Friday, February 5, 2016

The Narrows at El Malpais

The Narrows at El Malpais National Conservation Area.  The lava flow here comes right up to the sandstone cliffs, making a narrow corridor for travel.  A good place to go on a sunny cold winter day.
View of La Ventana Arch.
The air has been so cold this week it feels sharp.  It got down to -14 one night this week. Today seems a bit warmer, relatively speaking.
Reading elk tracks.
My toes go numb from cold as they are prone to do, walking through the snow in my trail runners.  My lack of winter boots is due to my “AmeriCorps” budget (i.e. no purchasing new things), which even though I’m between AmeriCorps terms, I still strictly adhere to.  Instead of being frustrated by worn out and inadequate gear, try to remind myself that it’s only a bit of discomfort, and that’s just part of hiking, and thinking that you can buy stuff to bring you comfort is just a conspiracy to sell gear, etc. etc.  At least out here it’s easy to get distracted by the scenery.
A dusting of snow makes the cracks and fissues of the lava pop out like a 3D picture.
The birds are flitting around, singing their songs.  K. stops to raise her binoculars.  A pygmy nuthatch.  Later, a downy woodpecker.

How can their be enough soil for trees to find enough space to root down to hold themselves against the winds up here?
Wonder at the trees growing on top of this rock. 
Why are the lichen so many colors?
Can you find it?
By midday, standing in the sun, you can actually feel the rays working their way into you.  Though I doubt its anywhere near approaching freezing.  Finally, my toes thaw out a little. How wonderful it is to feel all ten of them. I wriggle them around in my shoes, absorbed by the happy feeling of finally thawing out.  See how being uncomfortable allows you to really appreciate the simple things?  See how I justify my crazy experiment in being frugal?

Finally reaching the view of La Ventana Arch, second largest natural arch in New Mexico.  CDT hikers climb down here, but I am very glad we don’t have to since it looks so steep.  Instead, we turn around and retrace our steps back the way we’ve come.

Overall, this is a wonderful winter hike!

More Information

Stop by the El Malpais Visitors Center (off I-40) or El Malpais Ranger Station (on 117) to pick up information about this hike.

The trailhead is at the entrance of the South Narrows picnic area, about 21 miles south of I-40 on NM 117.  This is very accessible even in winter.  117 is paved, and though the parking area is gravel and can be muddy, you don’t have to travel far to park.

From the South Narrows parking area, a trail gradually climbs the 500 feet up to the rim of the sandstone, following the rim for 4 miles (8 miles roundtrip). 

Note that La Ventana arch is shaded in the morning.  The sun finally lights it up late in the day.

CDT hikers take this as an unofficial scenic alternate off the Cebolla Alternate roadwalk along 117.

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