Sunday, December 16, 2012

After the Storm

Our little mountain town spent much of December basking in warm, sunny days.  Made for great hiking but our burnt hills are testament to what happens when we don't get moisture.  On Friday, a nice snowstorm finally brought moisture to our mountain town.

This is today from the Canyon Rim Trail.  Pajarito Mountain is to the right of the tall snag. (Neatly hidden behind the tall snag is an unsightly communications tower!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mountain Meadow Dream

Dreamed yesterday that I walked up Valle Canyon and ended up in this little mountain meadow on land owned by the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  It had to be a dream because ever since the United States government in 2000 purchased this land "to provide opportunities for public recreation", among other purposes, there's been no way to hike all the way up Valle Canyon without "trespassing" on this "public" land.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lummis Canyon from Lower Alamo Trail

Went on a group hike yesterday in Bandelier National Monument on the Lower Alamo Trail (also called the Burro Trail).  This is the view from our lunch spot, looking down into lower Lummis Canyon with the vastness of the Pajarito Plateau on the horizon.

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center, the nature center in Los Alamos, has posted a short survey that seeks input about what stories you envision the nature center should tell about the Pajarito Plateau.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Afternoon Along The Route

Wonderful walk along The Route.  Dillied and dallied picking up sticks and stones, eating my lunch along FR2998, investigating strange construction occurring in woods, collecting pine  cones - Ponderosa and Douglas fir.  All the intense colors of autumn are gone now and the landscape is in its arid winter mode. Yet and still, I'm always struck by the color and texture of the grass in the golden afternoon sunlight - and even by the long shadow of a rock cairn.  How to explain how I felt this afternoon - at peace.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Armstead Spring: Ice Maker

This is looking down into Water Canyon from FR181/American Spring Road, where the road and canyon meet. Armstead Spring issues, day and night, never-ending, out of a rusted iron pipe with its valve box handle permanently open. An ice accumulation is forming from the steady dribble of Armstead Spring.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cloud Pregnant With Possibilities

Walked up Zero Road East on Pajarito Mountain today. This dark cloud confronted me at the back of the mountain.  Saw a hiker I knew and asked "What's that cloud thinking?" She didn't buy into the possibility that the cloud had anything in mind but I'm positive that cloud was thinking SNOW!!  It was cold enough.  I felt vindicated when on the way back down the mountain, I saw a few snowdrops!  Hey - it's a start!!

Townsight and Lone Spruce lifts finally have their chairs back in place from when the lifts were damaged by the June 2011 Las Conchas wildfire.  Pajarito Mountain Ski Area worked long and hard to make that happen!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Aspens Along the Camp May Road Trail

I check out the fall color every year on these young aspens along the Camp May Road Trail.
First, I took their portraits from the east.
Then, I went to the west to photograph them and along came a jogger so I snapped her photo.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carotenoid and Anthocyanin Rich Aspen

This flaming tree was seen from the Cerro Grande Route on a group hike last Wednesday.  In autumn, there is always speculation by hikers about why some aspen leaves turn red.  The red leaves are eye-catching and out of the ordinary from the usual yellow and orange.

Here's a brief layman's explanation as garnered from this and this websites:  The yellow and orange are there year around in the aspen leaves but are masked by the green chlorophyll formed during photosynthesis.  In the fall, the aspen stops photosynthesis by building a "corky" layer between the leaf stem and branch.  The green color now disappears and then the yellow and orange that was there all along is visible.  These colors are from carotenoids like carotene and xanthophyll, as found in carrots and yellow peppers.

Ah, but why the red aspen leaves? The red is from anthocyanin, like in Red Delicious apple skin.  The anthocyanin is not in the aspen leaves year around.  My understanding of this is on a simple level.  I'm sure it's more complex: When the "corky" layer forms between the leaf stem and branch and the aspen leaves are thus cut off from the water and nutrients of the tree, anthocyanin is made from the sugar now left in the leaves, turning the leaves a brilliant red.  Anthocyanin formation is enhanced by bright sunlight, dry days, cool but above freezing nights and also by the particular genetic makeup of the aspen clone.

OK - does this mean I can get my daily quota of carotenoids and anthocyanin by eating tasty, sugar-filled aspen leaves instead of carrots, yellow peppers and red apples?? Today, to find out, I tasted a tiny bit of red aspen leaf.  I immediately realized it was spit-it-out-right-away-bitter!  Any sugar trapped in the leaves must be infinitesimal.  I suspected this but had to be sure!! (To be honest, I'd once tasted aspen bark to see why elk like to nibble it - it had the same ack-OMG-I'm-poisoned taste but with a nice finish of wintergreen after I spat it out!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bandelier Morning

I'd hoped to title this post "In the Time of Tarantulas", a really catchy title!  The title was inspired last week while walking in White Rock and seeing a lone tarantula cross the sidewalk.  This is the time of year that male tarantulas  "march", "looking for love"!

On today's group hike down the Frey Trail into Bandelier's Frijoles Canyon, I had such high hopes that I'd spot "marching" tarantulas on the mesa top.  Didn't see a one!  I did see a small herd of deer but just as soon as I got my camera out, all five demurely hid behind a bush!

Disappointed, I resorted to what I usually photograph - inanimate objects!

Morning light on ponderosa bark in Frijoles Canyon.  The tree was all but begging me to photograph it and I did, taking 4 photos, but this was the only one that showed the bark detail in the highlighted area.

Handrail shadows on steps to Long House.  Took 4 photos of this too.  The shadows almost look like a pueblo pottery design.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trail Master of the Blue Dot

On Friday, started down the Blue Dot Trail, late afternoon.  Was dubious - looked like there'd be a thunderstorm.  Imagined myself, alone, tripping on rain-slick basalt, bones broken, spending the night, fighting off coyotes and mountain lions.  Even dry, the tread surface is unforgiving - full of loose stones that act like roller bearings.

Despite melodramatic misgivings, I made it safely to the bottom of the Blue Dot, and then walked north to a little beach along the Rio Grande.

On the way back, I came around a rock and saw a rattlesnake laying across the trail.  It was really quite beautiful with it's cream and brown coloration.  Less appealing was how, instead of slithering off like a good snake, it coiled by the side of the trail and incessantly rattled, daring me to pass. OK, now what if was toting a gun?  Seems to me the best survival tactic would be for the rattlesnake to have gotten out of Dodge as fast as it could!  

Most of the rock in White Rock Canyon is basalt but this looks like tuff.

Small bosque

 Western diamondback rattlesnake rattling along the Rio!

Buckman Mesa from Blue Dot

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall Colors

Walked along FR181/American Spring Road today.  As I neared my car, I was struck by the bright color of these apples that someone dumped at the side of the road.

On the theme of fall colors, here's some that aren't.  I took this photo in June at a meadow along FR181/American Spring Road.  At first I thought it was a firefighter's boot tossed into the tree.  When I got closer, I saw that someone had thrown a piece of ugly, orange metal into the tree to use for target practice.  That's a mean thing to do to pretty aspen!!  Today, I thought I'd try to knock the trash down (without killing myself).  First, I found on the ground some long branches and then tried, several times, to push the metal out of the tree but it's hooked so securely over a branch that I couldn't do it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rattlesnake Tails

Er...rattlesnake tales that people told me:

Someone's great-great grandmother died of a rattlesnake bite early in the last century. She wore tall boots that she kept outdoors.  One day when she was putting on her boots, she got bit by a baby rattller hiding inside.  She died of gangrene.

This one may be apocryphal:  On a ranch in Texas, post holes were dug to put up a fence but the project was delayed and the holes filled up with wind blown debris.  Much later, a cowboy was clearing the holes and got bit on the thumb tip by a rattlesnake.  He promptly cut his snakebitten thumb tip off with an ax.  (My remark was "Now why didn't I think of that??")  Moral is:  always carry an ax in rattlesnake country.

Man saw a large rattlesnake that had been run over - it even had tire marks on its back but was still alive.  He picked the snake up from behind its head, planning to swiftly move it off the road but the snake somehow twisted around and bit him on the finger.

Woman saw on the floor what she thought was a toy.  She picked it up but it turned out to be a rattlesnake that bit her.

Several near misses when hikers were "visiting a bush", preparing to "drop their drawers", then heard the rattler's warning and saw it coiled, uncomfortably close, in a striking position.

Another Texas rattlesnake story:  After a large rattler was killed by chopping off its head, a man picked up the head and the rattlesnake promptly sank its fangs into his finger. Dead men may tell no tales but dead rattlesnakes can still bite you bad!

Family walked back to their campsite in the dark.  Women stepped over what looked like a log but, instead, was a huge rattlesnake that bit her leg.  Her leg became enormously swollen.

Woman golfing at golf course got bit badly on leg by rattlesnake that popped out of one of the golf course holes.

Man was walking with his kids when they saw a rattlesnake.  He wanted to appear brave so he marched over to the rattler, to "deal with it".  As he neared and saw the coiled snake and heard the buzzing rattle, his heart began beating rapidly with fear.  He said "Let's go kids!" and they made a wise and speedy retreat!

Monday, August 20, 2012

FR181: What a Mess

The forest service will eventually repair FR181 (aka American Spring Road) - they are awaiting additional funding to fix this and other forest roads damaged by the Las Conchas wildfire.  In the meantime, FR181 is a "rough road to travel" where it crosses Water Canyon.

FR181 at Water Canyon.  The non-functioning metal culvert is much more exposed than in June and the upstream log structure gets more undercut with each storm.

Looking downstream.  The road has become amazingly rubble-filled since June because all the runoff goes directly over the road and into Water Canyon.  The upstream log structure has been breached and no longer holds back debris.

Looking downstream into Water Canyon.  The gaping hole above the culvert was once the edge of the road.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Yet Another Photo of Redondo Peak

This taken on a group hike up Rabbit Ridge Road.  I must be getting old because I was content to eat my lunch at the first felsenmeer while many went further in search of more views.  The cross country ski trail to this first felsenmeer is obliterated, courtesy of the Las Conchas wildfire, but still very walkable because the burnt trees have not yet fallen. These burnt aspens will not provide fall color but the walk and view are worth it anyway. Redondo Peak is on the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  The Rabbit Ridge Road hike is also but is a free hike, one of only two, accessed from the Coyote Call Trailhead on NM4.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Deer and Hazard Tree

Walked Camp May Road Trail today, from the Ocean to FR2998.  It's surprisingly trash-free which is pleasing!  Saw another walker near Paint Ball Road.  The trail tread is holding up reasonably well, i.e. not too rutted and easy to follow, even through the weedy parts.

 Deer:  "You looking at me?" 

Hazard tree marked with red flagging this past May in preparation for Jemez Mountain Trail Runs 50K race on Camp May Road Trail.  Several hazard trees were marked thusly along the trail.  Why did they mark them only to leave them standing months later? Maybe so when it falls on you, the flagging confirms it was a hazard tree!

The if-it-falls-on-you-they'll-name-the-trail-after-you tree!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Civic Palaces of White Rock, NM

On Friday, walked the paved path along newly redone NM4 in White Rock.

White Rock Visitor Center grand opening will be September 28 at 11:30 am. Hopefully, the new location won't be as prone to "runaway"cars as the old visitor center on Rover!  

Fire Station No. 3 - purportedly the largest fire station west of the Mississippi River.

Once a Tree

This past Thursday, walked up Pajarito Mountain Ski Area's Zero Road East to the south side of the mountain.  Took a few photos of hillsides of darn yellow flowers (i.e., I was too lazy to identify them).  I don't know how it does it but Pajarito Mountain always lifts my spirits. Maybe it's the heavy breathing!  I kept telling myself "POWER UP!!" on the uphills.

From the number of big trailers in the lower parking lot, the filming of the Lone Ranger (with Johnny Depp as Tonto) may still be going on but they were on the west side of the mountain while I was on the east.

Charcoal totem was once a tree.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Big Muddy Rio Grande

The Rio Grande  is a big muddy river today.  A cloud blocks the sun over Buckman Mesa, transforming it into a "Black Mesa".

Saturday, August 4, 2012

FR181 Severe Erosion Damage at Water Canyon

Since my last visit on June 5 to this section of FR181, there has been a lot more erosion damage to FR181/American Spring Road where it crosses Water Canyon.  The upstream log structure, which presumably slows water runoff, has been undercut, causing water to be diverted underneath, thus creating an incised channel.  I don't know the ways of the Santa Fe National Forest but it seems that, until they are ready to permanently repair the road, some temporary repair should be done before this section of FR181 is completely destroyed.

FR181 at Water Canyon. Each time I visit, FR181 is more undercut by storm runoff.

The undercut upstream log structure.

Close-up of log structure showing that debris now flows both over and under.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Clouds Building and Rain Actually Falls

This, taken before noon, is from the North Perimeter Trail, near the Mitchell Trail.  We've had days and days of cloud buildup without any rain.  When I finished my walk without seeing a drop, I assumed these clouds were as unproductive as all the rest.  Boy, was I wrong! This afternoon, we've already had two wonderful rains in the Eastern Area.  Real rains where lots of water pours down unlike our proverbial, southwestern "10" rains" - a raindrop every 10"!  The first had thunder but not frighteningly overhead.  The second was a heavy cloudburst with a smidgen of hail.  I thought our summer monsoon had disappeared but maybe there's still hope!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sights That Captured Me Along FR181

The contrast between the charcoal trunks of the dead oak and the live, green oak sprouts is startling.   I like how the dead shrubs are so twisted.

I always wonder why these rocks, perched above the road, look layered like slate.

View toward eastern arm of Cerro Grande from along eastern end of FR181.  The young aspens that have not leafed out are probably victims of last year's wildfire on the Pajarito Plateau.  The landscape burns, then burns again but the beauty remains.

Big Green Puddle on FR181/American Spring Road

Monday, July 30, 2012

One Sign Does Not a Closure Make

This sign is at the eastern terminus of FR181 where it intersects West Jemez Road, near the twin water tanks.   The "fine print" verbiage below Area Closed is not easily visible to my aging eyes.  I did a double-take to be sure I wasn't breaking the law by hiking here.

I didn't see another sign like this further uphill forbidding motorized travel downhill but I only walked part of the road.  FR181, also known as American Spring Road, begins just up the escarpment into the Jemez, off NM4, and winds it way down to West Jemez Road.  It gets really rough on the descent; but even so, I've seen vehicles attempting it!  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Valles Caldera National Preserve: X Marks As Far As You're Welcome

Spouse and I walked Valle Grande Trail today.  It's one of only two free trails offered by the Valles Caldera National Preserve out of miles and miles of trails and logging roads, of their total 89,000 acres of publicly owned land.
View toward Redondo/Redondito from endpoint of Valle Grande Trail.  The X reminds you that if you didn't bring your wallet, you're not welcome to go any further - go back home!

The Valles Caldera National Preserve recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Public Access and Use.  You can comment on it at their website or at the two public meetings planned.

Quemazon Trail Regrowth

On Monday, hiked up Quemazon Trail to its intersection with Pipeline Road.  The trailhead sign says it's 6 miles roundtrip and 1,400' elevation change.  I didn't realize until I'd started uphill that it was a bit windy.  Glad no trees crashed down!  A little past the Knapp Trail turnoff, saw elk track, both large and small.  Wonder if it was a mama and baby? Didn't actually see any animals, though, four-legged or otherwise.
There's a part of the trail, maybe 1 1/2 to 2 miles uphill, where there are acres of aspens that have grown since the 2000 Cerro Grande fire.  It should be even more beautiful when the colors change.
The penstemons are waving in the wind.  The red ones are Scarlet Bugler. The purple penstemons look a lot like the Rocky Mountain penstemons growing in our backyard.
More regrowth since 2000.  A cavalcade of young ponderosas, planted by volunteers after the Cerro Grande fire, march up a hillside along the trail.
View toward Pajarito Mountain.  The non-green trees got scorched in last summer's Las Conchas wildfire.  The Las Conchas burn area, like Cerro Grande's burn scar, which the Quemazon Trail is part of, will recover.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Perfect Hike to Cerro Grande

Four of us hiked up Cerro Grande this morning.  What a perfect day - no wind, no looming thunderstorms.  The new route traverses back and forth making it slightly longer than the old, straight-up path but easier.   Lots of wild iris, mountain parsley and dandelions made for a colorful hike!  

A crew of firefighters stationed at Bandelier, both men and women, preceded us up the mountain.  They  hauled up large, rectangular plastic containers (looked like jerrycans) full of water.  On the summit, they practiced walking while holding 20 pounds of water overhead, lifting a container that resembled a giant, round football.  

The spindly trees surrounding the summit are courtesy of last summer's Las Conchas wildfire.   The trees had nicely survived the 2000 Cerro Grande fire.  In many instances, though, what Cerro Grande didn't burn, Las Conchas finished off!

After the group drove away, I sat on a shady log to eat.  Then, it being such a beautiful day, I stalled going home by picking up trash around the trailhead which included a Fosters beer can and plastic bag of dog poop, both which someone had "thoughtfully" tucked into the crook of a tree near the trailhead sign!

Redondo from Cerro Grande

looking north from Cerro Grande's summit