Day 482: Lava Beds, Prairie Dogs and a Bobcat

As we make our way to Tulsa, we traveled today from McHood Park in Winslow, AZ to the Joe Skeen Campground on BLM land in the El Malpais National Conservation Area, just past Grant, NM.  It was a easy drive on I-40.

This campground has 10 sites, each with a shaded picnic area, bar-b-que and fire pit.  Best of all, it is FREE.  With this being Saturday, we just hoped that one site would remain for us – and that was it, one site available when we arrived around 2 pm.

Once we got the rig leveled, glides out, scarfed down a salad, and made sure Hobby was a happy cat, we took off to see the sights.  First up was the La Ventana Natural Arch. The second largest of New Mexico’s natural arches,  at 135 feet, was eroded from sandstone deposited during the age of the dinosaurs. It was quite large, with a nice path leading to the front.  The sandstone had such wonderful color in the afternoon sun.

La Ventana Natural Arch
La Ventana Natural Arch

Along the drive, I kept seeing something on the side if the road.  Not a chipmunk or squirrel…Wait…it is standing?  Prairie dogs!  Everywhere!  Since I was driving, I couldn’t take a picture.  We had no idea that they were in New Mexico. They were so cute.  I guess you will just have to take my word for it.  

A few miles down the road we found the Lava Falls trail.  This is a “young” lava area, only about 3,000 years old.  Following a cairn trail, and armed with a park brochure, we scrambled around and had a wonderful time.  My pictures just do not show the depth of the cracks or the texture of the lava rock like I would like.

McCartys Crater
McCartys Crater

There was a lava fall, which was easily a couple stories high.  Also, a sink hole (or three) as well as areas showing the results of WWII bomb tests!  And we had the area all to ourselves.  It was quite different to be running along, following the cairns, and not being able to see the footprints of the hikers before us.  The volcanic rock just doesn’t show the trail use like the sand and dirt of the desert.

We finished the hike just as the sun was starting to go down.  A breeze was picking up, and the temperature was dipping.  Thanks to the time zone change, we lost an hour today, so we still had more energy than daylight (always a good sign).

This place is teeming with wildlife.  As we were looking at a group of cattle that seemed to all be walking themselves into a corner in a pasture (we speculated that the feed truck was due to arrive at any time), a bobcat raced across the road just ahead of us.  We watched it gracefully vault a fence and then it was gone.  Wish we could have seen more of the wild cat.

Not bothering to hook up the satellite tv tonight, as we are just going to read and get ready for the road tomorrow.

Until the sun rises again… NR

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