10.16.2011,6:38 PM
Valley of Fire, MN
Friday came, and time to head back. We took our time loading up and pulling out. On the way to Bernardo a week ago on Hwy 380, we passed a place called Valley of Fire. So we stopped there and set up camp for the rest of the day and night. 

Valley of Fire Campground
I'm going to cheat and paste in an excerpt from their website (recovering from surgery and tired):
"Valley of Fires recreation area is located immediately adjacent to the Malpais Lava Flow. Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States."
Nature Trail winding through the lava beds.

The area is amazing. The BLM campground is the most developed that I've ever stayed at. Nearly all the spots overlook the lava beds because the campground is situated on a kipuka, an island of high ground (usually sandstone) that the lava did not cover.

A paved trail literally snakes through the lava with informational displays that relate points of interest. You will learn what vegetation and animals survive there, the names of volcanic and lava formations (usually of Hawaiian origin), and other really cool things to learn. 

And, yes, the signs actually invite wanderers to venture off the path to explore for themselves. Which we did. In fact, we started our exploration way down from the path, wandering around the fascinating formations and ended up crawling over the hand rail onto the paved path, to the horror of a group of people that were passing by.

Lava, or anything that is black, is a challenge to photograph. The light has to be right. And if you don't have the time to wait for the right light, you're out of luck. But sometimes I got lucky. 

The many features of the lava are incredible!

I read an online review of the area before we arrived there. The reviewer complained that the lava beds were 'overgrown'. That comment only revealed the person's narrow-minded expectations and perceptions. It also revealed their ignorance. Of course there are plants growing there. 

Lava is high in minerals. And when they erode by water and wind, those minerals become soil rich in nutrients that sustain vegetative life. As plants grow and populate the area, mammals and reptiles also populate the same area. It becomes a living habitat, forming an ecosystem in which many species thrive. In fact, more species of plants and animals live within the lava beds than the surrounding desert. If people want to see naked lava, they can go to the moon.

Cholla cactus in bat cave.
Rope-like strands of lava.

Dusk-lit prickly pear cactus growing in lava.

We had a wonderful dinner sitting outside watching the moon rise and the sun set. The stars were incredible. It was our last night in New Mexico.

Our self-portrait.


posted by Macrobe
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