21 September 2010

Yellowstone Lite

Autumn is my favorite time of year in New Mexico. The signs are everywhere: the aroma of roasting chili, the excitement of the state fair and balloon fiesta and the colors in the mountains are just some of the signs summer is reaching its end.

This past weekend I drove up to Valles Caldera -- a collapsed super volcanic caldera and the third largest caldera in the US -- just north of Albuquerque.

I guess you could call it Yellowstone Lite.

Whew... that sulfur smell was everywhere. The last eruption occurred about 50,000 years ago. A blip in geological time.

Thanks to the volcanic ash, there is lots of flora. From pine trees to wildflowers, simply gorgeous.

There are lots of hot springs in the area but beware you may also see tell-tale signs that some of them are 'clothes optional' even though it is prohibited.

As you enter the Valle Grande make sure you stop at the visitor's center and take the 45 minute van ride into the caldera grounds. It is only five bucks not to mention you can tell your friends you have driven into the heart of a volcanic caldera. The mound in the background is a lava dome, the youngest outcropping within the caldera.

After the tour of Valles Caldera we headed north on NM 4 to Bandelier National Monument [see previous posts for info on it's inhabitants].

A series of ladders takes you 140 feet up the cliff wall to the alcoves that were inhabited native Americans before the Conquistadores arrived.

It was a beautiful autumn day here in New Mexico.

I am SO not looking forward to the cold gray days of winter.

I'm out.



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