Quick Stop between Santa Fe and Pine Top

It’s mostly a long, lonely, two-lane, no-shoulder road to Pine Top, Arizona, in the White Mountains after leaving Albuquerque. Beautiful and desolate. And then these beautiful cliffs with mesas above start showing up. “This looks like Zane Gray country” I told Terri. Reminds me of “The Hole in the Rock Gang”. Maybe I meant Hole-in- the-wall.

Then we started skirting between the cliffs and massive lava flows. Could this be El Malpais? In Douglas Preston’s book Cities of Gold, he retraces Coronado’s epic trek to discover the Seven Cities of Gold. Historians had always thought that he had skirted El Malpais, thousands of square miles of razor-sharp lava, but Preston thought otherwise. By shear luck, he met a Native American who showed him a secret entrance to a hidden trail through this area. Check out his book at https://www.prestonchild.com/books/preston/gold/

It was so fun and amazing to actually be at this historic place! Then I saw a sign for Scenic Bluffs Overlook on a dirt, washboard road. Luckily, it was only a mile or so away. Once we got there, we found our favorite, a nice chunk of slick rock that begged to be explored.

Photo’s don’t adequately capture the scope and beauty of this place. Please try and enlarge these for a better image. Besides the immense view, these bluffs also had several tinajas, or water pockets that can save water for days or even weeks. Besides providing water for local wildlife, they often have their own unique ecosystem that comes to life after a rainfall. But El Malpais had more to offer.

You may have guessed from previous posts that we love the natural stone arches of the Southwest. so when I saw a sign for a short walk to an arch, I had to go check it out. Totally worth it! As we were close to leaving the park, I found another sign that may tempt me to return to this very remote area. Okay, you get to see it twice, but now you k ow why 😂.

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