One of the ways I prep for trips is to use My Places in Google maps to keep lists of things we might want to see someday. Somewhere along the line I marked El Malpais National Monument. I don’t remember why – I only know that sometime in the last few years I thought it was interesting. We were nearby so we stopped.
It was interesting.
El Malpais National Monument is a broad valley consisting of a series of lava flows from as long as a few hundred thousand to as recent as a few thousand years ago. The valley is thirty or so miles long and a dozen-odd miles across.
The Monument appears to be a destination for cavers. We’re not cavers, so we instead drove the east side of the valley and kept our eye out for trailheads. The east side is demarked by sandstone bluffs, which give opportunities to survey the lava flows.
There are a few trails that take you out on the lava. One crosses the lava flows, the other makes a loop through the flows. We hiked the loop trail and got bit of insight into the lava field.
This area reminded us of Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho – also a surreal landscape marked by lava flows.
A day well spent.
We’re still surfing the weather, trying to stay above freezing at night and below 80 during the day. This, plus our desire to be back home in a week or so led us up into northeast New Mexico. By chance we stayed at Clayton State Park, where we learned that the park has a famous set of dinosaur footprints.
Turns out that while building the dam, they blasted away layers of rock, which after being eroded a bit left dozens of footprints exposed.
The footprints were an unexpected bonus.