|Just 115,000 years ago this was a river of molten lava that cooled and collapsed.|
While hiking short nature loops, be on the lookout for side trails and old roads. Old maps sometimes show old ranching or logging routes that are no longer maintained but can be followed (if you have enough imagination). I used this technique to transform a short morning stroll into an all-day hike.
The El Calderon Loop Trail goes past three caves (ie. lava tubes), lava trenches, and up to the El Calderon Cinder Cone. Learning about the geology and natural history from the trail guide and interpretive signs opened my eyes to geological processes that shaped this landscape.
|From on top of El Calderon, the Cerritos de Jaspe can be seen to the south.|
|Soft loose cinders on the rim of El Calderon. From here, you can see where rivers of lava flowed.|
|Ponderosa pines thrive in the volcanic soils around El Calderon.|
|The road is a sheet of ice that later turns into a muddy quagmire as the day wears on.|
|Reading the NPS’s trail guide and sending out SPOT OK messages to show my emergency contact where I head off trail.|
|Mushy deep patches of snow make for slow plodding.|
|Red sandstone bluffs are several million years older than the lava flows.|
|Deer and coyote prints surround the muddy “tanks”|
Important note: Follow local regulations concerning off-trail travel. Some areas require you to stay on the trail to protect the environment or resources. Respect local guidelines and know where boundaries of private land are.
El Malpais National Mounment
El Calderon Guide