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.

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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!

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Scarlett looking over the edge – brave girl!

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

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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!

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Mountain Bluebirds – male and female

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Cassin’s Kingbird

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

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Scarlett hanging back watching me scramble down.

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She was deciding if she could do it…

But then I saw her turn tail and disappear!

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Where’s Scarlett going!!!

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

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

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Miss Scarlett enjoying the view

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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.

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La Ventana Arch

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

    Liked by 1 person

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