Like gigantic mythical sea serpents encased in an ocean of sand, dirt, rock and cacti, lava vents run across the face of this country, traveling hither and yon in every direction. These natural anomalies, sometimes bordering on the surreal, form the basis for many surprises and curiosities, as well as ample fodder for the imagination.

Since I was a small boy, I have been fascinated by these geological features and over the decades have been attracted to them on repeated occasions. While following these walls of solid rock through this desert, they have sometimes proven to be the giant white whale to my inner Captain Ahab. Those tales remain untold for another time and opportunity.

One of these fissures in particular has led to many an adventure and unusual discovery. In total the landmark runs from near the north side of Tule Mountain, past the eastern outer slopes of the Dogie and finally disappears into a spot I call Rainbow Hollow, near the park boundary line.

This is not a vent that one can see at every step, as like the leviathan of sailor lore much is below the surface. In sum, the vast body oscillates into view only in parts along the way. Sometimes these spots can be thirty feet high and a hundred feet long, others are no more than a few loose stones amid discolored soil breaking through.

Yet where creek and arroyo bottoms breach these points, an abundant collection of oddities can be found. The cutting effect from massive thunderstorms and flash flooding carry them along to these depositories, or carve them from the volcanic rock itself. They also serve to form dikes, tinajas and ponds.

Such is the case here, in an otherwise unpromising locale amid a disorienting maze of malpais where often nothing grows. That cutting force has brought a small spring into being, and after a rain there are tinajas above and this pond full of water below.

Study the trails coming in from either side, working their way down through slides of tuff. Portions of these primitive routes can erode away even after a single good shower, yet the wildlife that depends upon this pond recreate these transitory paths due to pressing need to survive.

A word about those trails for those who seek to find. There are networks of them running along both sides of the fissure, and often enough they prove to be a red herring of sorts. For instance, during one of my prowls I have followed the one to the right all the way down to water’s edge.

This action was not by choice, and culminated in one of those Captain Ahab moments mentioned before.

Avast, ye landlubbers!

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author of five books: 2017-Present
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’