It’s hard to describe the experience of hiking in the Valles Caldera. You’re not going to see any breathtaking mountaintop views but, for me, being out in that vast, empty space is special enough that it almost takes my breath away. And then I’m always impressed by the stillness and quiet as you gaze out over the huge valley floor of the caldera.
Most of what are labeled as hiking trails in the caldera are actually old roads used in the days when the area was owned by ranchers. You usually have to walk out in the open for quite a ways until you reach the tree-covered slopes. On a day as hot as today that can be less than enjoyable.
There was more elevation than I had expected. After a mile or two the road was overgrown with dried grasses and vegetation that scratched my legs and filled my socks and shoes with prickers. I was berating myself for not bringing gaiters. By the time that we came to the huge, washed out gully that had to be crossed if we wanted to go any further I was quite cross. But we managed to find a way to climb down into it and back up the other side. Shortly after that was our lunch stop so I started to feel better.
The highlight of the day for me was the treasure that I found on the way back. It was laying right by the gully crossing and I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. The caldera is a protected area and I couldn’t have brought it home even if I wanted to. But I was content to marvel at the thought of the huge bull elk that left it behind. Then I left it behind for the next passerby to admire.