Two weekends ago Mai and I took a trip to Valles Caldera National Preserve to ride bicycles. They have a cool network of back roads. Cycling is such a spectacular way to explore a park.
Valles Caldera is a supervolcano that erupted over a million years ago. It’s an enormous uplift with a ring of 11,000′ peaks encircling a broad expanse of grassy meadows in the caldera beneath the rim. There are thousands of elk there, meadows and forest, lots of open space.
There’s also a working ranch. We spotted a cowboy herding cattle with his two dogs, decorative shirt filling with air, puffing out, waving in the wind. Mai said this was the first cowboy on horseback working the range she’s seen in her two decades living in the American West.
It was a pretty sweet ride. Just after noon the building clouds started to let loose in places, curtains of rain drifting in curves toward the treetops that make up the jagged skyline. The summer monsoon is pretty predictable in the Jemez Mountains this time of year. We finished our ride just before the lightning and roaming grey clouds closed in on our location.
As we celebrate 100 years of American’s National Parks, I wonder about our vision and goals for the next 100 years. I remember reading Edward Abbey’s rants about industrial recreation, and there still seems to be a growing trend towards bigger, heavier vehicles. That’s certainly not sustainable, as we are not growing any more open space. It makes a lot of sense to park your car at the visitor center and ride your bike in if you can. Experiencing parks by bicycle is perfect.
Valles Caldera has a rich and interesting history in many ways. One of the innovative developments that has come out of human interaction with this unique landscape is “A place-based approach to science for land management.” More on that here: https://www.fort.usgs.gov/sites/sense-place-place-based-approach-science-land-management/sense-place-place-based-approach