Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Westward Ho! 15 El Malpais National Monument Grants NM


Our plan was to drive from Albuquerque (ABQ) to Petrified Forest National Park in Holbrook, AZ with an overnight stop at a truck stop in Grants, NM.  Since ABQ was not that long a drive from Grants and since sitting all day in a truck stop is no fun we figured we'd take a quick tour of El Malpais National Monument, just outside Grants, then head into town in the late afternoon.  When we arrived at the Ranger Station there was enough room to park the RV and leave it while we drove around.  Once we started talking to the ranger, though, she convinced us that the free BLM campground, for which she and her husband are also camp hosts, would be better than a truck stop.  Water is scarce in that area so filling our tank was not an option but they allow 5 gal/20 l. per day per person so we put some water in our tank and continued up to the campground.  It is up on the hill looking over the area and fine except it was very difficult to find a level spot.  I tried three and we finally settled on my parking perpendicular to the assigned area and getting almost level.  The sky was cloudy, the air cold and there was already wind coming up so we secured the rug (the area was all dirt and the rug helps cut down tracked in filth from 8 paws and 4 feet), left the awning in and set off to drive around the park stopping for the different areas were we could walk around.




The Visitor Canter had a great display of fossils, including this one of shark's teeth from when this area was under water

The rocks behind the Visitor Canter gave only a hint at the beauty we'd see


Once again, each time we rounded a bend, crested a hill or looked up, across or over I gasped at the beauty surrounding us.  Cliff towered above us with caves and trees and colored striations that defied any artistic rendition.  The clouds were "lurking" about casting shadows when they allowed the sun to peep through or floating around just being pretty.  We were headed for our first walk at La Ventana which is a huge "window" (ventana is Spanish for window) in the rock.  JUST as we parked it began to drizzle but we chanced the walk anyway.  I was very nervous with my brand new camera so kept it in a plastic bag with hopes that the rain would stop.  I did manage to maneuver it so that I kept it covered and snapped a few pics. Then the rain started in earnest and we just hurried along.  We changed our minds about hiking up to the arch and turned to go back so, of course, when we arrived at the car the rain stopped.  We went back out and explored a little more but the sky was threatening, it was getting quite cold and we decided to wimp out and drive to see the other sites.










La Ventana












Rain in the distance


Once again, bends and hills and dales each revealed their surprise as we reached them. The sun would break through the grey and highlight a cliff or rock and we'd marvel at the beauty and then we'd see another rock formation framed with the grey skies and see the beauty in that.  Once past The Narrows, where the lava flow stopped short of the cliffs, Don wanted to drive the long trail around but the ranger had warned us that the dirt road became slick mud that was hard to drive even in a 4 wheel drive (ours is,) the skies to the west were still very threatening and rain was falling in some places and since most of what we would be seeing seemed to be flat expanses of malpais (bad lands) I lobbied to return to the camp.  We had also left the generator running to recharge the batteries because the short drive from ABQ had not and with NO sun we were going to deplete them too far.










The rest of the afternoon which was nearing evening by the time we returned held beautiful views under threatening skies to the west but it was getting colder and colder and windier and windier.  We finally decided to turn on the heat (propane) and warm up leaving the temperature low enough that we would not freeze overnight as the MoHo rocked with the gusts.  And the term sustained winds took on a new meaning as we rocked and swayed and listened to the howling winds.

The next morning was freezing, well it felt like it, 45 F/7 C, and raining.  That cold permeating kind of rain that makes you think, I wonder if the kayaks can be levitated to the top of the car (no) what if we just leave the jack pads? (we aren't made of money besides, can we even find new ones before our next site?) etc. After much behavior determined by necessity we were all packed up and ready to go, Don's hand were frozen and we were in decidedly snarky moods we finally got on the road, heading west toward Arizona and what we saw, according to the weather app, was much warmer weather.




We drove to El Malpais from Albuquerque but if you are following the posts the last one was Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks



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