Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grand Walk: Pajarito Mountain via Camp May

Today I did a grand walk up Pajarito Mountain. I've wanted to do this particular walk for several weeks but each morning, the mountain was wreathed in clouds and looked like it would rain. Today, there were blue skies overhead so I went for it! 

I started by going up the jeep road toward the Camp May saddle from Camp May Community Park. At the Valles Caldera National Preserve fence line, which bars all travel further west, there was a glistening pile of bear scat - quite copious! Maybe the bear was as frustrated as me by the fence and wished to show its disdain! From there, I followed a bicycle trail (maybe also called the Ma Bell ski trail) over to the Rim Run ski trail/jeep road which I took to the top of Rim Run, which is situated along the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area's westernmost boundary. While huffing and puffing uphill, I stopped often to enjoy the quintessential sound of autumn - elk bugling from below in the Preserve. 

At the top of Rim Run, I headed through the burnt woods to the south meadow on the back of Pajarito Mountain and worked my way over to the blue Yeamans memorial bench. Along the way, I heard a large animal crashing through the woods to escape me. 

From the Yeamans bench, I walked downhill to the trail west of the snow-making retention pond. The trail goes over the gravel berm at the back of the fenced pond. I could see deer prints in the mud.  The trail continued up to the Zero Road East jeep road at the back of the mountain. I took that road to just downhill from the 4 way intersection (at the antenna farm) where I decided to instead cut across the mountain, passing under Lone Spruce Lift, on a ski trail/jeep road. On the way to Mother Lift, I saw the merest beginning of aspen color, quite appropriately near Aspen Lift.  

Almost back to the Ski Lodge, I spotted two grouse. They saw me and very judiciously minced across a side road to hide in the tall grass. I had to laugh because it looked like they thought that if they walked slowly enough, they were invisible!

The whole hike is close to 5 miles (could be more, depending on how often my GPS unit "lost" the signal). The uphill parts, Camp May saddle and Rim Run, are very steep and rocky in places but there are plenty of splendid views to admire along the way. The first half of the hike goes through the burned area on the western side of the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area.

On the way to the south side meadow on Pajarito Mountain, these "purple daisies" (probably asters) lured me over. This is in the forest burned by Las Conchas wildfire, June 2011.

I hadn't noticed this memorial sign before. The tree it's attached to looks like a dead spruce.

The memorial sign and Ballance Bench.

Interesting cloud forming at top of Lone Spruce Lift.