Monday, October 15, 2012

Cerrillos Hills State Park

 I visited here  a few years ago when it was still under BLM and Santa Fe County jurisdiction, now it's one of our New Mexico State Parks. This park is northwest of the tiny town of Cerrillos, NM( filming location for Young Guns- one of my faves). It is maybe a twenty minute drive from Santa Fe on NM 14( the Turquoise Trail) and is easy to find if you follow the signs. There is a day use fee and you can self-pay at the parking area. There are many old roads to wander around on amongst the steep,but low hills. We took one called the J.C. Sanchez Trail. It follows an old road up hills,past some old mines( not turquoise mines though it never actually said on any of the interpretive signs what had been mined), through an arroyo,up some more and then finally wound down to the main arroyo, which  also  contains the main drivable road through  the park, which we followed back to our car. All in all a little less than 2 miles of walking. This hills are vegetated with short grasses and juniper.Views of Turquoise Mountain could be had at the  high point of our hike. In the main arroyo there was a spring where cottonwoods grew. This was a nice place for a short walk or ride. There is no camping.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Salinas Pueblos National Monument

 I 'm finding it hard to talk about these places in a way that is satisfactory to me.The feeling they evoke is elusive, and yet is at the very essence of the New Mexico experience for me.  A collision of  the mundane and mysterious. Hopelessly remote and forgotten at one time,but now accessible by paved roads- in the case of Abo just a stone's throw from US Highway 60, though still quite far from major population centers. Perhaps it's just the visuals that capture my imagination: the  red stone of Abo against the cloudless blue sky, the soaring walls of Quarai, the honeycomb of gray stone that is the pueblo of Gran Quivira. Each setting is different as well:  chaparral and bare rock arroyos at Abo, the foothills evergreen forest at Quarai, and the vast plains and low mesas of Gran Quivira. The lush riparian areas fed by springs at  Abo and Quarai made them targets for resettlement in the 19th century. Gran Quivira now sits strangely atop a juniper studded hill surrounded by waterless( until advent of wells and the windmill)  grasslands where livestock graze. We've visited Abo twice now, Quarai and Gran Quivira once. Abo and Quarai were stops on backroads trips to and from Santa Fe. Gran Quivira is not on the way to anything, at least not from Las Cruces. Take some time to visit these places when you're in need of perspective. You will be rewarded.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holy Ghost Trail (FT 283)- Pecos Wilderness

 I'd had a great day of fishing here 5 years ago, but now we were returning to soak up some Fall color and the forest's "good tidings." I had gotten some misinformation on the Santa Fe National Forest's web site that the trail to Spirit Lake ran 3.3 miles from the end of  FR 122( the road to the Holy Ghost Campground). There was no trail like that on the map, just the roundabout route using the Winsor Trail( FT 254).  All along the hike I was hoping there would some sort of cut-off,use trail, or something that took a direct route to the lake, but no such path materialized. It would have been better to  have researched the thing a little more,  but I didn't have any of my books, or my Alltopo software. I might have dug a little deeper on the internet, but sometimes I just leave things sort of open- ended.  I don't know why. Particularly, since I am frequently more meticulous in my planning.As it turns out, there was a very useful, if slightly dated, book- Dayhikes in  Santa Fe Area- put together by local Sierra Club members that had excellent information on many nearby hikes and the lowdown on the Spirit Lake hike, right there in our rental house. Problem was my wife found it there on the bookshelf only after we had returned from our the hike.
 Anyway, we took the actual trail( instead of walking through the camping area) from the parking  lot, which immediately took us high above and out of sight of the campground. It wound around and up and down a couple of side  drainages and then brought us out just beyond the group camp site  and the terminus of  FR 122C. Now we hiked mostly along the creek which  was flowing,but obviously low, crossing it several times. After  a ways the trail stayed high above the creek and only came down for the occasional crossing. There are some long  fairly level stretches punctuated with several short, steep climbs. When the trail finally leaves the creek at over three miles in, it becomes very steep indeed. We finally reached a small open meadow at the top the ridge and the junction with the Winsor Trail (FT 254) which became our turn around point. There was no indication there of the mileage to Spirit Lake,but I later found out that it was 3 miles distant from that juncture, and that Stewart Lake was actually much closer.

 The aspens were at their absolute peak. There  were also oaks, ivy, sumac,box elder and ash to add to the palette. It was spectacular, and unlike our drive up the Ski Basin road the previous day, there weren't hordes of people everywhere. We only saw two other groups of hikers. Round trip distance was probably between 8.5 and 9 miles. Elevation gain was between 1800- 2000 feet( but there is quite a bit of up and down). We saw deer early on and heard elk in the distance. My Scottie Seamus was practicing  being bird dog, flushing tiny ground birds from the brush when he wasn't on trail of squirrel. He even rousted  what I believe was a grouse along the trail which got all our hearts beating. The winds blew, but never to distraction. We were free to contemplate the  deep blue sky, the sunshine in the aspen leaves  and the sound of the clear mountain brook.