We last left our intrepid blogger in a snowy desert just outside Carrizozo, New Mexico, looking for a post-apocalyptic Denzel Washington. Spoiler alert: we didn’t find him. So we drove on, passing through Albuquerque on our way to Grants. While in Albuquerque, we had to feed the husband’s other cinematic obsession, Breaking Bad, with a stop at Walter White’s house:
Apparently the owner of the house is not fond of its TV-generated fame. According to various reviews (including on Trip Advisor), she sits on a folding chair in her garage and yells at people who take pictures. The chair in the garage was empty when we visited, and we stayed a respectful distance away while taking pictures, so we managed to avoid any confrontations.
After that brief detour, we decided to drive on to Grants. Grants is a small town on I40 near the Arizona border. There are quite a few things to do in Grants, but even after a good night’s sleep, we were too tired and too ready to go home to do very much. So, we limited ourselves to one attraction: El Malpais National Monument. El Malpais is best known for volcanic features–a lava flow, lava tubes, and a cinder cone–but we spent most of our time on the sandstone bluffs right off the main road through the park. The ranger I chatted with told me it’s usually windy on the bluffs, but the morning we visited was almost perfectly still.
We spent quite a bit of time out on the rocks, taking in the view, the colors, the textures, and the stillness.
Pools of ice in the rocks made for an almost eerie effect:
This is one of my favorites: wind-sculpted rock, ice pools… just so perfect.
Who let these two weirdos in?
I have no idea how a tree can grow in nothing more than a crevice in a rock. Junipers are tough!
And finally: a USGS marker from 1949, hammered into the rock.
For me, travel is all about serendipity and surprise: discovering the small town I never knew existed (because a snow storm stranded us there), sitting on a sandstone bluff on a cool, still winter morning, talking with a ranger whose life has taken him all over the Western US, or maybe watching the sun set over a moonscape in a missile range. Whether you travel ten minutes on foot or ten hours on a plane, stop and experience the details and the ambiance. Notice the USGS marker hammered into the rock. Sit on the bluff on a still morning and listen to the sounds of the desert. Smell the smells, touch the textures, taste the food and the air. Let the sense of a place fill you. If you can do those things, even a walk around the block can be magical.
We returned to Flagstaff later that day, December 30, tired but refreshed. 2019 was a hard year for us, and 2020 will have (and has already had) its challenges. Those few days wandering in the desert helped fill the well, helped restore our strength and perspective to face each new challenge and to live each new moment to the fullest.
A very belated Happy New Year! May you find rest and restoration wherever you can.