We pulled out of the base camp for the final time a few minutes after 9:00. We quickly made our way to Cimarron (home of the Boy Scout Ranch, Philmont) when we decided to stop for drinking water. Leading up to this stop, Marissa had not been feeling too well, but while in the Cimarron Variety Store, we stumbled upon a “horse on a stick” that was just the perfect medicine for a 4 year old. (Much cheaper than a co-pay at the doctor’s office!) Marissa had been treating her walking stick as a horse all week, so now as we are going home, she had a legitimate horse on a stick. Much to our pleasure, Marissa felt miraculously better after this purchase and never showed any sign of illness the rest of the day. Also at the variety store, they sold a few books which were looking through. One was a fictional story of a road trip that involved chasing aliens, or something else equally amusing. While flipping through the book, we noticed that on the author’s dedication page, he had written, “A road trip is only as good as the person sitting next to you”. We all agreed with that statement, but we still didn’t buy the book.
We arrived at our major stop for the day, the Capulin Volcano National Monument, about 11:30. We got the kiddos signed up for the Junior Ranger program, watched a short video about volcanos, and had a quick bite to eat in a shady space in the parking lot of the visitors center. The shade was a requirement, because it was HOT. At least, it was hot for us after spending a week in the mountains. The temperature was in the mid 90s.
The Capulin Volcano is a cinder cone volcano which erupted about 60,000 years ago. Cinder cone volcanoes are monogenetic, which mean they only erupt one time. It is nearly perfectly preserved and it has a road you can drive practically to the top. From the top, you can walk down into the vent of the volcano, and there is a longer loop (about 1.2 miles) that allows you to walk the rim of the volcano. KK and the rest of my family walked these trails, while PK, Scott and Erin drove back into Capulin for some lunch.
We walked down into the vent first, which is now full of volcanic rock and vegetation. Marissa decided to ride her new horse-on-a-stick (its name is “Candy”) to the bottom, and she made several new friends because of her new toy. (In fact, one boy even borrowed the horse and got his picture taken on it.) For some reason not readily explained, the Capulin Volcano was very hospitable to plant life soon after the eruption. Because it was plant friendly, its exterior was covered in vegetation and trees. The presence of vegetation has kept the cone shape of the volcano intact all these years. From the top of the Capulin Volcano, you can see many, many other volcanoes, but they are not in the great shape that Capulin is. From down inside the vent, when you would look up, you could only see the clear blue, New Mexico sky. It was a beautiful day for checking out a volcano, in spite of the heat.
After our walk into the vent, we began our trek around the rim. There are benches to rest on placed periodically around the rim, and we took advantage of several of them. It was not a steady, level walk around the rim. There was still a significant amount of up and down elevation changes. From the top of the volcano (about 8100 feet), we were able to see Black Mesa, Oklahoma’s highest point. We were also severely harassed by flying gnats. We found out from the Park Ranger afterwards, that they are attracted to bright colors, which explains why KK’s white shirt was covered in gnats while Miles’ dark shirt had very few. Marissa was also excited to see that the top of the Capulin Volcano is also inhabited by a large population of ladybugs.
After walking the rim, we went back down to the visitors center, and the kids turned in their Junior Ranger workbooks and received their badges. Due to Marissa’s age, she did not get the Junior Ranger, but instead she received a Ladybug Award, which included a great ladybug button to wear on her shirt. She was pumped!
After spending about 3 hours at Capulin, we hit the road and our next stop was Des Moines, New Mexico, about 10 miles away. Stephanie’s Dad got his first job out of college in Des Moines as a teacher and coach. Steph’s Mom and Dad lived in Des Moines for only one year, but since we were in the area, we wanted to see the town. It is a very, very small town, but they have a brand new school. The only remnant left of the school that would have been from back then, was the old gymnasium, which they have left standing and appear to be using for storage.
As we left Des Moines and made our way to Boise City, Oklahoma, we could not help but notice how severely impacted this area is by the drought. Mile after mile of pasture land was as brown as you could imagine. If you looked at a picture of it, you would assume it was winter. The ranchers in this area are sure facing a hardship.
As we drove back over the Oklahoma state line, we honked and honked the car horn, which is a family tradition of ours. (No matter how good the trip is, you’re always ready to get back home.) We made our way into Boise City. The highway conveniently runs you directly into the Cimarron County courthouse. There is a traffic circle, of sorts, and the courthouse sits in the middle of it. On one side of the courthouse is the Boise City Chamber of Commerce (you will notice it by the fact it is housed in a caboose), and it was the object in front of the caboose that earned this town a stop on our trip.
Boise City has the distinction of being the only city in the continental United States to be bombed during World War II. The bombing occurred on July 5, 1943 and the accident occurred because the pilots got disoriented and mistook the lights of the town square as their target. By some sheer coincidence, we happened to show up today, on the 65thanniversary of this event. Boise City has created a replica bomb crater and so we made it a point to take a few pictures. We were disappointed to see that there was not a parade or festival going on when we arrived. As a matter of fact, you could pretty much lie down in the middle of the road and take a nap if you wanted to. There is not much happening in Boise City these days, or at least not on Saturday night. Another interesting fact about Boise City is that it is closer to the state capitols of both Colorado (Denver) and New Mexico (Santa Fe) than it is to Oklahoma City.
We also made a quick jaunt to the north edge of town, where there is a scale model, metal Apatosaurus dinosaur. Back in the 1930s, nearly 80% of the bones of an Apatosaurus were found in western Cimarron County. The steel replica is 35 feet tall and 65 feet long. It is pretty impressive to consider that something of that size once roamed the Oklahoma panhandle.
We departed Boise City for Guymon, which was our last stop of the night. We pulled into Guymon about 7:45 and headed immediately for dinner at Caktus Jack’s. This restaurant has a special place in the heart of Scott and Erin, as it was the place where they got to know each other. They had both gone there for dinner, with a larger group of people, when they were in town for a work-related event. They had only said “Hi” to each other up until their meeting at Caktus Jack’s. The rest is history. KK led a special toast to the happy couple, and then we dug in.
Dinner ran long, so we raced to the hotel and got checked in at 9:30. The pool closed at 10:00, so the kids and I quickly changed into our swimmies and jumped in. We played a game of tag in the pool the entire time. PK even showed up a few minutes later and joined in the fun. The clerk at the desk graciously allowed us an extra 10 minutes in the pool, which helped offset the aggravation of them not supplying any towels at the pool. Of course, I did not take any with me, so we ran our wet selves back to the room and everybody was ushered into the shower before bed.
We are so glad that we did not try to complete the trip from Elizabethtown to Tulsa in one day. We much prefer a more leisurely drive back home, even if it extends the trip by a day.