Thursday, 29 January 2015

Mesas, Volanoes, Thunderstorms and Snow!

Highway 73 took us from Raton, onto the wide open grasslands of windswept Johnson Mesa.   At over 8,000 ft on a beautifully sunny, clear, day we could see for miles.
Once we hit the top of the mesa it was absolutely deserted, 

all we saw were some pronghorn, at least I think they were pronghorn, and in the distance we could see some working cowboys.

We stopped at the historic Johnson Mesa Church.   St John’s Methodist Episcopal Church was completed in the 1897 it’s on the State of New Mexico Cultural Register.   The church was locked so we couldn’t look inside.

The cemetery is right across the road.   It’s a very lonely place, and we wondered how far people have to travel to attend church?
Dropping down from the mesa we drove into the tiny village of Folsom which, according to the sign, has a population of 77.   The village is named after Francis Folsom, bride-to-be of President Grover Cleveland. When she stepped from the train to explore the little town, the townsfolk were smitten by her charms and changed the name from Rag Town to Folsom in her honour.

The main road in the village of Folsom.
Folsom is probably most well known as the home of the discovery of the Folsom Point.   After a disastrous flood in 1908, a cowboy called George McJunkin discovered a cache of fossilized bison bones and realised that the bones weren’t those of modern bison.   The spear points found in the skeletons became known as the Folsom Points.
There is a small museum in Folsom and I was looking forward to looking around it, but, unfortunately for me it was only open by appointment.   Oh well, I suppose that is what you get when you’re travelling out of the main season.   Maybe we’ll get chance to visit some other time.

Folsom Museum
Our next stop was the Capulin Volcano National Monument.   The National Monument preserves a cinder cone that came into being about 60,000 years ago.
After watching the informational film we drove the narrow 2 mile access road to the top.
There were some great views across the plains, but we could see some black clouds approaching, although they looked as though they’d miss us.   So we set off along the circular path around the cone.

It was interesting to find out that what we thought were mountains were actually volcanic cinder cones, shield volcanoes, tuff rings and volcanic domes and what looked like flat topped mesas were actually ancient lava flows.

We could also see what looked like rocky ridges, but were in actual fact pressure ridges.   They are caused by hot lava flowing beneath a surface that has already cooled and hardened, fascinating isn’t it?
As we followed the path up the side of the cone, the storm we’d thought was quite far away was suddenly closer, and we could hear the thunder and see the lightening. Oops!   Hiking the highest point for miles around in a thunderstorm isn’t the best place to be, so we abandoned our walk and headed back to the truck.
The temperature dropped and it was quite fascinating to watch the storm as it got ever closer.

Driving back down we passed the ranger on his way to close the trail.   Before we left the park it was pouring with rain, and before we got to our planned lunch stop at Capulin Country store it was snowing!
Sadly, the store no longer has a restaurant, so lunch consisted of coffee and a chocolate bar.    Mind you the store does have some really rather nice things, but I resisted temptation and we followed highway 64 back to Raton.
On the way the snow turned to rain and we were treated to a spectacular lightening show.  
Have fun, we are!

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