Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Badlands - El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico

Many years ago, there was a volcanic eruption in the area of Grants, New Mexico.  The eruption created a huge lava flow to the south, in parts 17 miles wide.  The early settlers through this area came across this lava flow and declared this The Badlands - in Spanish it's El Malpais.  Some settlers tried to live in this area, but gave up, abandoning anything they had built on the land.  Other land features in this area include open fields and high stone mesas.

Today, this vast area is a National Monument and a popular destination for hikers and campers.  On a small portion of the lava flow, a hiking trail has been created with the ancient tradition of cairns.  These small towers of stone and rock are placed at intervals as shown in the above photo.  On trails like this one, you need to keep at least one in sight at all times or you can get hopelessly lost.


There were many chasms in the lava flow, as shown in the above photo.  Some were just a few inches apart, but some were as much as a foot wide.  For the most part, they seemed to be only about 12 feet in depth, but it could be deeper.

The photo above shows a section of the flow that had cooled, and then portions of it sank.  The photo below shows an area where it seemed like the lava flows came together and continued on. 


This hike was spectacular, but not in the usual way.  There were trees and bushes trying to survive in the harsh environment.  There was only one type of wildflower I saw in that area, and certainly not many of them.  Certainly, this area was a major departure from my usual hikes with beautiful scenery.


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