September 17, 1998
Highlights: A close-up view of caves and sinkholes created from an eruption vent called El Calderon Location: About 20 miles south and west of Interstate 40 on N.M. 53. Sign points to turnoff near mile-marker 66 Round-trip distance: About 1 1/2 miles Difficulty: Easy Elevation: About 7,250-7,300 feet Cautions: Junction Cave, part of a lava tube system, should only be explored with light sources, boots, hat, gloves and protective clothing.
El Malpais' Calderon
The El Calderon Crater area lets imagination run free about the volcanic happenings about 115,000 years ago, where the first of the most recent volcanic activity began. The trail offers exploration opportunities and close-up views of sinkholes and lava tubes collapsed into caves.
After starting out, a short trail veers to the left, leading to Junction Cave, part of a lava tube system bordering the El Calderon flow. This cave can be explored by well-equipped adventurers.
Back on the main trail, an incline leads past two dramatic sinkholes -- one on each side of the trail -- and ends at the Bat Cave. Visitors wanting to watch the bat flight should sit quietly on the rise above Bat Cave until dusk, being careful not to disturb the flight.
Grass greened by recent rains thrives, as well as colorful Indian paintbrush and verbena growing along the well-marked trail. The trail is easily accessed and makes a refreshing stop.
Sue B. Mann