One of the more interesting cities in New Mexico is Los Alamos. Remote, up in the Jemez Mountains with land that includes forests and archeological sites. And it’s the home of an advanced nuclear laboratory performing defense research along with other types of research.
Right around the corner is Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Historic Site, with a beautiful drive along State Route 4 to Jemez where there is a Pueblo, State Monument, the Falls and the Springs. We have been but not today.
Being early risers, we drive up to the Valles Caldera first. It’s a beautiful cool almost fall like day. The Valles Caldera is at over 8,000 feet in elevation, and you have to drive over the mountains to get there. This is only our second time visiting. When the valley comes in into view, it is absolutely stunning – a huge 13.7 mile wide volcano caldera, thankfully inactive.
Elk, bear, coyote, hawks, prairie dogs and mountain blue birds live here. And some rancher’s cattle, which seem to run every time a car comes down the road.
A dirt road takes you the Valles Caldera National Preserve and a small visitor center. Ranger-led talks and hikes are available. There is also a shuttle that will take you out to the old ranch house where Longmire was filmed. We didn’t take that detour last time, nor this time. There is a short hike around a volcanic mass, through the grasslands. Many Mountain Bluebirds watch us and fly ahead along the trail while very obese prairie dogs scamper back and forth to their holes/homes.
Quiet, peaceful, nature at its best. Signs along the trail include pictures with a description of what 4th graders thought of the Valles Caldera and the trail.
A short ride in the car back to Los Alamos to a museum we missed the last time we were here – the Bradbury Science Museum. This museum is the public facility for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Named for the first director of the laboratory – Norris Bradbury (Not Ray Bradbury like we thought LOL).
The well-thought displays tell the story of how the lab was started during the Manhattan Project and continues today with research and testing. If you are a science geek, this is the museum for you. There was so much to learn our brains hurt. We are ancients and we think the things people are doing here at Los Alamos are incredible. We will go back with our thinking caps on. A fascinating learning experience. A bonus for Steve: He saw the style of rotary calculator he used in 1969 at Kerr-McGee Oil Company to convert pipeline liquids and gases to standard volumes. Yes, we are ancients.
Heading back to our little Santa Fe casita as the afternoon thunderstorms develop. As I’m writing this blogpost, it just rained – a nice 2 minute downpour – ah, the difference in the high desert from the coast of Florida!