A Gift Received

Where do we go from here?

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.

The approach to Sierra Grande and the Raton-Clayton Field.

Capulin Volcano viewed from highway 64. A single lane road cut into the cone to reach the upper trailhead.

Looking down into the vent base. It’s a bit steeper than the photo suggests.


Steep trail in the morning. The asphalt trail helped, except when there’s ice 

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.


Scrub oak branches encased in ice.

It’s a beautiful day.

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 lateral view of the shield volcano Sierra Grande

A view to the west near the first summit on the Rim Trail with the photographer’s shadow in that ubiquitous pose.

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.

One comment

  1. Sally Goodman · December 19, 2018

    I love this, Barry. Beautiful photos of a wild and lonely place and it’s always good to have a reminder that beauty is all around us – we just have to stop and open our eyes to it. We’re all too busy these days just “getting somewhere” without enjoying the journey. On the occasions when we have the time, I do try to take the less well travelled roads for just this reason; being able to slow down and see the scenery through which we’re passing and being able to stop when we want to. Last Easter we took a different route with friends and ended up watching twin lambs being born right by the side of the road, which wouldn’t have happened had we taken the faster route. xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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