Thursday, June 25, 2015

Valles Caldera National Preserve

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is the site of a ancient super volcano, dormant for millions of years.  You can click on this link here to learn more about the geology and history of the area.  This Wikipedia site describes the Preserve's historical importance to the Native Americans, it's ranching history as well as how it came to be a National Preserve in 2000.  This site also lists the films that have scenes made in the Preserve.  The Valles Caldera National Preserve is home to 2,500-3,500 elk.  On our visits we have mostly seem them gathered in the center area of the valley.
The elk herds can sometimes be found in the center of Valle Grande.

That's the Visitor Center to the right of the possible cinder cone.
Our day trip to this scenic place began early.  We arrived to the Visitor Center around 8:15 am to get in line for one of the 24 day/backcountry vehicle passes the Preserve issues each day. 
Entrance sign, notice the use of black obsidian rock at the base.
We were not the first ones there that morning, others were in line in front of us.

The dirt road through the Preserve is about 22 miles.  We took most of the day to do the entire drive.  We stopped several times along the road to enjoyed the quiet and the expansive scenery.  There are several pull offs and hiking trails along the way and we did see several folks stopping to set off on day hikes.  Although we didn't see many native animals as we had hoped, this day trip was still worth the effort.  We took a picnic lunch too which gave us more time to spend in this peaceful place.

The only view we got of the elk this day.
Old grove of Ponderosa pine.
This is the last stop on the eastern section of the drive.  We did see a coyote here but my camera couldn't zoom in close enough to capture a good photo.
Due to the unusual amount of rain this season, the wildflowers are abundant.

Ron is walking along a wash that is near the Obsidian Valley.  Here, we saw lots of obsidian rocks scattered about.
Black obsidian
Western Bluebird
Wildflowers everywhere
Furthermost reach on the western section of the drive.
Weather changes quickly here.  This storm seemed to roll in from nowhere.
More later.

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