Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mount Capulin Volcano National Monument

Saturday we took a road trip down to Mount Capulin Volcano National Monument, just across the state line in New Mexico.

We have a gallery of images up on Mike and Leece's image galleries under "Road Trips."

We followed CO 109 down through Kim, then on US 160 to CO 389 down to Branson, and from Branson, across the New Mexico line, picking up NM 551 to its intersection with NM 456, the "Dry Cimmaron Highway," to NM 325 in Folsom, which took us to the National Monument.

You can find the official info about the site here: Mt Capulin Volcano National Monument

We stopped several times along the way for photos. We'll have a separate gallery up on the road trip down to the site.

The park is easy to find and easy to get into. There is a small visitor's center, where we found that the NPS staff was - as we have come to expect - helpful and friendly. This included the staff at the center as well as up at the parking lot on the edge of the crater mouth.

We had lunch in the picnic area, which is about 200 yards up the volcano road from the visitor center. There was no shortage of tables, and the picnic area was clean and well-maintained.

There are a number of trails available at the site, including a wheelchair accessible nature trail near the center. You can find more about these trails here. We did the trail down into the crater, and the rim trail. Neither would be very challenging down at altitudes we are accustomed to, but the rim is nearly 4,000 feet higher than The Holy Land. Flat land cycling leaves a little to be desired for conditioning for these altitudes, as we discovered on our visit to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. We found that taking some of the steeper ascents more slowly than we would have down lower helped considerably. The view was well worth a bit of huffing and puffing, however. Actually, the view was more than well worth the huffing and puffing; the view was spectacular. It was a magnificent day for the trip.

Capulin is part of the Raton-Clayton volcanic field, about 8,000 square miles worth. It's larger than the state of Massachusetts. From the top of Capulin, you can see many other cones in the varying distances. You can get a better feel for the extent of the field by using Google maps and examining the aerial view of the area.

After leaving the volcano, we went over to Des Moines, about 9 miles away, for gas. We looped back up through Folsom and then on 72 across Johnson Mesa. We'll have more on that as well as a gallery of images. This leg of the trip was an adventure in its own right, but more on that in a following post. Capulin is also known for its wildflowers, but most of Leece's best flower shots came from the Johnson Mesa excursion.

Interesting footnote: Capulin erupted in a rather spectacular display some 60,000 or so years ago. Of course, that is incorrect, since we all know the entire universe was created in the wee hours of Sunday morning, 23 October 4004 BC. Huh. I guess if we elect someone like Bachmann or Huckabee or Perry as president we can kiss the NPS goodbye, hmmm?