El Malpais (pronounced el-mal-pie-EES) means “the badlands” in Spanish. It lies south and west of Grants, New Mexico, about an hour-and-a-half from Albuquerque. El Malpais consists of a National Monument, managed by the National Park Service (NPS), and a National Conservation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Las Ventanitas Ridge lies in the northeastern portion of the El Malpais National Conservation Area. Las Ventanitas means “little windows” in Spanish. Starting and ending at the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook, we explored both the mesa top and the relatively flat land between the bluffs and lava flows, for which the monument is best known. Around every turn was a new marvel. We saw soaring sandstone towers and several of the delicate natural arches or “windows,” which give the area its name. We saw ancient petroglyphs, which provide mute testimony the area’s long human history. We visited the ruins of a small Anasazi “outlier pueblo,” which sits on the mesa top above a 50-foot long natural arch with views across the contorted black lava fields, where we saw abundant Anasazi pottery shards.
Photo count: 40
Posted: March 18, 2012