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The other two caves are found just off Highway 53, which skirts the western edge of the park. Sandoval said, “but Xenolith is much more difficult.
His name tag said “Anthony Sandoval,” and based on his tattoos — one of an antler, the other of a deer’s head inside an outline of the Land of Enchantment — I assumed he liked venison. Sandoval recommended that I buy the “bump cap.”“It’s completely dark in the caves, and the ceilings are all jagged,” he said.There are no established trails, no multicolored lights — or any lights at all.In the beam of my headlamp, I wove between rocks or scrambled over them, descending into a damp and chilly underworld.Walls of rock solidify along the sides of the molten river, and a hard crust encases the top.Hot lava pumps through this basalt pipeline, channeling deeper into the earth until the eruption stops. The caves at El Malpais are completely undeveloped.
One of the world’s youngest lava flows — named Mc Cartys — gushed forth here just 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, and it features some of the most pristine examples of lava formations on earth.