Monday, November 21, 2022

Carrizozo Lava Field


While Google-mapping the drive to Tucson, we came across a lava field in south-central NM.  There was a nice loop trail out into the most interesting-looking textured land we'd ever seen this side of Iceland.  It was mere minutes off Hwy 54, our chosen route, and the moment we saw it our trip somehow became a lot more desirable.  Kansas wheat and Ohio corn we were familiar with, but lava?  For someone who'd spent 8 months spellbound by the Icelandic volcanoes, this was irresistible.

This will be a post with minimal processing and maximum pictures.  We spent several hours here and I blazed away.  Of course I put a horse out  :)  you will see her in the last 5 shots.  To start with, the word "malpais" is pronounced 'mal-pie' and means, literally, bad place.  

The campground that the trail ran from was located on top of a small hill.  The hill seemed nearly surrounded by old lava.  It would be nice to claim the flows were all from this mountain (above), but they were from a much smaller mountain on the horizon.  There was an edge to the black field,..  a limit to the tortured plain,... but it was a huge place when you got down to it.  Below is a view of the short way across.

Seen on satellite, the Carrizozo Lava Field looks like a pair of slender black wings, 42 miles from end to end.  It's northeast of White Sands Missile Range and of the White Sands.  I had seen the word malpais in western literature, but hadn't realized what it meant.

Geologists say the flow of lava is around 5,000 years old.  It is the youngest flow in the continental United States by a long shot.  See that tiny bump on the left horizon below?  That's supposed to be the source,...

 The paved trail was very nice, switchbacking down the hill into the lava field.

 My husband photographed flowers, but I was taken by all the textures of the rock.

Fresh from Iceland, I could recognize a great deal.

 I started saying to myself, "There is no way I would ever take a horse across this!"

To think this rock had once been squeezy and soft, bulging itself into ripples and ropes, curls and crescents.  What was 5,000 years, after all?

The pine trees on the horizon here marked the half way point of the trail.

It is not clear to me whether the white gravel was naturally there or whether it came from the construction of the trail.

A desert environment, this was somewhat lush after the summer monsoon.  This was September, enjoying the rains from July and August.  

There were cracks, miniature canyons, lumps and bumps and holes.  I couldn't see how any hoofed animal could travel far.

A couple of closer shots, for texture.  Those are barrel cactuses in the upper left.

Never mind it was a public place, with tremendous visibility.  I had a bridled (o.k. hackamore'd) horse with me and there were few hikers, giving long stretches of privacy.  This mare, the wife of my Carrizozo [Nikolas], was still finalizing a name that day.

Alas for unshod hooves on that hard rock!

The wind was light, no damage was sustained, other than to my reputation when strangers came by.

 Much later the mare would be named Salorcha.  At the time I think it was Cocobeau.  

You really need a good horse out on the malpais.

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