. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

El Malpais National Monument

For the last leg of our weekend road trip we drove down Hwy 117 on the eastern rim of "the badlands" which make up the El Malpais lava flow where it meets the sandstone bluffs.  The largest evidence of past volcanic action in New Mexico lies in El Malpais National Monument. Most of the area can be viewed by car with some small trails. The lava extends an area of 60 by 35 miles.

The El Malpais lava beds were produced from eruptions of several volcanoes up until about 800 years ago. There are numerous cinder cones and small craters found within the monument. The lava flow consists of large, blocky flows called aa to small ripples at the edges of the lava flow called pahoehoe. The rock is very brittle and sharp. The top layer is black with the lighter reddish gray colors underneath due to longer cooling time and less exposure. There are lava tubes and caves all along the monument.

View of the sandstone bluffs with the lava flows 400 feet below
Sign at the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook

The lava is bordered on the east side by a long sandstone cliff structure up to 400 feet high. We stopped at the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook to view the lava beds below. After driving a bit farther down the road, we stopped to see the La Ventana Natural Arch, the largest in New Mexico. It formed in a bend in the sandstone cliffs. The arch was eroded from sandstone dating back to the age of dinosaurs when the area was an inland sea.
La Ventana Natural Arch
You might be wondering how our chauffer did on the drive: very well. He clocked about 10 hours of driving on this trip. He still has a lot of hours left to go before his permit expires so I guess that means we'll have to go on more road trips. This weekend was a good one. I recommend visiting this area when you can.

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