After yesterday’s sunset, a sunrise is in order:
I peeked out my motel room window one morning to see if it were daylight yet. Beautiful. That’s near the Texas/Arizona border.
Next stop: the volcano. (inactive)
If you haven’t walked a volcano yet, enjoy some photos from our “walk.” “Long hike.” “Dangerous Trek” . . .
It started innocently enough. Or maybe we were the innocent ones, to put it kindly. We saw El Malpais National Monument and decided to take a drive into it. We had been sitting in the car for days, and a little walk around a “monument” seemed like a nice idea.
The “monument” was a large geographical area of previously active volcanoes, and as we drove into the visitors’ area, we got out of the car to take a close look at the ground. Sure enough, volcanic rocks were everywhere; hardened magma of relatively recent volcanic activity showing right through the vegetation.
We parked the car and found the beginning of the trail easily. We were the only ones out there. It was windy, about 45 degrees, and a good day for a little walk.
We walked on and on through beautiful terrain:
We soon came to some areas where the lava tube caves had collapsed, revealing what lies underground.
We were a little disappointed that the lava tube caves were closed to the public after December 13. Son and I both like “going into caves.” We’re not spelunkers. We’re not experienced cavers. But we like things like Ruby Falls cave, Howe Caverns, Mammoth Caves, Carlsbad Caverns. . . the typical tourist places.
Here is a Bat Cave; a genine bat cave where bats still come out at night, spiraling upwards like smoke on the horizon.
Looks like the other sinkhole, I know. The sign down there says “Do Not Enter.” Nope. Sometimes odors come out of that cave….
Some of these volcanic sinks were trenches or just deep canyon-like formations. It was fascinating to note how they just “sunk” into the grassy land we were walking across….and walking….and walking….
Found a nice place to pose Son against a deep sinkhole:
Here is more of the trail, probably a mile or so and several hundred feet higher than our starting place.
We walked way up near those two volcanic peaks up ahead. The altitude was beginning to get to us, but the air was cool and refreshing. We were free! We were outdoors! And we were quite alone. I began to notice scat on the pathway, little lumps and big lumps of semi-digested berries and fibers. I reasoned anything that ate grass and berries shouldn’t be a problem to us.
Further up the mountain, the harmless berry scat was accompanied by other scat, sometimes laid down deliberately over the berry scat. Like a message. Like “you’re in my territory – and I win…” Son mentioned casually that we hadn’t taken anything that hikers usually carry, like matches or….maybe a weapon. I thought about that and deflected those thoughts with my own remark about not even taking any water or food.
I took note of where the sun was in the sky. A bit lower. A bit closer to the horizon.
And now the pathway turned muddy. Thick, heavy volcanic mud that stuck to and then collected onto the bottom of your shoes. A thick layer of slippery mud cemented itself onto our shoes.
We walked on like this, on slippery, heavy mud platforms, in the thin air,with increasing difficulty, trying to reach the summit.
Our goal, at last:
It was THE cinder cone – the hole through which all the lava and gases and ash emerged with powerful force from deep into the earth. It wasn’t the only cinder cone around, but it was certainly the highest one that we got close to. We just didn’t have it in us to climb down and up and over and “touch” the cone, but we made it this far!
Now we get to return to our car. Which was very, very far away. We were still alone, and I was still watching various unidentifiable animal tracks of all sizes. (Unidentifiable to me, anyway.) Son slogged on through the muddy pathway, which became a deep-rutted four-wheel drive type of back country road, which I hoped led to our car and not to the back country.
I tried walking alongside the road to avoid the mud, but then I had to pick my way around chunks of volcanic rock and strange, harsh vegetation. By not looking where I was going, I got my first Cactus Attack….walked right into it. That hurt! Technically, I guess I attacked the cactus….but that’s still a memorable experience.
At last, at last, at last, thoroughly weary and out of oxygen, following only Son’s blind optimism, we saw our “home”:
It was then that we paused to catch our breath – and actually READ the signs. Like the one saying this is for experienced hikers – with equipment:
And then a little sign about the “animals”:
I don’t know. If I were a park ranger, I would make these signs much bigger! DANGER!!!! MOUNTAIN LIONS1 BOBCATS! WOLVES! BEAR! ALL KINDS OF DANGEROUS ANIMALS LIVE HERE!
They take these things altogether too casually around here:
Who decorates a mountain lion with a Christmas bow ???