Page 33

DESERT EXPOSURE

AUGUST 2017 • 33

HIGH PLACES • GABRIELLE TEICH

Visiting a Volcano Capulin Volcano National Monument

A

dmitted, it’s a stretch to get there from Southern New Mexico. We got to the town of Raton, just shy of the border to Colorado, after a long day of driving. This was the first stop on our grand summer tour that took us through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks all the way to Bozeman, Montana. But Capulin is still in New Mexico – and well worth a visit. If you are wondering about the name: It means Chokecherry in Spanish and the volcano is thus aptly named because it is covered in chokecherry trees – which turn to smaller shrubs the higher you go up. We got there (in the beginning of June) bright and early at 8 a.m. – and were told to wait. A hail storm the previous night had knocked some rocks and smaller boulders loose on the road up to the rim. The rangers were busy clearing the way. When we finally drove up, spiraling around the volcano, we were glad we had left our pop-up camper at the bottom. This road (first

paved in 1987) is scary enough in a regular vehicle without a house on wheels in tow. If you are faint of heart do not sit in the passenger’s seat on the way up! The hike around the rim is little more than a mile long and steep in parts. The views all around are astounding and the sign informed us that on clear days you can see New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. If only there were those lines on the ground like they have on maps. Other signs on the rim trail also explain several volcanic features in the vicinity. The area is called a volcanic field and a new cone could pop up and spew lava any minute. After our round on the rim we had some more energy to burn off and hiked down into the caldera, an even shorter walk of 0.3 miles, but steep down – and of course back up. It gives you an interesting perspective though and we were lucky enough to see some deer on the green slopes inside the caldera. It eased our minds to know that it

is very unlikely that this same volcano could erupt again. If you are vying for a longer hike try the one leading through the flow area of the volcano. We decided against it because for us the road was calling. One interesting phenomenon we discovered for ourselves were caterpillars. Whole bunches of them, seemingly tied together by some kind of spider web material. They were attached to the chokecherry shrubs and once we discovered them, we saw them everywhere. They are called tent caterpillars and develop into a little brown moth. The wind and the higher altitude made this a cooler-than-expected adventure. Who remembers jackets in June in New Mexico? Capulin Volcano National Monument does not offer any camping sites but several state parks in the vicinity do. The city of Raton also has several hotels and motels to choose from. I probably wouldn’t have driven all the way from Las Cruces up there to see only this, but if your

Capulin Volcano National Monument caldera rewards the hiker with its soft curves. (Photos by Gabrielle Teich) Strange wildlife like these tent caterpillars can be seen by the observant eye visiting northern New Mexico.

route takes you somewhere near it anyway, go check it out! The park is only a half hour drive from I-25 and the entrance fee of $7 is very reasonable. Of German origin, Gabriele Teich has called Las Cruces her home for the last 18

years — and loved every minute of it, hiking the mountains in the immediate surrounding and all over this beautiful state.

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