Saturday, August 03, 2013


As soon as we left the Valles Caldera it started raining. It poured for a while so we pulled over and had some snacks of canned beans, chips, and cookies. When we got back down to Jemez Springs we could tell it hadn't rained as hard there but there are several low places on the road through town where the water pours across it when it rains in the higher elevations causing some smaller flashfloods. Flashfloods can be deadly if you get caught in a big one. We had seen were the road crews had be doing some work in these same areas when we had come through in the morning. Now they were going to have to work them again. In fact we had to wait about 15 minutes at one place to let the grader make it safe enough to cross. Here are some cars that were in front of us as we went across the bad places and some of the water running on into some natural ditches beside the road.

In this wash out the pavement had let go and there was a drop off of about 5 or 6 inches and then you had to go back up on the other side.

Much worse than these and the road would have been closed.

Caldera Wildlife

It is the wild animals that everyone always wants to see and photograph or at least I do. On this trip I got some good photos of a chipmunk that was eating grass at one of the places we pulled over to take some scenic photos.

At another place a pair of these birds were catching bugs on the ground. So far I haven't been able to identify them yet. They had a lot of yellow/green on them and were just larger than a sparrow.

These prairie dogs were in a large village of them on the drive from the paved road to the Visitors Center at the Caldera. We did see a badger run across the road in front of us but I couldn't get the camera up in time. The Center people said there were lots of badgers in the prairie dog village trying to catch them. The badgers help keep the rodents down. The 'dogs' are cute but leave lots of deep holes in the ground for deer, elk, horses, cows, and even people to step in and get hurt.

 From the paved road we saw a herd of about 30 elk but they didn't want to come close to us. We could barely see some smaller ones, probably this years calves running and playing.

 There were elk in the trees here.
We also saw some deer but again couldn't get a photo before they were gone.

Longmire Cabin

These photos are of the cabin used in the TV show Longmire that is one of my new favorite shows. The cabin was in the same area as the other old buildings on the Valles Caldera.  Longmire is sort of a modern western. This cabin is Sheriff Walt Longmire's on the show. It has been seen on the show many times and I was sure it was on the Caldera from what I had seen. Of course I had heard it was filmed in New Mexico even though the story is set in Wyoming. I have a hard time remembering it is supposed to be Wyoming when watching it as I see places in New Mexico I have been to. They have had some trouble filming this summer due to the fire and had to change some of the filming locations because of it. A lot is filmed in the Jemez Mountains and some in Los Vegas, New Mexico. I understand it will start being shown in Canada and England as well as in the US. Oddly the main star is an Australian actor named Robert Taylor, who is a good actor. Lou Diamond Phillips is also on the show.
Of course I almost missed these photos as my camera decided it needed fresh batteries right then.

Valles Caldera

Sorry to put so many photos on one post but I felt it was the best way to tell about the tour we took of the Valles Caldera. The Caldera, Spanish for when a volcano blows and then falls in on it's self, is about half way between Jemez Springs and Los Alamos, New Mexico. For many, many years we have driven by here on the road seeing only the part that can be seen from the highway. From the mid 1800's to the year 2000 it was a private ranch owned by several different families. In 2000 the US Government bought it to make it into a big national park. Over the past 13 years the government has continued to run it as a ranch and let biologist, geologist, and many other 'logist type scientist onto the ranch to see exactly what is there. Not only did two big volcanos explode here but several smaller ones making it a very unique landscape. Because of the volcanos there is still a lot of geothermal activity in the area even though the volcanos are considered extent. We didn't know it but recently a Visitors Center had been built and the road to it is now open for people to come in a see part of the Caldera. Most of it can only be seen if you get special permits for hiking or take one of the bus tours that are run frequently.

 This little creek is considered the upper part of the Jemez River. From the gates we came about 2 miles on a narrow dirt road and across the river before getting to the Visitors Center.

 Parking at the Visitors Center. The red Chevy pickup on the right is ours.
 We were glad to see the Center is run by Solar Power. Here is the solar panel and the shed for the batteries. While there we learned of the tours and one that was leaving soon was only a 45 minute tour for only $5.00. We quickly decided to go and were glad we did. We learned a lot more about the Caldera, the geology and history of the area. We got to see most of the orginal ranch buildings that are still standing. We were glad to see that the firefighters were able to stop the big fire just about 50 feet from the buildings. Most of these buildings have been used in a lot of movies from long ago to recently in the new Lone Ranger movie with Johnny Depp in it as Tonto.

This is one of the older buildings and you can see the sandbags on the left hand side where they are afraid the rains might wash it out due to the damage done by the fire.

These 2 buildings are over a hundred years old.

 Volunteers putting out sandbags around the buildings.



 This is a round house, made of native stone. I think in about the mid 1950's. Made round as the Navajo hogans are round, and the Pueblo kivas are round. Our guide said there were 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and a big center area with a huge fireplace. It was used for guests, hunters, scientist's, and other special guests. I sure would have liked to have seen the inside of it and the other buildings.

we didn't get to get out of the van but were told that the Lone Ranger movie was filmed in this area and under the hill here.

 The tour van and our guide Tom.

 It really doesn't show but most of the trees on the hill side had been burned.
Tom, our guide, who did a great job. There are other tours that require reservations that are all day, or about 2 hours and one on weekends in the evening for seeing elk, as there are many herds of elk and deer on the ranch.

We had to get some sort of souvenir, so hubby got me a deer horn whistle at the Visitors Center Gift Shop. After I got home I saw on the card where it was hand made in Wyoming. Since deer and elk loose their antlers each year no animals are harmed for these. They have been cut, and a piece of wood added to make it whistle. It will go well with the 2 bears I have carved out of elk antler.   

Birthday Trip

We decided to take a drive up to our favorite place yesterday, the Jemez Mountains. It was to be part of my birthday present. We stopped at several places we frequently stop at. It had rained the day before and everything seemed fresh and clean with the smell of pine, juniper, and wet dirt.

We stopped at the Forest Service Office where this huge cottonwood tree is, and bought our yearly permit to cut firewood.

We were interested in seeing the area where the fire had gone through in June on Thompson Ridge where we had heard it had jumped the paved road that goes between Jemez Springs and Los Alamos, New Mexico. We saw these gates and signs at most of the places where you can get off the road. One sign said Closed to Public Use with a sign beside of it that read Please Close the Gate. I know the yellow sign had been there before but it looked funny.

We could see where the fire had burned most of the trees on the hilltops but left a lot of the small grassy areas. This pretty little ranch was lucky, as it came almost to their door.

You can see the burnt trees on this ridge.

 But we did see lots more wildflowers than we expected.