Science meets history in the New Mexico Fire Valley – ET

On a recent van ride in the United States, we discovered places we had never heard of that turned out to be real findings.

We had never heard of the city of Carrizoso, New Mexico, with a population of just 760, but as we drove through Tularosa White Sands, we saw brown road signs inviting us to the Valley of Fire recreation area. We already guessed that such signs always indicate the presence of parks, museums and other sights of historical importance and the opportunity to have a wonderful rest along the way, so we went there.

The Valley of Fire Recreation Area is part of the Office of Land Management — protected areas where ranchers are allowed to graze their animals and people are allowed to hunt, fish, camp, hike and picnic as long as they are respected and cared for. the purity and security of a land that no one owns. You can book some camping at some of these sites, but most are in order of priority.

When we reached Carrizoso Lava Flow, we discovered a landscape of 114 square kilometers of black lava, formed as a result of extrusion into the earth’s thin crust, when hot lava passed through these cracks and rolled along the ground, cooling and then solidifying.

The eruption occurred between 2,000 and 5,000 years ago and remains the newest volcanic eruption in the continental United States, with the exception of the catastrophic volcanic eruption on Mount St. Helen in 1980, which caused significant damage and loss of life.

The landscape in this part of New Mexico is littered with green, healthy desert vegetation. There is also a well-designed, informative, convenient route. Comfortable to walk on, the paved path is mostly flat and the desert plants are easily recognizable. The accompanying brochure explains what you need to look out for to enhance your experience of the flora found in the unusual scenery of the high Chihuahuan Desert.

Surprises await visitors in the spring, when many local plants bloom in a wide variety of colors. We found a spy lens pointing to the Little Black Peak a few miles north, which was probably the last eruption in the area and is higher than the rest of the black lava.

Different types of local lava formations are named after Hawaii, as Hawaii has many such volcanic eruptions and many types of lava are already known there. Collapsed patches of jagged pieces of lava called “a’a” were visible everywhere. Rope-like lava flows are called “pahoeho”.

The large holes at points throughout the black crust are where the gas bubbles burst on the hot surface during the cooling period. Elsewhere we saw pressure ridges – large cracks where the lava surface cooled and solidified as the hot flow continued below the surface, pressing on the upper solidified area and causing it to crack.

Intentional plants were able to grow on this impregnable black lava. Prickly pear and banana yucca cacti grow throughout the area, as well as creosote, mesquite, sotol and sea urchin cacti, as well as cholla cacti. Obsolete lava particles and dust transferred to lava cracks created soil where plant seeds could germinate.

Another plant that has arrived here is the algerita, with its small pointed leaves. Several gray-green four-leafed salt marshes grow here, as well as small sumacs and junipers. The few places we have hiked in the past have had so much information about local vegetation.

Although it seems impossible to the people of the modern world, prehistoric humans could live here, discover which plants are edible, and hunt small animals that survived here in their habitat. The area is also home to many species of bats, as well as many small birds and insects.

Thousands of years before the volcano erupted and immediately after the end of the ice age, prehistoric people took refuge here. Scientists have concluded that Native Americans ate the plants and animals they could find. Later inhabitants, a branch of the Jornad Mogollon culture, left fragments of pottery and stones that they used as tools. The Giordanas were an early branch of the Apache, and this land became part of the vast territory of the Mescalero Apache tribe.

Immigrant settlers from Europe and Mexico have never been welcome here. The desperate attacks of the natives, who defended the place where they lived for a long time, led to the creation of the nearby Fort Stenton in 1855.

Travel tips

Alexey Novikovcolumnist and journalist for The Epoch Times, specializing in travel news and analysis.

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