Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pictures on Rocks & Lava Beds

The Tularosa Basin of New Mexico has a variety of sights, from white sand dunes and parched desert to the heavy forests of the Sacramento Mountains. After spending time in the mountains, we decided on a change of pace. Heading north from Alamogordo, we passed through the little town of Tularosa, which has made an amazing recovery in the past few years, and 17 miles later we came to the turn-off for Three Rivers Petroglyph site. The site, administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has a small interperative center, picnic tables, and two fairly nice RV sites. We were met by a volunteer couple who explained the trail and gave us a map of the petroglyphs and history of the people who made them. It surprised us how extensive the site is; over 21,000 "glyphs" have been identified, and because they're compressed into a relatively small area, our 1 1/2 mile hike gave us a view of most of the artwork. The glyphs are believed to be created by the Mogollon people between 900-1400 AD and are still remarkably visible. People, Animals, birds, and symbols are clearly visible on the basalt rocks, and every few feet brings on a new panorama of art. Most of the art is clearly identifiable, Bighorn Sheep, deer, birds, snakes, and scorpions are common, as are faces and symbols. It's an amazing place and an easy hike; we'd recommend it if you're in the area. Leaving the petroglyph site, we turned East on the dirt road toward the Sacramento Mountains to do some exploring. We quickly came upon a bovine roadblock; apparently they thought we were bringing them some hay & refused to move until I promised them that Brenda would bake them an alfalfa cheesecake. The road took us on to the Mescalaro Apache Indian Reservation, and ended at a small enclave of old houses and this beautiful old chapel. It looked like the area was deserted; a shame, it was a beautiful area with the mountains in the background. After backtracking to the main road, we headed further north to Valley of Fires Recreation Area, another BLM site, just west of the drab little town of Carizozo. The lava flow stretches for over 44 miles and is 4 to 6 miles wide, and was formed from lava vents, not a volcano. The site has great facilities; paved RV sites with electric, a nice visitor center, and a paved nature trail through the lava bed. It's not exactly a beautiful place, unless you like black rock, but it was interesting to walk the trail and see the patterns in the rocks and how plant life had managed to survive. Not everything survives, though, and I thought this image of a dead pinon pine looked good in black and white.
We're leaving the area this week and heading for a short stay at a park near the Bosque Del Apache NWR; come back and visit!

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