Valley of Fires State Rec Area, NM
As we continue our march toward home from Lake Meade State Park in Kansas (spot “A” on the map), you might notice that we haven’t exactly plunged headlong toward Tucson. New Mexico is really drawing us in, in a way it has never done before. The last time we were so enchanted by this state was in early 2000, when Eleanor and I flew in (pre-Airstream) with Emma due to exit the womb in a month or so. Eleanor was so visibly pregnant that the ranger didn’t want her to climb ladders at Gila Cliff Dwellings, but Eleanor did it anyway (and all other challenges that came her way). Every time we come to New Mexico I think of that trip.
It’s a great place to tour, made even greater by the truly amazing great late-summer weather we’ve had. Yesterday’s drive took us a mere 80 miles to Carrizozo and an island in the middle of a 40,000 year-old lava flow, upon which a campground has been built. This is the Valley of Fires State Recreation Area. (Not to be confused with Valley of Fire State Park near Lake Mead in Nevada.)
This campground is unique, in that your campsite sits atop a literal island, surrounded in all directions by tortured black lava rock and a few hardy plants and animals that have managed to colonize it.
The centerpiece of the rec area is a fantastic walking path that winds through the lava field and offers interpretive signs along the way. You can walk on the lava if you want, but it’s sharp and deeply convoluted, so it’s really more of an effort than you might expect.
The only negative we found about this park is the gnats. Strong winds yesterday kept them at bay but in the morning they were back, and a few snuck into the Airstream as we were getting ready to go. The park volunteer camp host showed me a bottle of 100% deet and a headnet that we wears when running the weedwacker.
I wouldn’t let that dissuade you from a visit. You can always come in the winter months if you really can’t stand the thought of bugs. Keep in mind that this spot is at 5,200 feet elevation so it probably gets pretty cold.
Tech report: Verizon signal was fairly good thanks to the ground elevation of the campground/island above the surrounding lava flow. Most of the sites have water and electric, too. Overall, a very nice place and we were glad to have stopped there. If we were planning to do some serious hiking out on the lava we would have stayed a second night, but alas, our trip is winding down so it was just a one night stand.
The trip plan from here is even more vague than before. We have two more stops in mind, and after that we’re just going to see how we feel about things. Tonight’s stop is designed to keep us away from populated areas since it’s Saturday night (and popular campgrounds might be full), and that’s perfectly fine with all of us. Se we have headed to yet another remote part of northern New Mexico. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.