In the end I decided to just head home. Might as well get the day behind us and home early enough for the kids to play with daddy!
I think we were checked out of the TLF by 9:30. We gassed up. Got snacks. And then started our trek back to Albuquerque. This was not going to be a hard drive like when we came down though.
About an hour into the drive we arrived at the Valley of Fires. I had seen this place when we came down and I was determined to check it out. It was a simple park area where people could camp and there was a very small visitor's center where a VERY old man was very kind and helpful to us. People are even allowed to hike all over these old lava flows.
Turns out, this valley (thousands of years ago) used to have very thin earth crust. So some vents opened up and allowed a lot of lava to quickly flow out and cover the ground. It was so cool to see the ridges from the flows and how much there was to it! The area is all black and you could see it from quite a distance coming up to it. Only really hardy plants are able to grow in the cracks of this rough terrain.
|that is Little Black Dome in the distance where it is believed was the source of the last large lava flow in the area|
The Valley of Fires had a 3/4 mile paved nature walk through part of the lava flows with information stops throughout. I jumped at the opportunity. Get in close. Let the kids run around. Enjoy the sunshine.
We sunscreen up and sauntered to the beginning. It was windy that day so I didn't do that great of a job applying my own spray on sunscreen. I learned later that the wind took most of it before it ever hit my skin so I ended up with a slight sunburn on my shoulders/chest/back of neck. Oh, and the wind was too strong that it kept blowing off the kids' hats.
|Lana walking on some old lava|
|taking a break|
|look closely and you can see the ridges from when it was flowing liquid|
|I know my face looks kind of red, but I actually was NOT sunburned on my face|
|under the juniper tree|
|at the wall of lava|
|as we were leaving... just surrounded by this black land|
If you didn't know by my mention of Trinitite, we were somewhat close to the Trinity Test Site (and White Sands Missile Range), where the testing of the first nuclear bomb was done. The site is open twice a year; the first Saturdays in April and October. Thing is, there is still radiation there and an hour exposure provides a dose of radiation equal to what an adult gets naturally in a day. I would like to see it, but this Saturday when it is open is the day before Easter. On top of that I probably would not feel comfortable exposing my very small children to the radiation.
We had just under 2 hours left of our drive and it went by fairly quickly. We passed the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and new we were close. Then we crested a hill and I see the view of downtown. Home was mere minutes away.
We arrived to a clean home and the kids were excited to play with daddy. He even messed around with them so I could get a bit of a nap in. Turns out I spent over 13 hours of driving alone over 3 days. Not too bad.
I'm kind of proud of myself for taking on this adventure alone. It's just one of those things where I wanted to go see these places, I only had this one weekend available, nobody was able to come with me so I conquered it by myself.
This trip created some good memories and I'm so happy I could share it with my kids.