By Caitlin Kelly
Only broken by….the squeaks of dozens of prairie dogs, the first time I’d ever seen one.
A caldera is the bowl-like depression in the landscape after a volcanic eruption — in this case 1.25 millions years ago, 300 times larger than Mount St. Helens in 1980. Valles Caldera is one of the world’s best examples of an intact volcanic caldera.
Since then, of course, the land was inhabited by natives and later (after 1500) by Spanish settlers.
The site contains a few log cabins, from 1915 to 1963, but no one is allowed to stay in the park overnight although hiking and skiing in winter are allowed.
It’s a stunning place in its scale and also gave me my first sightings of wild iris and elk — we could only see a large herd of elk thanks to a telescope offered by the park rangers.
The caldera is about a 90 minute drive northwest of Santa Fe.