A couple of days later we decided to carry on along the Jemez Mountain trail, this time as we left Bernalillo behind it was lovely sunny day.
This time our first stop was Jemez Falls, we had the place to ourselves. The short ¼ mile trail to the falls winds under tall pines along an easy trail covered in large soft pine needles. The needles reminded me of those used by the Apache to make baskets.
You can hear the falls and see the safety rail as you get closer to the end of the trail. Here there is no actual ‘trail’ you just follow were countless people have walked over the years to get to the edge. It’s very pretty and must be pretty spectacular during the monsoon season.
Valles Caldera National Preserve was our next stop, I didn’t think the preserve actually opened until the end of May, but highway 4 is a stunning drive that takes you across the wide open grasslands before continuing onto Los Alamos. We didn’t expect the preserve to be open, but what we hadn’t realised was that the Preserve open at the weekend. How lucky was that? We turned onto the drive and followed the 2 mile dirt road to the visitor centre. Traces of snow still lay on the ground at the side of the road and it was pretty chilly.
The caldera is a collapsed super volcano created 1.25 million years ago. Magma began to refill empty magma chambers causing lots of smaller eruptions which created rounded domes along a ring fracture. At its highest point, Redondo Peak rose to over 11,000 ft making it one of the clearest examples of a ‘resurgent’ caldera.
While it’s generally considered dormant, about 5 miles beneath the surface is magma that some vulcanologists think could be ‘stirring’. I hope they’re wrong as 5 miles doesn’t sound much between us and all that hot stuff!
The area became public land in 2000 and encompasses nearly 90,000 acres of high elevation grasslands, forest, wetlands and shrub land. It also contains the headwaters for the East Fork of the Jemez River and San Antonio Creek.
Sadly we arrived at the wrong time to take any of the tours, but this beautiful place is definitely on our ‘to return to’ list.
As we’d spent so long here, we didn’t make it to Los Alamos, instead we retraced our route and took a short, very short, hike along the East Fork of the Jemez River.
Driving back into the tiny town of La Cueva we took the road to Fenton Lake State Park. It’s very pretty and while we enjoyed our visit, I don’t think it’s somewhere we’d return to, as there is still a heck of a lot out there we’ve yet to discover.
Have fun, we are!