I’m continuing to write about my trip Out West. Yesterday, I arrived at El Malpais and hiked the Sandstone Bluffs. I stayed at the (free) Joe Skeen Campground. The next day, Wednesday, August 10, I started just by exploring the area around the campground.
That was great just by itself.
From the topographic map, you can see that there are bluffs just to the east of the campground.
(The campground is that gray loop near the bottom of the map. You can also see the road/loop for the Sandstone Bluffs to the west.
The Joe Skeen campground is a wonderful campground. The campsites are well-separated (minimum 100 feet). Each site has a concrete pad with a picnic table and a roof. That roof is very useful, not only for shade, but also because I am here during what they call “monsoon season”. Starting in July (through September) the heating can make thunderstorms boil up, and downpours can occur in concentrated locations.
Here’s the view of my tent at the campsite, taken from underneath the roof.
You can see the bluffs, which are about 80 feet high, behind my tent. You can also see a landslide which looked to me as if it could provide me access to the top. So off I went.
From up top I had a good view of my campsite.
There was also a bit of a view of the Sandstone Bluffs in the distance.
The Sandstone Bluffs (the ones next to the lava beds) are not the most prominent. That’s another set of intervening bluffs. But you can see the Sandstone Bluffs poking up behind.
I also did a bit of hiking around on top there. You might recall that yesterday I had a lot of trouble with cactus burrs. I did much better this time. For one, I was doing a better jobs of watching where I was stepping. But there were fewer burrs up there. I suspect that a lot of what I hit below the Sandstone Bluffs had washed down there and increased the concentration.
But there was also a lot of rock on top. And walking on the large rocks meant I didn’t have to worry about burrs, since they wash right off the rocks (or don’t get there in the first place.
I think this is another argument against the common sentiment expressed by podiatrists that our feet did not evolve to walk on hard surfaces. I’ve mentioned before the hardpan of Africa, but I suspect our remote ancestors had a lot of practice walking on hard, rock surfaces just to avoid the “sharps”.
Here’s a view that shows both the surface I was walking on (rocks, sand, brush) and the view off the other side of this high point.
Here’s a better view of the steep part of the bluff, which actually is most of it.
Notice that little notch to the right of the two trees? That intrigued me, so while I was up there I made a point of finding out what was on the other side. Here you go.
It the back end of an arroyo that drains part of that high area. Water must have eaten away at the rock until that notch fell out. It also happens to be perfectly aligned with my campsite, which you can see below. (Also note the Sandstone Bluffs again, and then in the far distance, the bluffs on the other side of the lava beds.)
I also had a bit of a disaster. I’d written up 4 of these blog posts, and then when I went to post them, my computer refused to boot. Bleh. So what you are seeing are my re-written versions. Fortunately, I had another computer with me (but hadn’t saved my earlier versions on it). This computer also unfortunately does not have my photo-stitching programs, so I really cannot provide grand panoramic shots (and I lost a couple of good ones on the dead computer).
Anyways, later in the week at Joe Skeen, I went back up top and did what I could. This is a hand-stitched panoramic view of the campground (you should find it easy to spot the stitching).
This does give you a good feel of the spaciousness of the campground.
Finally, my last evening there we had a nice sunset. What I found most interesting was how that colored the bluff behind us.
After my trek above the campground, it was time to visit El Malpais itself. Onto the lava beds!