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Monday, April 1, 2013

Valley of Fires, White Oaks and Donkeys

Rick Morgan

We pulled out of Oliver Lee Memorial State Park headed for Valley of Fires Recreation Area only 70 miles away.

The reason this BLM recreation area exists is the Malpais Lava Flow. According to the brochures, this flow was formed 5,000 years ago making it one of the youngest lava flows in the continental US. It is about 44 miles long, six miles wide and 160 feet thick in the cater.

We didn’t really know what to expect but we were presently surprised to find a great little campground with spectacular views of the lava flow and the Tularosa Basin. We set up camp and headed out to explore the area.

Since it was high noon with mid 80’s temperatures, we elected to hike the nature trail through the lava flow later in the day. Instead, we jumped in the car and headed to Carrizozo. This is a funky little town filled with small galleries and antique shops. As we drove through town everywhere we looked…Donkeys! They are even on rooftops. We were told that a stop at Roy’s Old Fashion Soda Fountain is a must but alas, he is closed on Sunday and Monday. Roy’s is on the list for Tuesday.

Our next stop was White Oaks – another one of those “almost” ghost towns. Gold was discovered here in 1879 and overnight the town grew to 2,500 residents complete with a hotel, churches, a bank, newspaper and an impressive brick schoolhouse that still stands today. This was the biggest town in the area back then but that all changed when the mines played out and the railroad changed it route to go through Carrizozo. About 50 people call White Oaks home today.

We drove around town, visited the very small but nicely done “Miner’s Home Museum” and walked around the Cedarville Cemetery which is still in use.

It was now late afternoon. The temperature had cooled - just perfect for our walk around the one mile nature trail. This trail is really well done with 14 “information” stops that do a nice job explaining the unique geology of this area. We have walked the active Kilauea lava field on the Big Island in Hawaii – I wonder how that might look 5000 years from now?

Perhaps not traditional but we both agreed it was a perfect Easter Sunday – in God’s country.