A few miles west of the small town of Carrizozo in New Mexico is a completely secular place. Malpais means "Badlands" in Spanish, and if there were Hispanics who called it, we were sure. Malpais is a reinforced lava river about 5,000 years ago, emerging from a few spaces around the Little Black Peak. Lava itself is similar to the lava found in Hawaii because of the dark basalt. According to the Park Service Information Panel, this lava flow is one of the youngest and best protected streams in the United States.
Malpais is 44 miles long, with an average width of 2.5 miles. The stream covers 127 square miles and is between 45 and 165 feet deep. The eruption lasted for about 30 years, but was not a cataclysmic eruption, but rather an open-air lava that created lava tubes, dams, ice caves and collapsed bubbles. Malpais is an interesting place that provides amazing diversity of wild plants and provides all sorts of critical places such as coyote, rabbit, ringtail cat, bats, snakes and lizards.
Although the area is tough enough to break the best weights in a short period of time, the plants find this place within 5,000 feet of high desert, a good place to live. The average rainfall is only 12 inches per year, but there is more abundance than the plant life in Malpais, as the water from the rain and snow flows into the rocks and crevices. In winter, the black rock gets heat from the sun, and at night it is slightly warmer than the surrounding desert. When it is 100 degrees outdoors in the summer, the sediment is beautiful and cool in the sediments, and lava tubes can be ice.
People have lived in the area around Malpais for 12,000 years, and some of the oldest have even seen the white glaciers or the Carrizo peaks flowing through the red glittering river at night. These people, and even the later Mescalero Apache, used very useful desert plants growing in the area, such as Apache, Sotol, Yucca, Agave, Cholla and Prickly Pear. Yucca fibers bend mattresses and baskets, weave Sotol leaves and use black, sharp obsidian for spear points.
Malpais has an excellent parking area and a sidewalk, providing access to a paved road accessible through lava 38 cm in length. I think that the disabled are guaranteed to enjoy the outdoors even if they are only a short distance away. I thought it would be a model for many other places. When the pavement runs out, the trail continues another lane at another 2/3 mile starting point. It looks short, but in the case of summer it is probably more than what you want.
For years I was amazed to read the story of the hero of Louis Amour Flint hiding in an oasis that no one could find in the heart of Malpais. For myself. When I retired from Fort Bliss and went north to get away, I got this chance over the weekend. Below is an account of an evening I shared with Malpais.
In Lincoln County, New Mexico, I am sitting next to a positive old-timber tree in the Malavais lava flow. I paint the western cotton sky with pink and orange. Most people will seek a name until the sun goes down, but not me, but I will enjoy all the bad places as I have. There is a slight breeze, and I can hear the dwarfs and all sorts of other LOUD and totally annoying night insects. At about 6 o'clock in the evening I started to ride the lava. There were all kinds of medium plants in the lava and I was surrounded by Sotol's spear several times and it really hurt.
Now the stars have come out and there is a cloud over me in heaven. Night is dark blue and has a fingerprint with stars behind it. Gencim is hot here tonight. This wrapped old Juniper was hundreds of years old when Billy Kid escaped from Sheriff Pat Garrett and was on the battlefield of Mescalero Apache. The lava is very black and thick – wrapped in threads and mats.
There you can hear a black owl. Discussing bad areas was a difficult thing. I left the trail and went west to Malpais. Large crevices, depressions, cave spaces and cracks had to be discussed. Some parts of the surface were heaps of broken lava; others were solid surfaces that looked like frozen mud. Part of the ropes flow was almost vertical, and I easily climbed up, up and down – thank you for my gloves and heavy boots. Otherwise there were large cracks in solid lava masses, and there were small gorges, troughs, or dishes with sandy bottoms, surrounded by 30 plus feet of lava.
I'm sitting here waiting for the moon to climb over the Carrizo mountain. Before it became dark on the lava, bats of different shapes, sizes, positions and colors appeared. I counted four different bat. They flew out of the dark, like the leaves driven by the wind. I wish I could find out all those loud bugs. At least bats come for feed. One of the bats was strangely red and looked like a giant butterfly.
A furious looking moon looks like a searching eye looking at Sordon along Mordor. The thin clouds revolving around the Carrizo Mountain try their best. Already on the horizon, some Juniper grows like a large orange cecoltern from among the branches. Fully packed, it is a remarkable sight to watch the pilot of the celestial object through the clouds. Had it been Halloween, it would have made flights very close to comfort with reptiles and bats.
The moon is now in a magnificent place, casting shadows from everywhere, from trees and shrubs. No need for lanterns tonight. If you are ever late under a pale white street lamp, you can coordinate how the whole desert and sky looks. I investigated a few cracks. The deepest was 30 feet deep, and I had to use extreme caution to descend to the floor with snow sand. It's like being in a narrow canyon south of Utah because I was able to touch both walls of the abyss with my elbows stretching.
Somewhere in the night I heard the coyote, and the frustration sounds like an Apache war cry. What our government does to those people on the Pecos coast is a disaster. I'm glad that Mescalero Apache was allowed to return to Sierra Blanca and sue the heads of the "noisy water" Ruidoso for themselves. I will never forget how the big dipping sparkles into the sky overlooking the candy cloud.
When I am old and broken I will return to my favorite places and visit the old rider, neighbor Choll, cricket, wind, Carrizo peak and New Mexico sky. Cholla throws strange and disgusting shadows to follow. When the wind stops it gets hot and hot at intervals, but you can catch the rich candle smell of Juniper. Here I thought about how the snakes came out because they seemed to cut the ribbons with lava bands.
Some of the clutches were hardwood trees with gray plates. The skinny pears had red bulbous fruits and a strange bright yellow golf ball sized fruit in Cholla. He found a strange plant with a large pear like fruit. Come to learn that bananas are Yucca and are the main product for Indians daily.
Looking at Malpais in the moonlight, I can imagine the old John Chism and his riders pulling rustlers off the lava and losing them at intervals. I sat down and wondered if maybe Billy Kid himself was hiding on these rocks. I had a night in badland, only me, the moon, the owl, a coyote, and a bunch of bats and insects. It's such a strange place to create a special feeling … especially for a full summer night.
If you ever visit Malpais, be sure to bring plenty of water with you. After a few deaths in the desert, my rule is to calculate how much water you need and then double it. It is a winter camp when you are collecting firewood. In any case, it is also important to wear a good leather gloves and a solid pair of shoes as the sharp basalt will shatter your regular shoes. If you are dumb to walk alone as I often do, say where you are going and wait for your return.
Malpais is a strange and magical place that can be entertaining to visit. Just be prepared and avoid disaster. This place is not called bad terrain for no reason. It's a difficult area to forgive, but if you're ready, you'll be safe and entertaining.