Aspen Grove and Wildflower Meadow near Valles Caldera

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A lush aspen grove and bright wildflowers are an unexpected find in New Mexico, but the volcanic soils of Valles Caldera provide an oaisis of richness in the sandy desert.

Believe it or not, you can find this beautiful scene of a dense aspen grove and blooming wildflowers only a few hours outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you never make it out of southern New Mexico, it’s easy to believe the entire state is desert. However, just a bit to the north it becomes remarkably lush. The area pictured here is near the Valles Caldera National Preserve, an ancient volcanic landscape. Unlike the desert to the south, the volcanic soil here is quite fertile, and the landscape refreshingly green. Valles Caldera is a place I recommend to anyone visiting New Mexico. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been. In addition to being an ancient active volcano, there is still volcanic activity bubbling under the surface. In fact, it’s classified as a “super-volcano” — along with Yellowstone, one of only two in the USA. However, unlike Yellowstone, the shape of the volcano is still evident. A massive ridge from a previous explosion surrounds the entire park (the “caldera” which gives the park its name).

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