There’s a place you don’t want to miss if you are on Hwy. 117 going south off of I-40 in New Mexico. It’s called the Sandstone Bluffs, and it’s spectacular. The view from the bluffs is over the lava flow. Pictures don’t do it justice, but I always try to get some good ones when I’m heading towards my property. The one below I took on my very first trip to NM in 1999 when Jack was showing off his favorite places.
There is a nice parking area with picnic tables and it’s easy to explore all around the bluffs. It’s nerve-wracking if you have kids along, though, it’s a very sheer drop from the edge to the lava below.
I took time to stop both on the way and on the way back. The road to the parking lot is about a mile and there’s a great little ruin along the way, too.
Father down 117 is another stop one mile off the road, to the Lava Falls. This trailhead goes all the way across the lava flow and again, there is a little parking area and a picnic table. This trail is only marked by cairns. You head towards one cairn, look for the next one, head to it, look for the next one, etc. I followed it early one morning for about about ten minutes in. It was a bit chilly (turned out it was 29 degrees!) so I didn’t stay long. Jack told me he had hiked across it and left stashes of water in various places for a return trip, but never made it back to collect them.
There’s a drop off to the right side of this picture, so I didn’t get too close to it.
It was really lovely early in the morning light and the only other sign of life was an animal with a very bushy tail that ran into the trees as I approached driving in. Probably a coyote.
This last photo is on my property, a different kind of cairn that Jack built with my boys when we were staying there in 2000. He carved the sheep on the top from sandstone in the style of a Zuni “dream sheep” fetish. We keep the statue inside when we are away, and bring it out when we arrive to show we are “home.” This picture was taken in 2015 on our last visit to NM together. Our stay at my cabin lasted about 45 minutes because Jack’s blood oxygen level dropped so much due to his limited lung function that we had to leave the high altitude (it was also a very hot day, which probably did not help matters any). He had asked his dr. if there would be any problems going to a high altitude, but they didn’t predict any difficulties. In Albuquerque (above 5,000 ft.) he was fine, but the property is at 7,400 ft. So we left very shortly after I took this picture.
Here’s another photo of it that I took on my recent trip. I’m so thankful to have this place to sit!
I left some of Jack’s ashes at each of these places. My plan is to go visit some other of his favorite places in the future and leave some wherever it feels right. He didn’t leave me any precise requests about that, but thought it would be cool if I left some on one side of the Great Divide, and some on the other side of the Great Divide. These are pretty close to the Divide.
As far as cleaning out the pack rat poop and closing up the access holes in my cabin, that didn’t go real well. I may have slowed them down some, but I ran out of foam insulation right before I found the last hole. And everything inside was damaged, so that will take another visit to start hauling out trash. I’ll see what it’s like next spring. But it was a very good visit in perfect weather, so it was worth the long drive and short time to be there.