Sunday, May 13, 2012

El Malpais Trip 2012 (Part 3, The End)

This is the conclusion of my El Malpais trip I took a few weeks ago.  I was halfway through my second day and had just finished exploring some of the lava fields at the southern end of the monument.  After cooling off I was eager to get back on the road and reach an area just to the north called The Narrows.  This is a section of road that skirts lava flows on the left and huge sandstone cliffs on the right.  Not sure if you guys like the satellite map from the last post but I thought I'd use it one more time.  The black on the left is lava and the sharp edge just to the right of the road is where the cliffs rise up 100 feet or more.

View Larger Map

I always have a hard time deciding where to pull over and start taking photos.  If I gave into my every whim, to get a photo op, I don't think I'd ever finish any trip.  The cliffs from a distance are impressive!  I kept thinking I'd stop and get this angle or that angle..finally I found myself smack dab in the middle and I hadn't shot anything.  So I just pulled over and started snapping.  While here I had one or two cars pass me.  Otherwise it was sort of surreal.  Calm, quiet...the perfect spot.
The road couldn't be any closer to the lava without being right on top of it.
Trying to give some perspective of the cliffs.
Those are full grown pines of some sort I think.  Don't quote me on that I really don't know my trees.  The point is they looked like young saplings next to the cliffs.
And looking from where I had come from.
At this point I was pretty content.  I thought I had seen pretty much everything El Malpais had to offer and was ready to put this visit to bed.  I get back on my bike and start skating down the road with a big smile on my face.  It didn't take long before the road makes a hard curve to the right and it's almost as if the curtains are drawn back and bam! Mother Nature says "I wasn't finish yet".  The La Ventana arch.  This is New Mexico's second largest natural arch and I had no idea it was even here.  I pull over and take the small hike to the base.
There were a few families walking up and down the trail.
This was as close as you could get.  I wanted to see if I could see some sky from under the arch but the angle wasn't good enough.  While looking at images online I found this *interesting shot* from someone standing right under it.  I thought it was unique.  Take a look if you have time.
On my way out I saw this interesting fellow sunning himself.  I wasn't intending to be a photographer of lizards but it seems it's going to be the underlying thread of this blog.  Maybe we can make a drinking game out of it.  If you look closely it appears he or she lost it's tail at some point and grew another one in.
At this point I was starting to get worried about time.  It was already 1 or 2 in the afternoon and I still had a long way to go to get back home.  I didn't want to be out after dark.  My one complaint about the Bonnie is that her headlight stinks.  Not seeing that Elk on a dark road would really ruin a trip.  I quickly made my way to city of Grants and filled up the tank and made a short stop at Taco Bell.  I know quality food right?  But it's fast and cheap and I wanted to try their new Dorito taco's.  I have a weak spot for Doritos to the point where I don't keep any in the house because I'd eat them all in one sitting.  I have to give a big thumbs up!  I hope the marketing guy who thought this up got a big raise.  Pure genius!
I took a left onto Highway 53 and entered the Zuni Indian Reservation.  Amazingly beautiful country.  I set my sights on another national monument, El Morro.  This sandstone formation looks like the bow of the Titanic rising up out of the ground.  I had read about it before coming on the trip.  One of the main draws for me were the inscriptions that had been etched into the sandstone by various travelers that came to this spot.  How can you not get excited when you see something like this for the monument "The first inscription carved at El Morro was that of Governor Don Juan de Onate in 1605, 15 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock."
What I didn't know is that I had lost and hour due to a time zone difference between Arizona and New Mexico and I had reached the Monument at 5pm, the time when they closed.
I drove up to the monument office hoping to get a picture from the base, but no luck.  The ranger lady there was very nice though, and told me of some pull-out areas with good views and that I should come back as soon as possible.  This was the best view I could find. 
It was probably for the best, had I taken the full tour I know I wouldn't have made it back to Alpine until waaaay after dark.

My ride back into Alpine was uneventful, but my rear end was a little sore.  The day's journey was around 360 miles.  Luckily I made it back just in time for dinner.  Steak with mushrooms, potato, cheesy bread, salad and a beer.  This is what I call roughing it:)
That was pretty much the trip.  The next morning I packed up and left around 10am.  I took the short route home through the city of Show-low.  Coming back into Tucson I could tell Summer had finally arrived.  You're in full mesh gear and it's still hotter then heck.  Overall a great trip.  I can't wait to get out there again.  This was the finally tally on overall mileage.
Thanks to all of you who have been following along!


  1. What a great trip.

    Those cliffs look huge. All the pics are great, but I like how we can see your reflection in the back of the mirror in the one looking back to where you'd come from. Cool effect even if inadvertent.

    I can see why your butt would be sore with that many miles in a day. Worth every minute though.

    Thanks for taking the time to do such a great write up and provide the links.

  2. TB:

    those were great photos, never knew about that place before, but then NW is a long way away for me. I prefer Mexican places when travelling too, but we don't have any Taco Bells here in Vancouver (Canada)

    I also like your idea of "roughing it"

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

  3. @Trobairitz - The reflection shot was setup:) I took the first picture and then noticed a reflection and then took a second one where I was framed correctly. I was wondering if anyone was going to notice it:)

    @Bobskoot - Haha some people might say you're lucky for not having a Taco Bell in Vancouver. You can certainly buy a _lot_ of food for a few bucks..but don't think to much about whats in the taco meat:) To be fair I've never gotten sick there and I'm sure it's perfectly fine:)