El Malpais Hike

Last week I had to drive out west of Albuquerque to the To’hajiilee (pronounced Tow-ha-jill-ee) exit to deliver something to a job site.  Some of you may recognize the exit name from the very popular Breaking Bad TV show that was filmed in Albuquerque a few years ago.  I realized I was only about 20 miles away from El Malpais National Monument.  This is a beautiful area of unique sandstone formations and spectacular views.  I hadn’t been there in several years.  So on a whim, Scarlett and I kept heading west to go exploring.

My first stop was at the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook.  As soon as I parked I saw a bird sitting not far from me on a little twig.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  It was a Phainopepla!  They aren’t usually seen this far north.  It sat a few moments letting me get a couple photos before it flew away.


Phainopepla – female

I started walking up the bluff to the overlook.  Scarlett ran ahead of me and ran right to the edge.  Scarlett!!!  Give me a heart attack!!  The drop is very far from this overlook.  I kept a close eye on her after that.  She’s fearless!


Scarlett looking over the edge – brave girl!

The views were amazing that day.  The weather was perfect.


While exploring the overlook, there were a lot of birds coming in to get a drink from the many rainwater pools that collect on the bluff.  These pools are probably one of the main sources of water for the wildlife here.  DSC_7163DSC_7165

I saw a Bullock’s Oriole land briefly but the photo I got wasn’t worth publishing here.  But some bluebirds posed nicely for me.  And there were Cliff Swallows flying all over – too fast for a photo though!


Mountain Bluebirds – male and female


Cassin’s Kingbird

At one point Scarlett was hesitant to follow me over some rocks.  She watched me and gave it a try…


Scarlett hanging back watching me scramble down.


She was deciding if she could do it…

But then I saw her turn tail and disappear!


Where’s Scarlett going!!!

Next thing I know she’s chose a different route to come down.  Smart girl!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Of course, I had to have her pose a few times for a photo!  LOL!


Miss Scarlett enjoying the view


She was enjoying this little bit of shade!


After exploring the overlook, we headed down the road to the La Ventana Arch.  This is a huge arch and is the second-largest natural arch in New Mexico.  The photos just don’t convey the size of this formation.


La Ventana Arch


While there a Black-Headed Grosbeak was singing away! Such a beautiful bird.


Black-Headed Grosbeak

I also heard a bird of prey calling way up high near the top of the arch.  I zoomed in as best I could to get a photo.  When I zoomed in on the photo, I realized it was a Peregrine Falcon (based on the markings and the constant calling).  It looks like it has jesses on its legs.  I wonder if it escaped from someone’s care.  Hopefully it will survive.  I believe it had a nest up there as it kept landing in the same place just out of view then flying away again.


Prairie Falcon with what looks like jesses hanging from its legs

After viewing the arch, it was starting to warm up.  So I decided to head home.  Just before Grants, NM, there’s a small town called McCarty’s.   There’s a church there I’ve always wanted to stop and photograph.  Since I had time, I found an exit off the interstate and wound my way down the small streets until I came upon the church.  Sadly, it was closed.  But I was able to get a photo of the inside of the church through a little window on the front door.

It was a great impulse hike.  I’m so glad I went!


USGS marker at the top of the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook

8 thoughts on “El Malpais Hike

  1. Fantastic post Kelly! New Mexico is so beautiful with so many different types of landscapes! Miss Scarlett, as usual, is such a wonderful companion to have along on your hikes; she is such a lovely dog:-) I hope that someday I will get back to NM to explore some of the hiking areas you share in your posts!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.