The distance between the basalt cliffs and the housing developments is perhaps better expressed in the dimension of time. The suburbs only go back decades, while the lava cap of the mesa was laid down around 150,000 years ago. Though that age predates human encroachment by well over 100,000 years it is still relatively young by geologic standards. The area between the small volcanic peaks and the escarpment's cliff face probably looks much as it did shortly after the lava cap was formed.
The slope below the rim is littered with great blocks of basalt which erosion has broken away from the face of the escarpment. Spaces between the boulders are packed with dried tumbleweeds and other vegetation which often conceals deep clefts. During the day one sees a few rabbits among the rock rubble while hawks glide noiselessly from one favored perch to another. A pair of ravens will usually swoop in to voice their displeasure at any intruders. Large rattlers are seen among the rocks frequently during the warm months, but in cold weather you can put your feet anywhere they will fit with only the risk of broken bones as a deterrent.
Although the litter and noise of the city is not far distant, little of that seems to reach the top of the cliffs. The prevailing silence and the dramatic jumble of sharp edged boulders instill a sense of an unbroken continuum of Time. Looking east you see the present and very recent past, while turning your gaze north, south or west shows you the world much as it was many millennia in the past.
Ancient rock art can be found all along the escarpment. The images were laboriously pecked through the patina of the hard basalt to provide a contrasting design on the dark surface. Most of the images date from the last few hundred years of occupation of the valley by Pueblo people, but a few go back thousands of years to the area's first inhabitants. Later arrivals during the last couple centuries have added religious iconography, graffiti and bullet scars.