The Valley Of Fires Recreation Area, in Carrizozo, NM, sits on a knoll in the middle of the Malpais (mal-pie-eese) Lava Flow. Malpais is Spanish for badlands. The Malpais Lava Flow is between 5 and 6 thousand years old. In earth years that is relatively new. The lava did not come from a traditional volcano in this case, but from a vent in the earth which is called Little Black Peak.
On the left hand satellite picture below, which I gleaned from the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources website, you can see Little Black Peak circled. If you look closely you can also see Route 380 going straight through the flow and just below that, on the right hand side, the knoll where Valley Of Fires Recreation Area sits.
The picture on the right is a satellite view of the complete flow which I found via a Goggle search. The dark area is the old lava. Amazing isn’t it?
The recreation area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). All sites have sensational views of the lava flow. The tent sites are actually in the lava flow!
There are clean, well maintained showers and bathrooms and a nice Visitors Center. There is a hiking trail of about 3/4 of a mile that meanders through the lava field. You are allowed to go off trail but we were warned the lava is brutal on your shoes so we didn’t do too much of that.
We witnessed a most breathtaking sight here at Valley Of Fires. The New Mexico mountains were experiencing a good dose of snow. To the north and east of us you could see a distinct line of snow clouds. The pictures above show the 9600 foot Carrizo Peak. The picture does not do the whole scene justice but on the left is the peak on a clear day and on the right you can see the snow line coming up over and enveloping the peak. The clouds stopped there and never got any closer to us. It was a spectacular show by Mother Nature.
One day we took a scenic drive up into the mountains to the ski resort town of Ruidoso. As well as skiing, Ruidoso is known for Ruidoso Downs, a horse racing track. The Billy The Kid Byway, a scenic trail through the Lincoln National Forest, runs through the town. Smokey Bear was born and is buried in nearby Capitan, New Mexico.
Along the way we had a nice lunch at the Pickled Cowboy in Alto, known for their deluxe ruebens. The higher we went up in altitude the deeper the snow. Mr. Ed, our pick up truck, was covered with salt when we got back.
As usual, we were regaled with beautiful plants, animals, and interesting scenery, including a 400 year old Juniper tree. We saw our first Western Bluebird here.
At the Valley Of Fires Visitors Center I noticed a pamphlet for a ghost town about 15 miles away called White Oaks. So we drove out there only to find not a ghost town but a small town full of artists. Seeing a ghost town would have to wait.
One more wonderful thing happened to us at Valley of Fires. We met fellow New Englanders, Michael Fullerton and Denise Wilder from Calais, Vermont. Michael came armed with a guitar and Denise, blindfolded, can find her way around knitting needles. I needn’t say more.
I’m not sure who is following who but we’ve been camping together for 2 or 3 weeks and plan on one more move to Silver City before we go our separate ways. We’ve only known Micheal and Denise for a few weeks but consider them friends now.
And speaking of new friends, Caballo Lake State Park supplied us with many more but that story will have to wait!