Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Aden Crater and Kilbourne Hole
Aden Crater and Kilbourne Hole are two volcanic features in southwestern Dona Ana County. They're probably less than 10 miles apart and are closer to El Paso,Texas than to Las Cruces. I've visited Aden Crater a couple of times, Kilbourne Hole once. Since these areas are so far off the beaten track,most people don't know that there are extensive areas of relatively recent lava flows( malpais) in this part of New Mexico. There is also a chain of cinder cones( the West Potrillo Mountains) and several maars- of which Kilbourne Hole is the most well known.Read this if want to know what a maar is: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maar . Kilbourne Hole gets quite a few visitors despite its remote location and the poor condition of the road that leads directly to the rim( you're basically driving in barely vegetated sand dunes as I recall). Some come there for the rockhounding. Others come to party. The second group likes to leave trash and shoot guns( see "Shotgun Shells" in this blog). I remember there was an old car that had been pushed over the rim on the south side. There were other large household items dumped as well. Walking away from the parking area our attention was quickly diverted to the many volcanic " bombs" that littered the ground. Some had an obsidian sheen on the outside and when broken apart are almost entirely composed of olivine, a light green mineral which when cut is the semi-precious gemstone peridot. I still have a few of these that I collected lying around. We climbed down in the yucca studded crater bottom and wandered around a bit.There was the occasional larger,loose crystal of olivine to be found, to keep things interesting.
Aden Crater is a small cinder cone a few miles to the northwest and has a parking area in the grassland about a half mile to the west of extinct volcano itself. We picked up a trail that led us up through a break in the rough rim of dark volcanic rock. At the time of our last visit( about ten years ago) it looked like it was still possible to drive up into the crater from the northeast side.We looked around at the various forms of volcanic rock and the 100 foot deep pit in the craters center. You can see pahoehoe and aa and all that good stuff right here close to home and not have travel to Hawaii. Directions to both these places are fairly complicated. One good source for them is Greg Magee's Dayhikes and Nature Walks in Las Cruces-El Paso Area.There are resources on the internet as well. Consult with the BLM Las Cruces Office for the best information. They are the land managers for these two sites as well as almost all the surrounding terrain.These are pretty easy hikes( my parents made the one to Aden Crater) to interesting places. Just keep in mind that you probably won't have cell service, and the many dirt roads can be very confusing to navigate and can turn from decent enough for sedans to impassable to almost all vehicles if the rain comes. Don't come here in summer,not only is it unbelievably hot, it's also when that rain is most likely to catch you off guard.