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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Capulin Volcano National Monument

Sixty thousand years ago, a volcano erupted in northeastern New Mexico. Today visitors can drive to the top of the conical formation and look down into what was once a mass of gaseous lava that cooled quickly. Today the crater is filled with vegetation. As you look over the crater, you see mountains in the distance. As you look the opposite direction, prairie grasslands reach as far as the eye can see.

Pronghorn Antelope
The drive to the top is definitely a mountain road that winds its way to 8,182 feet above sea level. The views are fabulous and if you're lucky, you might spot some of the deer and other animals that inhabit the national monument grounds. Just before we entered the park, fortune blessed us with a sighting of several pronghorn antelope - definitely a highlight for me.

We visited in mid-March when just a hint of spring filled the air. I would love to go back when the spring flowers are in full bloom.

Five trails offer various levels of difficulty and different views including the Greater Vent Trail that leads to the bottom of the crater.  The lava flows cover more than fifteen square miles and are best viewed from the crater rim. The volcano is extinct and, therefore, in no danger of erupting again.

Located off Hwy 67 between Raton and the Texas border, the Capulin (cap-poo-LEEN) Volcano National Monument is definitely worth a stop.

Just a note - at the time of our visit, the visitors center was closed for renovation. A temporary center and restrooms (porta potties) serve visitors during this time.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon

Even when travel is unplanned, it is rewarding to discover new places along the way. I had heard of Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, Texas, but had never visited.

I didn't realize that Texas is home to a beautiful canyon carved out thousands of years ago by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.
CCC building from the 1930s

The canyon is 120 miles long and up to 20 miles wide and 800 feet deep. Called "the Grand Canyon of Texas," it is an unexpected natural wonder amidst miles and miles of ranch land in the Texas panhandle.

The park opened in 1934, and encompasses 29,183 acres of the northernmost part of the canyon. Developed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), it is a visitor's delight. Rock buildings from the 1930s enhance the park and provide camping and cabin facilities.

At different times, the canyon was home to the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa Indians. In 1874, the US Cavalry were dispatched to the area to move the Indians to Oklahoma. They captured more than 1400 horses, keeping some and destroying the rest. Without their horses, the Indians surrendered.

In 1876, the JA Ranch was opened by Charles Goodnight. At one time, the canyon was home to more than 100,000 head of cattle. A piece of the ranch is still operational today.

For park information, visit