Ramah,NM Dec. 27th Friday
What a glorious traveling day! People, weather, sites, hikes, dinner and lodging.
The weather starts cool, in the 20s but rises to the mid 40s. Sunny, blue skies with no clouds. Beautiful for taking hikes. We took multiple, shorter hikes so we can experience various landscapes. The drive west from Albuquerque along I-40 was a new one for us. High desert plains, mesas nearby and mountains farther in the background.
Grants has experienced boom and bust cycles. Booms were in the late 1800s from railroading, around 1900s from lumbering, in the 1930 from carrot and vegetable growing after a dam was constructed, in the 1950s from uranium mining and now from tourists. Each boom was short lived; they hope the tourist era lasts longer.
In Grants, NM the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Forestry Department have a joint visitor center. Very well done, multiple video options, great displays, bookstore, and helpful staff. From here, we adjusted our schedule slightly and visited several sites in the El Malpais National Monument area.
In this area of north central New Mexico, lava flows from historic volcanoes meet great sandstone ridges formed eons ago. There used to be great sand dunes here, similar they say, to the Sahara Desert. Over periods of time, the sand was compressed into sandstone. We visited several parts of the El Malpais Conservation Area and National Monument, heading south from I-40.
The first area was the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook. The view from the overlook allowed us to see across the valley to the Chain of Craters, see the lava flow down below, and Mount Taylor (11,301 feet above sea level) to the north. The sandstone formations have eroded over time, creating numerous and varied shapes.
Our second stop was at La Ventana Natural Arch. This arch is larger than others we have seen so far. At the arch, we met a woman from Aurora CO who discussed her trips, including trips down the same portion of the Grand Canyon that Chris’ brother Lou undertook earlier this year and hiked down to the Grand Canyon and spent several nights there. Oh yes, she appeared to be 15-20 years older than us.
Our third stop was at the Narrows where the sandstone ridges come closest to the lava flows. We hiked along the top of the ridge. The trail here was sandy as the weather and wear erode the sandstone back into the sand it started as millions of years ago.
Our fourth walk was at the Lava Flows where we hiked out onto the most recent lava flows from McCarty’s Crater. This hike was our shortest. The trail is only marked by lava stone cairns and the rock is extremely sharp and hard on the bottom of shoes.
Because the Chain of Craters mountains go north to south, we had to re-trace our path and go back north to visit the rest of El Malpais National Monument and to reach our lodging for the night. On the way back, we stopped at the Bureau of Land Management ranger station and talk to a park volunteer. While the gentleman lives in Albuquerque, he is from Kenosha WI. We mentioned that we knew a woman who was from Kenosha and her parents had owned Mullen’s Store there. He recognized the store name from his childhood.
The fifth hike was at El Calderon area of the National Monument. To reach this portion, we travel one of NM’s scenic highways, Route 53. The trees start to change from the short, shrub like pinon trees to larger pine trees. We hiked along the trail to the double sink holes. These two sink holes are about 80 feet deep so we stayed safely back from the edge. The shadows were growing long so the photos may not demonstrate the depth properly.
As we headed west to our evening lodging, we stopped at the El Malpais visitor center. The park ranger was from the near by town of San Rafael and we discussed the local town and how much he enjoys his position.
Our lodging this evening is at the El Morro RV Camp and Cabins which also runs the Ancient Way Cafe. (El Morro National Monument is one of tomorrow’s stops.) Our cabin is a small log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Even my Verizon hot spot is not getting good reception.
I had hoped to get a nice sunset shot in this area but the trees and ridges precluded that. I did have an opportunity to chat with a local gentlemen who proceeded to tell me his life story.
Dinner was at the Ancient Way Cafe. The crew here has been working together for over 5 years. Late dinner is only Friday and Saturday night, otherwise they close at 5 pm. The meal was pork loin roast, broccoli and mushrooms, sweet potato casserole (with pumpkin and tapioca, yummy!) and salad with home-made dressings. A very nice and surprising touch. A small location, only 5 tables. Chris sat the manager down and we talked to him and the chef. Plus, they had a harpist playing during dinner.
A very nice day.
Ed and Chris 8 AM Dec. 28th due to slow loading of pictures
Last two pictures added Dec. 28th at 8 PM