Sandstone Bluff overlooks the 3000-thousand year old lava flow protected by the El Malpais National Monument. The sandstone itself is 200-million years old, formed by ancient seas, and offers an ideal place to setup a few chairs and watch the sun set.
Complete with a thermos filled with hot chocolate (and a little Kahlua), fresh blueberry muffins, a pair of chairs, and cozy blanket, the sunset was the perfect end to our week stay just outside the park.
The Bandera Volcano, though inside the El Malpais National Monument boundary, is privately owned and run. For $12 you can hike 3/4 mile trail into the crater – so we did – for Kerri’s first and my second time. Feel free to read my previous encounter with this volcano if you want more of a story.
El Morro National Monument is now my 64th National Park visited since starting my travels back in 2010. I had the opportunity to see it two years back when I was in the area, but fuel costs ruled my thoughts back then, so I did not drive the few extra miles it would have taken. I do not know why, but I recall thinking that this was just a statue. How wrong I was.
El Morro National Monument is located on an ancient east-west trail in western New Mexico. The main feature of this National Monument is a great sandstone promontory with a pool of water at its base. Wikipedia
The large sandstone walls are chock-full of petroglyphs from ancient natives. On top of those are inscriptions of people who stopped here for the water during their travels. They visitors range from military men to a young girl to make her own history years later. Some of these inscriptions date back 400+ years. Included amongst the ancient and historical are panels of smooth sandstone wall. It is clear someone intentionally removed many inscriptions. Kerri learned that these were inscriptions done post 1906 and were deemed “illegal graffiti” by the park’s first caretaker, so all were removed.
This day brings another revisit of a National Park. Even though I had already been here the weather prevented me from getting out of the vehicle on my previous visit. This time around the weather was clear so we set out for a few short walks among the “forest” during the visit, hiking both the Giant Logs and the Crystal Forest trails
The Northern area of the park is known as the Painted Desert, for reasons clear once you see a photograph. The erosion of numerous layers of differently colored soil does the painting. The blue canvas on which this desert is painted is so uninterrupted that you are even able to see the snow capped Humphreys Peak just outside of Flagstaff, 120 miles away.
The park is actually quite small, with only two trails to choose from; The Rim Trail leads you a short distance out from the Visitor’s Center along the rim of the canyon(duh) while the Island Trail drops you down into the canyon itself to tour some of the cliff dwellings.
Two years ago half of this trail was closed, so this time I got to hike the full loop, all 0.9 miles of it. It is not the length that is the hurdle, it is the 200+ stairs that must be traversed to go down, then back up out of the canyon.