Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oops, Lost in the Outback

Self-portrait of Photographer 
Last Sunday I left to go visit my sister in San Fidel, New Mexico. I had intended to do my TW3 blog Sunday evening but one thing led to another. Have cameras and will use them. Monday we were in Albuquerque and upon our return too the great cloud/storm photos featured on Creative Journey.  Tuesday we went for a walk at the El Malpais National Monument. We chose the Lava Falls walk on the youngest of the lava flows in the area. Only 3000 years. It occurred to us that recent news of earth quakes in New Mexico and Colorado and upgrade of this "dormant" volcanic field to could be active without warning made this not the wisest of outings.

But, hell, what is life without some risk. One of the biggest risks on this walk was losing your balance on the uneven footing of the rough basalt and falling. I frankly began to look at the cacti as soft.

Reading of the hike brochure (after our return to the car) said that the following picture is smooth or pahoehoe  lava. There were definitions of Hawaiian terms but no definition of smooth. They did mention that pahoehoe lava frequently has a ropy texture which seems to contradict my definition of smooth.

Pahoehoe lava
This slab of basalt looked smoother to me, but don't let that fool you. The surface could still cut you to ribbons if you fell on it and the cracks seem to have no bottoms at times. Not unlike life frankly.

Life grabs a toe hold

Unexpected color
So how amidst this landscape do you follow the path? Cairns. A mound of stones erected as a marker or memorial. It is wise to note you should never leave one cairn until you have spotted the next one. And they advise you to not erect your own cairns or add to or take away from the existing cairns. Making of cairns is the priority of the national monument staff and they have a bit of a sense of humor. Many were "idols" like the one below with two stone eyes and a twig nose.

I found myself wondering if the more elaborate cairns were in fact monuments to those hikers, who like my sister and myself, left our water in the car, or lost their way between cairns.

Cairn Lavaman
It is wise to note if you decide to undertake this adventure that the iron in the basalt makes cellphone reception virtually impossible. The "field" is not flat always flat so spotting the car park not easy. Nor is discerning where the next cairn is. There is one in the picture below.

Lava Falls
And sometimes there seems to be rather challenging territory to cross to the next cairn.

Heading to the next cairn - can you see it?
We really enjoyed out walk on the wild side. By the way the seemingly baby vegetation is at times hundreds of year old natural bonsai. No worries about visitors digging them up and taking them home.

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