el malpais nat’l monument, nm

La Ventana Natural Arch is one of NM’s largest – notice profile of face to leftEl Malpais: the badlands of central-west New Mexico offer sharp lava rocks covering a 40-mile valley sided by smooth sandstone bluffs, just east of the Continental Divide.  The McCartys Crater poured lava 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, making the valley all but uninhabitable.  Sandwiched between Navajo and Acoma reservations, the badlands reached peak occupation between 950-1350 AD, with ancient trails and lava tube cave systems (one up to 17 miles long), crisscrossing it.  Homesteading increased in the 1930’s, with families of sheepherders try to eke out a living during the Great Depression.  As always, New Mexico amazes.  [please hover over images for captions]