Saturday, August 03, 2013

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.   

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