Friday, August 12, 2011

"...Where the Buffalo Roam..."

Buffalo in a field somewhere around Westcliffe, Colorado.

Friday morning.  French toast.  Last minute packing.  Group pictures.  Time to go home. 

Nobody wanted to leave beautiful Colorado!  Nobody wanted to spend two full days in the car.  And everybody dreaded returning to the heat. On top of all that, I felt guilty about leaving the grandparents with the task of getting the flat tire fixed or spending a good portion of their day buying new tires.  Joy!  They reassured me that they didn't mind, but really, who enjoys buying tires? 

But time waits for no one, so we loaded all our things in the van, grabbed the car snacks, hugged the fabulous Grands goodbye, waved farewell to the cabin, and headed southeast for Texas.  At least, we consoled ourselves, we would still be in the mountains for most of our first day of travel.  The song stuck in my head for the morning was "I'm Coming Home." 

From Alma, we took Highway 285 through the stunning Collegiate mountains.  We stopped at a well placed scenic overlook to take pictures because the morning sun was gracefully highlighting the Collegiate peaks and flattering the valleys.  It reminded me of some couture fashion photographer playing with the light to bring out every ounce of beauty from his model.  Gorgeous.

The Collegiate Mountains.  Each peak was named
after a famous university.  Mount Harvard...
Mount Yale... but there was no Mount Aggie!
We took our time and stopped at the Walmart in Salida for gas and foot apparel for Shoeless Joe.  Someone spied a Sonic across the road, so we had to made a Sonic run for ice tea and diet coke and Dr Pepper and jalapeno poppers and tator tots and a breakfast burrito. 

That's when we were reminded that we were indeed travelers in a foreign land. 

 My brother asked the waitress for some picante sauce for the burrito.  "What?" she asked.  "Could you say that again?"  He repeated, "Picante sauce," and then realized she had no idea what he was talking about.  He quickly changed to Salsa-Talk 101, rephrased the question and said, "Could we get some hot sauce, please?"  "Oh!  Sure!" she said.  We all just rolled our eyes.  Hot sauce is not even an accurate term!  Hot sauce is that thin stuff made from Tabasco peppers.  Picante is salsa, or as it's better known, Ambrosia, food for the gods.  How could she not know what picante sauce is?!?  Good grief!  My grocery store devotes an entire aisle to salsa.  Come to think of it, there is as much space given to salsa as there is to bread! 

Here's a link to great Pace Picante Sauce

From Salida, we took Highway 50 through a narrow valley filled with large ranches and a few tiny towns.  Suddenly, my sister-in-law spotted a sign that said "Beware of Buffalo."  We were talking about this and wondering who in their right mind would try to mess with a buffalo when we spotted a cow and her calf cavorting alone in a huge field.  We stopped excitedly to get pictures and then spotted about twenty more cows and calves.  We thought that was it for the bison and drove on over the next hill only to be surprised by the bulk of the herd.  It was enormous!  I've never seen so many buffalo!  There must have been three to four hundred in the herd.  It was a small vision of what it must have been like for the settlers who saw entire prairies covered with thousands of buffalo.  I'm glad ranchers and conservationists are bringing these majestic natives back. 

You probably don't need a link to "Home on the Range,"
but this is a version by Marty Robbins.

Around 4 o'clock we pulled in to Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.  From the top of the extinct volcano you can hike down a half a mile into the crater, or you can hike up to the top of the crater and walk a mile or so around the rim.  The views were incredible, not Colorado incredible - New Mexico incredible.  The Ranger explained that all the mountains we saw from the top of Capulin were also volcanoes. We could see a hundred of them for miles and miles in all directions. 

Everyone of those mountains in the distance is an
extinct volcano.  I love the scent of Pinon pine
 and the volcano was covered with them.
While we were there, a large fast moving storm system came from the west.  I counted at least six separated thunderstorms spread across fifty miles.  It was quite something.  The Ranger said that New Mexico has also been suffering from the same horrible drought devastating Texas and huge sections of the West.  But just the day before, they had a storm.  Before the storm, the land was that dead yellow brown color we see all the time during the summer.  After the storm, the land immediately greened up!  In fact, when I looked over the rim into the valley, the grass looked healthy and alive. 

But that storm had been violent.  As so often happens when there hasn't been rain in a long while, the storm caused a flash flood.  The parking lot filled with eighteen inches of rain in fifteen minutes.  On the day we were there, the Rangers weren't taking chances.  After a quiet walkie-talkie conversation, our Ranger stopped swearing in young Junior Rangers and started telling the hikers that the park was closing due to the incoming storm.  We hated to leave, the breeze was cool and the lightening in the distance was beautiful, but you don't argue with a National Park Ranger about a storm warning.  Reluctantly, we took off and instead enjoyed watching the storms follow us across New Mexico.

But just like that, as soon as we crossed the border back into Texas, the storms withered up and disappeared! 

Dag Nab  It! 

Can you see the lizard?  He's so well camaflaged that it takes a second to find him.

New Mexico - the land of enchantment.
I wonder how many miles we could see from the top of the volcano?

At first, it was all blue skies and prickly pears....

and then the storm clouds started to gather.

The storms chased us to the border of New Mexico and Texas and then they just disappeared.
The cowards!

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