We set out on this road trip inspired by the book, “The Worst Hard Times.” I discuss the reasons why we took this trip in this post. While we experienced a flat tire and needed a license to drink in one Texas restaurant, and saw some real-life pains that the pandemic has wreaked in one small town, this wasn’t an experience I’d trade for anything.
This is the last of my Dust Bowl Road Trip posts. Phew. I had a lot to say… er… write. Full of the unexpected, this trip may not have taken us to the most trendy parts of the United States, but sometimes those are the most fun and memorable.
Thank you for reading along!
We left Clayton, New Mexico on a Sunday morning. We were heading home with no plans to hurry. The sky was dappled with clouds as we drove north on Hwy 87. Ryan had gotten it in his head that we were going to Capulin Volcano National Monument, about 45 minutes from Clayton in what is called the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. This area covers 8,000 square miles and encompasses relatively young volcanos, the best-known being Capulin Volcano.
Located right off Hwy 87, we stopped at the well-appointed Capulin Volcano National Monument Visitor’s Center, watched a video about what we were going to see, paid the $20 entry fee, and started climbing. That’s right, we drove up the volcano to the top and the views are spectacular.
The volcano is 8,182 feet above sea level and 1300 feet above the surrounding high plains.
Fritzi was not allowed to walk the Crater Rim Trail with us, but stayed behind in the truck, happily barking at anyone who walked by. From the parking area, the trail is a 1-mile loop and a little steep and narrow.
On the day we visited a stiff wind was blowing. We could tell it blows a lot here because many of the small trees along the volcano rim have grown at an angle, seemingly blown into that shape. Despite the amazing views, I was mesmerized by the ground cover of yellow flowers.
I haven’t walked the rim of a volcanic mountain so I can check that off the list. I do recommend it, but the wind was a bit trying. We walked counterclockwise and towards the end, the wind made it hard to walk and talk, especially at the same time.
One especially unique aspect here is that visitors can take the 0.2 miles (one-way) Crater Vent Trail down, down, down to the bottom of Capulin’s crater. It’s an elevation change of 100 feet. Quite frankly, holes in the ground fascinate Ryan much more than me, but I was happy to get out of the wind.
I am a huge fan of the National Parks system and have been since I was a child. They’ve done an excellent job at this location. I’d highly recommend having a look around the Visitors Center where you’re bound to learn a few things.
If you live in the area or plan it right, there are tours here. They cover geology, local history, flora and fauna, and there are night sky events (they have these huge mobile telescopes). Call (575) 278-2201 for more information.
We had no plan to visit Folsom until we saw the sign. It’s near Capulin National Monument so we decided why not? We are really glad that we visited. This little town of few residents has a history that goes beyond the Folsom Man. It’s played a significant part in cowboy history.
And, it has a museum that happened to open for the season on the very Sunday we were in town. Established in 1966, it has occupied the Doherty Mercantile building since then. It’s a gem of a museum and history buffs have to put it on their itineraries. Ask about Jack Black Ketchum because while his story ended in Clayton (as I have noted in a previous post) it actually started much closer to Folsom.
We decided to take the long way back to Interstate 25 from Folsom. We drove Hwy 456 to Hwy 551 through Branson, Colorado, on Hwy 389, and then west on Hwy 160 into Trinidad where we returned to Interstate 25.
Until we hit Hwy 160, we saw exactly two cars on the road and two sheep running free in Branson. Honestly, I had the feeling we’d run into a cowboy herding cattle down the road, but we didn’t. In addition to the population of 75 souls and at least two sheep, Branson also featured a tiny little historic jail that inspired a stop and some photos.
Taking back roads is always best. Always.
Thanks for taking this out-of-the-ordinary road trip with us! I hope you had a little fun reading about the Dust Bowl Road Trip. We can’t wait to take another literary/history-inspired road trip.