El Malpais - the badlands of the Southwest

We set the alarm for 6:30 am so we could head out early on Wednesday morning. It had rained off and on through out the night and it was still raining lightly when we woke up. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating my cereal when I watched Jim pour his cereal out of the plastic container and then lose control of it. It was like watching it in slow motion. You know when you want to yell "Noooooo!" I don't know how he did it, but it looked like he was fumbling a football. The cereal flew all over the counter, in the sink, and all over the floor. Jim attempted to sweep it all up, but I felt the remnants of it later and had to sweep again.

After breakfast, Jim opened up the door and stepped out, saying, "Oh, no! It's SNOWING!" That's right! Big, fat, wet flakes were coming down. Snow. In Santa Fe. Unbelievable. Do you know what's worse than packing down in the rain? Packing down in the SNOW.

Here's Jim taking down our satellite dish in the snow. What? You think we actually ROUGH it?

This is my cactus plant(s) covered in snow. This is just wrong.

I have faithfully carried this plant around with us for 4 years. Jim is about ready to toss it. I know he hopes I forget it somewhere in our travels. The pot and dirt weigh about 25 lbs altogether.

The snow came down pretty heavily and covered our truck fast. It was time to hit the road. Pronto.

We threw our garbage bags on the back of the truck and were going to stop in front of the garbage cans on the way out of the campground. This campground was one of the few that actually recycled. So I had two separate small bags - one with cans and one with plastic. Jim had taken out all the garbage. By the time he unhooked the electric, water, sewer hose, and all the rest of the stuff he does outside, he was cold and wet, even though he had on a rain coat. We hooked up the trailer, then Jim took off his wet coat before getting back in the truck. We drove down to the garbage cans and he jumped out to grab the garbage. He didn't put on his jacket, but just ran over there with his short sleeve shirt on. I saw him carry over two large garbage bags and I thought to myself, "Hmmm. I bet he stuck those two recycling bags INSIDE the garbage bags and said 'The HELL with it!'" He probably figured that I would NEVER notice. I watched him trounce back to the truck in the wet snow, ready to give him a piece of my mind, when he passed up the truck, and grabbed two small recycling bags and walked all the way over to the recycling place for the cans and plastic. Awww. Now THAT's why I love that man!

He jumped in the truck and I leaned over and gave him a kiss! I told him what I had suspected and he guffawed. I told him either way it was going to be blog fodder. Poor Jim. I write about everything. He has to watch it. Even when I go to bed at night I wear these: (The bottom pair)

So we were on the road by 8:10 am. That's pretty good. We had to travel about 310 miles. By the time we got to Albuquerque the snow had turned to rain. The skies were heavy with clouds.

This is our fifth time driving down to Arizona for the winter. We try to find different routes to add some variety to our drive. This time we followed along Route 40 outside of Albuquerque, but exited at 89, at Route 117 so we could drive through El Malpais National Monument. It was a very scenic drive.

The term "El Malpais" means "the Badlands" and is used locally and in other parts of the southwest to refer to lava flows. There are several volcanoes in the area that had erupted and their lava had all flowed in the same general direction. It is amazing to see how trees and plants have grown on the lava rocks.

This is La Ventana Natural Arch, the largest arch in New Mexico. This arch was eroded from sandstone dating back to the age of dinosaurs.

Jim and I hiked up a short path to get a closer look at the arch.

I took the photo, then we did our little Chevy Chase "action", laughed, and headed back down the path.

We have been doing this little routine for years. We've reenacted it in front of the Grand Canyon, and too many other places to mention here.

When we pulled up to this arch, Jim said, "Hey, did you see that? What kind of bird was that in the tree?"

I replied, "I didn't see it." So he backed up the trailer, and this is the "bird" that was in the tree.

In fact, there were two of these strange "birds". But instead of being male and female, they were left and right.

On the path to the arch I saw this. It is a cholla (pronounced choy-ya) cactus. It is nicknamed the "jumping cactus", because the small branches break off and "jump" onto a person or animal.

I was assured by a Ranger last spring that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A JUMPING CACTUS. But I will tell you HERE AND NOW that that FUCKER (excuse my French but there is NO OTHER WORD that BETTER describes it) jumped out of NOWHERE and attached itself to the calf of my leg.

I had jumped out of the truck to take pictures (of course) and I was watching where I was walking. HONESTLY. I was afraid of snakes. We were still in Arizona last spring. Anyway, I turned around to go back to the truck when OUT OF NOWHERE I felt the pricks of about a bazillion needles, ok, I am exaggerating, about 30 needles, piercing my leg. I looked down in horror at this thing attached to me. I ran back to the truck and asked Jim to remove the damn thing from my leg.

He got out of the truck, came around and looked at me in fear. He pulled on that sucker, I let out a scream, and all those needles, which have hooks on the end of them, pulled my skin out about a half an inch. Are you getting the picture here? Talk about a torture tactic! Jim had to wiggle the cactus to get it to let go of my skin. I did a lot of crying. I think we left some of the tips of the hooks in my skin. It looked like I had a rash all over my leg from the red dots of pin pricks.

The ranger told us that we should carry a comb with us - that way you just run the comb over the spot and just FLIP the cactus off of you. But you must be careful because he has seen people flip the cactus off of them and INTO THE FACE OF THEIR FRIENDS. Can you imagine having one of those suckers stuck to your face? OMG!

But I digress.....

Here are some photos of the lovely scenery driving out of El Malpais. The first one is a volcano off in the distance. The rest are just long, long stretches of road and land.

This is just some of the beautiful scenery I saw on the way - like these train tracks cutting a path through the open field.

Or this heart that appeared naturally on the mountain.

Or the way the pattern of the fence looks against the yellow field.

And finally, these three mountain photos. The first one is so colorful; the other two are beautiful in their plainness.

Okay, I'm done. I hope I didn't bore you with all the photos. This is almost as bad as going to the neighbor's house and seeing their vacation slides. LOL!
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