El Malpais. But also this line is distinguished by the sandstone bluffs which contained the flow of the Lave at the time of the eruption. This highway is paved and is the North to South link in Western NM; but we remember driving it, when it was just a gravel road. In this photo you can see the Malpais on the right and the bluffs on the left.
This brings us to La Ventana, the Window.
Dottie and Sammy taking is all in!
We've been down the east side of the El Malpais, so now let's drive the western side, which is NM 53 that goes to Zuni Pueblo. This side is for the adventuress hikers, and cave explorations; but Dottie and I we just mosey along. It makes us feel so young again. Too, there are many caves to be explored. (by others who are younger). Just like in Idaho the conditions of the ventilation in the caves allow the formation of Ice. Hence the Ice Caves. Dottie didn't investigate, if this one had Ice or not.
It is fascinating to observe where millions of years ago the Lava flow abruptly stopped look, and look at the height of 25' ~ 30' wall of lava.
Before we leave, may I share these 2 photos with you. At the KOA where we were staying was a wonderful walking path around the park and through the rock. This was perfect for Sammy's early morning stroll. We found a covey of Gamble Quail right around the park. The first morning out they climbed an escarpment as we came by, but I didn't have a camera. In this photo a couple of days later, they were there; and we tried to herd them to climb the escarpment again. They were not cooperative in climbing to the top again, but at least they posed for this shot.
Then I'll share this evening view of Mount Taylor through the cedar branches. Mt Taylor rises some 11,300', and from Albuquerque some 70 miles away, it is easily viewable. If the FAA can see Mt. Taylor, then Albuquerque is reported as having 70 miles visibility.
El Morro National Monument.
An Oasis in the high desert for centuries. Dedicated in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt as a National Monument
The Oasis that offered Cool Cool Water to all travelers.
Why an Oasis? Water, my friend Cool Clear Water. The sandstone bluff is visible for miles, and it's call to the Traveler for Centuries has been to stop in the shade and have a cool drink of agua. And when they passed by they left their inscription on the Walls at El Moro. The first Spanish Governor of New Mexico, Juan de Oñate, left his inscription in 1605. Now Dottie and I are here today some 500 years later, just to read with amazement and walk the steps they too walked.
They rested, they drank, and rested some more, then left a record of their passing. They filled their water jug's, before traveling on, but they always remembered the Oasis of El Morro. wind are a constant in returning nature to nature.
The Park Service has a problem in maintaining these inscriptions, as the rain and the wind erroid these surfaces. Now, for a time it is ours to gaze upon and wonder about the travelers of so many years ago.
I'll share some of the inscriptions that we were able to capture;
El Morro awaits your visit Traveler. Where you too can dream of the times past; when these forefathers of ours, passed this way to the sanctuary of El Morro.
Come on Willie sing us another verse, and we’ll move on down the road and we'll see you at Chaco Canyon!