Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tourism by Detours - Capulin Volcano, NM

Now that I've managed to recover most of the vacation photos lost during the unfortunate home invasion and electronics theft, I'm able to pick back up with some of the "off the beaten path" stops along the cross country trip. There are a few things I'll need to dig up other people's photos for, since not everything was recovered, but there's enough to get started.

We're big fans of exploring. Simply going to someplace and back may be fine for some folks, but not this family. We like to scour maps and read the state guides picked up at welcome centers to find interesting stuff along the way. Sometimes, it takes just a roadside marker to pull us off course. When we headed out for the Summer 2009 Road Trip, we had a few specific destinations firmly set:
  • The Gateway Arch in St. Louis
  • Grandma's house in Alma, NE
  • Grandpa's house, Garden of the Gods, and Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs, CO
  • Capulin Volcano, NM
That last destination was a roadside marker which screamed interesting stuff during the last trip home from Colorado. We saw the marker for Capulin Volcano just before dusk on a very chilly evening in late December. There was no time to stop then, but it did go down on the mental checklist for our next trip.

This time, we planned for the Volcano and built an extra day or two into the drive home along a southern route (CO-NM-TX-LA-MS-AL-GA).


Capulin Volcano is the cone of a volcano that was last active about 56,000 to 62,000 years ago. This volcano represents the last stage of a great period of volcanism that had begun about 7 million years earlier. Evidence of this activity can be seen in the scores of nearby volcanic hills and peaks. The largest of these is Sierra Grande, an extinct volcano rising some 2,200 feet above the surrounding plain, about 10 miles to the southeast. To the northwest of Capulin are a number of mesas that are capped with lava, the three largest of which are Barela, Raton and Johnson Mesas.

Lava erupted in four flows, each separated by long periods of inactivity. The last series of eruptions created Capulin Volcano, whose conical form rises more than 1,000 feet above its base to 8,182 feet above sea level. The mountain consists chiefly of loose cinders, ash and other rock debris. These materials were spewed out by successive eruptions and fell back on the vent, piling up to form the conical mound. The lava, though, flowed mostly from a boca (spanish for mouth) on the lower west side of the cinder cone.
Sounds pretty darn cool, especially if you have boys who like rocks and a girl who likes to carry a camera. Plus, in keeping with the current fun on a budget that is so important, $5 gets you a pass for the whole family. The pass is good for seven days, but even if you're only using it for one day, it's a heck of a deal for a family of five.

If you wonder whether a location on our official trip plan should really count as a detour, not only was this destination inspired by a roadside marker, we had to wait on two separate occasions along the two lane highway for cows to clear the road. Any travel that can be delayed by livestock automatically counts on my detour destination list. Now...

'Too windy, but really cool' is how the kids would describe it now, but the hike around the rim of the crater and into the center was actually filled with many exclamations of wonder.
  • Swarming ladybugs
  • Scrub trees that were completely engulfed in silk and blue caterpillars.
  • Rounding the top of the crater rim to be smacked by the wind so hard you swayed on your feet.
  • The bench with hole and scorch marks from lightning strikes at the top of the rim trail.
  • Time Stains (Lichen) - discussion about this tied back into what we'd learned about which colors are edible on the trip up to Pike's Peak.
  • The many lizards, too fast to be caught on camera, and
  • Finding so much color & life, smack in the middle of an ancient volcano in the desert.

1 comment:

Slamdunk said...

Wow, what a nice find. I'll have to remember that one when we get out west again.

I agree with the livestock road block--our youngest is a cow groupie and that would be a dream for him.