Capulin Volcano National Monument, NM
We lucked out. Not only did we manage to miss the rain that has plagued the western states, but we hit this part of northern New Mexico in time for some flawless late summer weather. That made our visit to Capulin Volcano a huge success.
We have moved up in the world, literally, climbing to a base elevation of about 6,800 feet here at the RV park, and that means a big change in climate. Days are sunny and in the 70s, but come sunset the temperatures plummet and anyone outside is quickly reaching for a warm layer to wear. Those humid days in Jackson Center only a few days ago seem far off now. We’ve gone from air conditioning to furnace in no time at all.
The town of Capulin is quiet and tiny, just a few houses and one small store, an RV park, and not much else. There is no grocery store, no night life, no downtown. Our host at the RV park is also the rural mail carrier. Up the road is the equally tiny Folsom, made famous for the “Folsom man” discovery which proved that humans lived in north America at least 10,000 years ago. Otherwise, this area is all wide open landscapes and grassy cattle ranches punctuated by volcanic remains like cinder cones and lava fields. It’s stunningly beautiful on a clear day.
From the summit of Capulin volcano it’s a million-dollar view in all directions, and the best way to get it is to drive to the top and hike the one mile Crater Rim Trail, which of course we did. Here’s a hint: it’s a lot easier if you go counter-clockwise.
We also hiked into the shallow crater on the Crater Vent Trail, and along the Boca Trail (2.0 miles), for a total of about 3.5 miles of hiking. Not having done much hiking lately, and also acclimating to high altitude again (about 7,800 feet at the rim), we all felt like total couch potatoes, but we plowed ahead anyway. We all need the exercise. Being winded is just part of the experience.
One feature of the volcano that we did not expect was ladybugs. Apparently they are quite prolific, for reasons we did not learn today. If you look closely at the bush in the picture, you may be able to see that the red dots are ladybugs, not berries. Eleanor purchased a souvenir pin for the park, which features a ladybug, and now we understand why it’s there.
I mentioned that this is cattle country. The RV park sells “premium beef” from one of the local cattlemen, which is all organic, grass-fed, beef with a long list of perceived benefits. The brochure even mentions that they “use animals of a gentle disposition, and always handle gently and quietly.” It’s expensive stuff but we couldn’t resist three steaks from their freezer, so now they are in our freezer. Our best souvenirs are always the edible ones.
Since we slowed down, life in the Airstream feels exactly like it did when we were full-timing—except that our daughter, who was once so portable, now requires a chunk of the dinette table for her ever-present laptop computer. But otherwise it’s very familiar, comforting, and just feels right to be out here. I would be happy to extend this trip for a few weeks if we didn’t have obligations back at home base.
Emma has of course done the Junior Ranger program, so we’ll turn in the completed booklet and get her badge tomorrow. I could easily see spending a few more days here, touring the backcountry outside the National Monument, but that would have us in the car even more and that’s not terribly appealing after 30+ hours of driving in the past week. We have decided to move tomorrow to see some native American ruins further south in New Mexico, and camp in the Cibola National Forest for a couple of days. We’ll probably lose Internet connectivity for that period so I’ll update the blog when we emerge.