Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rabbit Ridge Road Trek

Last week, I went by myself to check out Rabbit Ridge Road for a hiking group that I hoped to take there in August. I hiked all the way to the first felsenmeer (German for sea of rock) on top of Rabbit Ridge. The first 1/2 mile or so of the road is all right, if somewhat overgrown with aspen shoots. But the middle section of the road has taken a beating from the post-Las Conchas wildfire monsoon flooding and is quite rocky and rutted, A group of us hiked the road last year to the top of Rabbit Ridge and, to my eyes, the erosion damage has worsened this year. Even in the less eroded parts of the road, there is much vegetation overgrowth to wade through.

On my solitary hike, as I rounded corners and approached overgrown areas, I kept a patter going - some examples were, in a deep voice, "Yo, bear - I'm big and I'm bad!" and, in a lilting voice, "Mr. Bear, Mrs. Bear, Ms. Bear, Baby Bear and Bayer Aspirin!" I wasn't taking any chances at surprising a bear. Recently, a small, blond bear on the Cerro Grande Route ran fearlessly at us. I imagine the bear was unnerved by 9 hikers, standing enthralled, quietly watching as it foraged in the meadow. It's better to make noise to warn the bear you're there, especially if you're alone and have no companions to outrun! Well, whether because of my bear ditties or not, I encountered no bear - only saw a lone deer on top of Rabbit Ridge which made a rapid getaway from the crazed hiker chattering out loud!

When I got home, I left a message with the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) to ask what the long range plans are for Rabbit Ridge Road. I know they have their hands full in the aftermath of this year's Thompson Ridge wildfire but I am curious if the road will be abandoned entirely. Before the Las Conchas wildfire, it provided a beautiful walk to the top of Rabbit Ridge. In contrast to the early days of the Preserve when Rabbit Ridge Road was a paid hike, the VCNP now allows free access to the public on all the Rabbit Mountain area, which includes Rabbit Ridge, and it would be a shame if the road was not maintained in some manner.  There are very few parts of the Preserve that offer free access to the public and this is one of them and it would be sad to lose the road to neglect.

Rabbit Ridge Road is accessed from the Coyote Call trailhead. This is flooding damage in the Coyote Call meadow. Deep ruts and holes have been gouged by the force of the water runoff.

On top of Rabbit Ridge (that was quick!) - the burnt forest, courtesy of the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire, greets you. Good place to look for tracks in the bare spots. Saw elk and deer tracks.

View of my favorite peak, Redondo, from first felsenmeer. When I started the hike, around 10:30 am, the sky was practically cloudless.

On the way down, an overgrown area of Rabbit Ridge Road. The tall, green plants, sprouting small, yellow, composite flowers, look, from their rank growth, to be on steroids!

A section of rocky, rutted Rabbit Ridge Road. The fire denuded hillside above funnels rain runoff across the road. There is an even worse area, just downhill, which looks like a small canyon is forming across the width of the road.

This pastoral scene belies the dramatic events that shaped this landscape, both in the past and now - volcanism and wildfire. The brownish colored splotches on Redondo are burnt areas from this spring's Thompson Ridge wildfire. This is from the Coyote Call meadow, just above the Coyote Call trailhead.

After the hike, I sat by the side of NM4, outside of the Valles Caldera National Preserve's barbed wire fence, meant to keep people out. Wistfully looking north across the Valle Grande, I ate my lunch and drank deeply of the view.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Little Sorcerer Point

Reading Craig Martin's Los Alamos Place Names, 2nd Edition, I'm intrigued by mention that the Tewa Indians knew the end of Kwage Mesa (aka, Horse Mesa) as Little Sorcerer Point. This photo is taken from the end of the trail on Kwage Mesa. It overlooks the confluence of Bayo (left) and Pueblo (right) canyons. The unnaturally green vegetation in the Pueblo Canyon drainage is from treated runoff from the Los Alamos Wastewater Plant.

There are at least two Pueblo Indian Ruins visible in the photo. On a ridge to the left of the green vegetation, is a large, bare area. This is Big Otowi Ruins, now on
San Ildefonso Pueblo land (off-limits to recreationists). To the far right of the green vegetation and the road is a ridge with a much smaller bare area, Little Otowi Ruins, now protected by a fenced Department of Energy easement (also off-limits).

From the canyons below, the Tewa dwellers could look up at the point of Kwage Mesa, which they knew as Little Sorcerer Point. In my limited understanding, to the Pueblo Indians, sorcerers were powerful and did not always use their power for good. The intriguing part is that no one knows how the name was acquired. It is supposed to be an ancient name. (I wonder - was there a Big Sorcerer Point?) Now, every time when I go to the end of Kwage Mesa or see it from the Bayo or Pueblo canyons trails below, I study it and wonder how it got its name. It will remain a mystery!