Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Mexico May 2016 Westward Ho! 11 Valley of Fires Recreation Area Carrissozo NM

We had to get to Albuquerque by May 10 to have the annual service done on the MoHo so we had a day and a night to get there.  We left Lincoln mid-morning and were headed for Socorro and an alpaca farm we'd found through the excellent Harvest Hosts program. (We'd stayed at farms in PA last year and really want to take more advantage of it.) I had called ahead and the owner is also a school teacher.  He said he'd be home at 3:30 pm but invited us to arrive "any time and just park."  Since we were only going there for the night and had the day we decided to stop off at Valley of Fires Recreation Area on the way.  We made our way down the hills and then back up them losing only about 300 ft/ 91m.  The Sacramento Mountain range was to our left in the distance as we drove along with Nogal Peak on the left and Carrizo Peak to the right.

Down, around, and up was the route

In 1972 I visited Hawaii with friends and saw an active volcano, new lava and even had an epic hike over the Aa* flow in the boiling hot sun but this flow, at 5000 years old, is actually one of the newest ones outside Hawaii. The flow came from an eruption from Little Black Peak, just over 40 miles away and is located in the Tularosa Valley outside Carrissozo. It covers 125 sq miles/323748514 m^2 in between 4-6 mi/ 6.5-9.6 km long.  The two types of lava,  Aa* (sharp and pocked) and Pahoehoe* (smooth and looks sort of like really large cow pies)are both there, although Pahoehoe dominates as are flowers and trees and wildlife.  5000 years may be new but it's long enough for things to have grown. (* the names of lava, which are Hawaiian are used universally.)  Although new in geologic terms the area has had 5000 years for flora and fauna to develop and they are plentiful.  Since we were there in the heat of the day we didn't see any wildlife (they are smarter than we, they stay in the shade and rest) but the flora was all around us.

Lava stretching out as far as the eye can see

Desert Hibiscus

Paper Daisy

Soaptree Yucca

Pahoehoe lava


Prickly pear cactus growing on A'a lava

New Mexico Thistle

a branch of a smoke tree in bloom

Desert honeysuckle

Wild Heliotrope

Cream Cup

Don sitting in front of a dead Juniper Tree
Juniper has a number of uses-in this case the dead tree provides perch and cover for birds but it can be used for making basket frames, digging sticks, in construction as well as fuel. The Sandia Pueblo used it as a medicine by using the bark to make a bath to relieve the itch of spider bites; the Cochiti Pueblo used the powder in the bark for ear aches and the San Idelfonso Pueblo mothers crushed and shredded the bark to make absorbent packing around their babies bottoms. To this day the smoke from burning juniper branches is used in Pueblo homes to treat colds as well as incense.  The berries can be eaten and for many years were a famine food for may of the Pueblo Indians;  sprig tea is drunk by women in labor or just after the child is born; and Juniper mistletoe-a small yellow parasitic plant frequently seen on juniper has been used to treat baldness, diarrhea and stomach aches.

The path/trail through the area leads around to give a good view of everything so we spent an hour and a half exploring and then went back to the MoHo, parked above in the winds, made lunch and hit the road again.

The MoHo sits guard while the animals get their rest...again.

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