Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beatlick Travel: El Malpais

Subject: Beatlick TR: 7Malpais
Date: Sep 10, 2009 10:08 AM

[A note to say there is something going on with beatlick.com website and I'm really bummed out about it, so if anyone is trying to access Beatlick News there I hope I can get this straightened out soon.]

Last night we slept under two chenille blankets, a down comforter, and an Indian blanket over that. The weather has really turned, clouds, drizzle. Beatlick Joe wants to poke around Quemado Lake but I am anxious to move on. We are headed to El Malpais, near Grants, NM. My best friend from my Alaska days way back in the mid 80s, in a little tiny town named San Rafael, just four miles from Grants. One more night to spend in the wilderness and then we’ll be off to Andrew’s house and I can’t wait to see him.

The closer we got to El Malpais the warmer it gets and I am relieved, wasn’t really ready to start enduring the cold yet! The El Malpais National Conservation Area gets its name from the lava beds that comprise it. This area is full of old volcanoes and the black lava flows still dominate the landscape although they were deposited thousands of years ago. You can stand there and imagine what the dinosaurs saw. There is a great picnic ground at the Lower Narrows picnic and we set up. First we pulled all of the blankets and bedding out of the van and stretched them in the hot sun to dry out. In the late afternoon we took a hike along the Narrows Rim.

The Narrows Rim Trail at an elevation of over 7,000 feet gives hikers a view to witness geologic processes thousands of years apart. We took a moderate hike up to the top of an ancient mesa where we could see the much younger lava beds below, all black with gangly trees struggling out of the folds and crevices. On top of the mesa the soft sandstone rocks are a beautiful dirty rose color with light tints of green moss, and pale blue rock fragments. In the light of afternoon with the ferns and vegetation in full bloom it is just a breathtaking sight and in so many pastel colors that contrast so sharply with the lava beds across the highway and the dark clouds beginning to loom overhead.

The wildflowers are abundant all along the trail here in the late summer. Ponderosa pine, a pinon and juniper woodland, and a variety of oak and shrub species line our pathways. Brochures claim mule deer, elk, bobcat and black bear have all been spotted along the mesa trail but thankfully we didn’t encounter any. The rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and lizards are plentiful here and it is claimed birders can view over 30 different species of birds on a good day.

When we heard the thunder we cut our hike short, not even halfway to the La Ventana Natural Arch. On the way back down the trail we ran into to a young man and his grandfather just picking up the trail. The old man complained about how sharp the lava was to walk on and they were expecting an easier time of it up on the mesa. Brochures didn’t encourage anyone to hike up there with looming thunderstorms but they headed out anyway.

We went back to our picnic table. Joe and I tossed around the idea of illegal camping there overnight, we weren’t in sight of the highway, but the thought of getting to see Andrew before the day was over won out and we headed for San Rafael. I was supposed to give Andrew some notice before I arrived but I wasn’t able to because we didn’t have any phone service. He was a little taken aback when I informed him we were already at WallyWorld in Grants. “Oh, wow,” he said, but agreed to meet us in 15 minutes.

We stayed camped in the backyard of Andrew’s parents house. They are both gone now, parents of a dozen children, all raised in this tiny town of 700 people. All his brothers and sister keep this beautiful home like a shrine to their parents. They had a party just the night before to celebrate a fortieth birthday. Andrew and I spent a lot of time reminiscing about our days in Alaska. Andrew and I were hairdressers for Jon Anthony Salons in Anchorage. He knows me so well, has known me even longer than Joe, and I guess outside of some people in Nashville, he is my oldest friend. No one makes me giggle but Andrew. He always cooks up great meals and we stay up late and discuss naughty subjects all night.

Happy Trails,

Beatlick Pamela

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