Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In northeast New Mexico, as some of you know, there are several old volcano cones, but only one has trees; that is Capulin, which last erupted about 30,000 years ago (if I remember what the video said in the visitors center). For $5 you can drive up around the cone and then follow two or three trails, one that leads into the caldera, long inactive, another around the rim.

The caldera proved to be quite the amphitheater, and I heard a mom down below (unseen here) tell her children that she needed to climb back out because she had to "go potty." Why wait?

The snow on the trees is actually some kind of frost event unique to that elevation and ecosystem; the lichens can be up to 20,000 years old, they say, though I'd never heard of anything living quite that long. Perhaps the writers of such brochures exaggerate. Perhaps only the ancestry extends that far, like everybody else's. I imagine a long line of European immigrants (or their descendants) crossing through the grasslands
and hillsides of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles toward the Southwest and coming across this odd monument with a sort of relief: a sign from God in Heaven and all that, a precursor to the glory of the southern Rockies, a place to hide from savage Injuns still untended to by Washington.

A herd of pronghorn hung out on the boundary as I left, like smokers outside a high-rise. They and the cattle seemed both antagonistic and a bit skittish. Maybe it was the cold.

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