I haven’t done so in a while, but I am eager to get back on a William Least Heat-Moon Blue Highways solo photo road trip. The lonely roads evoke for me a continuous curiosity and the appreciation of sere beauty.
I’ve mostly been a destination driver for a good part of my driving life. I drove until I got to where I was going with the briefest stops for gas, bathrooms, food and a place to stay. It came late, but I was fortunate to discover it was always a good decision to head out with gear and food for what the back roads offer in that solo rambling all the while avoiding the Interstates. There was usually a general destination, but time and accuracy of the path was always subject to change. And It’s true there is often not much to see when amongst the triple piggyback semis on the freeways, and no easy way to pull off when something catches the eye.
The lonely roads allow for a saner speed, and contrapuntally to the fury of the freeway the big tell is when I’m on a blue highway when the merest glimpse of a thing is worth a second look. I actually stop, turn around and get back to that thing. Then there is contemplation, considering light and composition, suspending time without worry for a while to get a shot, a chance at landing a good photo.
This image, which I’ve titled in the caption, was an example of catching something out of my eye while traveling at a modest speed on a lonely road. It helped me slow down, stop, and turn around for a better and contemplative view. I opened the passenger door, and sat just looking at the scene. I wondered how it could be the thing it is, the separation.
This visit to Capulin, one of several, was near dawn on a cold October morning. The morning dew had frozen on the creosote and scrub oaks along the trail.
The region that encompasses northeastern New Mexico and a bit beyond is known as the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. It’s not active, and hasn’t been for a long time. The early Raton Phase at the western edge of the Field was active from 9 to 3 million years ago. The Clayton Phase, at the eastern edge was active between 3 and 1 million years ago. The Capulin Phase began about 1 million years ago at the center of the Field. Capulin Volcano last erupted 60,000 years ago, when mammoths and giant bison still roamed the surrounding plains.
When you reach the first summit at the southeastern edge of the rim you’ll see something rare on the continent—a shield volcano. The most recognized shield volcano is the one that rises from the ocean floor to form the Big Island of Hawaii, ending at the twin peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
A welcome resting spot with spectacular views. The bench is made from recyclable materials and they have the charred missing chunk in the visitors center at the entrance to the monument. It seems the metal support was irresistible to a passing thunderstorm and got hit by lightening.
The gift: In this small slice of time, it was lovely to see more ladybirds than could possibly be counted. Whether from cold or a migratory resting place, or for romance it was a great serendipitous moment. This is a clustered group of Two-Spotted Ladybug/Lady Beetle. Adalia bipunctata.
We have moments of serendipitous beauty at times. I love the gift from Kurt Vonnegut that we ought to stop when we find some epiphany and just say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
I’m passing the gift along. I hope you can say it too when the mood or scene strikes, with Kurt and me.