La Ventana

La Ventana

El Malpais means “the bad lands” in Spanish. The Malpais landscape was formed by lava that poured out of McCartys Crater two to three thousand years ago. On our first day, after setting up camp in Grants, New Mexico, we visited the La Ventana Natural Arch, one of New Mexico’s largest natural arches. We also enjoyed the vista of the lava flows and lands surrounding El Malpais from Sandstone Bluffs Overlook. Several of the tinajas, or potholes, were full of water. On our second day after visiting El Morro, we picnicked at the El Calderon trailhead before embarking on the loop trail. We had obtained passes to explore two caves on the trail and had visited the Walmart in Grants to procure additional flashlights. With a headlamp attached to my hat and a flashlight in one hand I descended into Junction Cave. Jagged and uneven lava can be navigated by carefully following florescent tape markings for 0.7 of a mile. I didn’t go that far, but did experience silence surrounded by complete darkness. Junction Cave is actually a lava tube created by the lava flows from nearby El Calderon Cinder Cone. Back on the trail we passed two deep pits called Double Sinks. These steep sided collapses are about 80 feet deep and were formed when the roofs of lava tubes collapsed. Perhaps on our next visit I will explore the Xenolith Cave. There were at least two eruptions from El Calderon. One eruption created black cinders; the other red cinders. We took a shortcut on a dirt road, Cerritos de Jaspe Road, back to the parking lot. Next time we visit I hope to complete this loop trail that connects with the Continental Divide Trail. There are many “good” adventures awaiting those who visit El Malpais.

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