Friday, August 26, 2016

FR181/American Spring Road After Stormy Night

Even though the skies over the mountains looked stormy this morning and I didn't start from home until 10:30am, I decided to take a chance and walk FR181/American Spring Road. I'm really glad I did as it was interesting to get a hint at what the weather must have been up here last night.  Hail remnants hadn't yet melted from under trees and the road puddles were more numerous and vaster than ever!

Here's a shady area at the beginning of upper FR181/American Spring Road where the hail hasn't yet melted. I suspect the weather up here last night was wilder than in town! I heard thunder last night when I went to bed but don't think we got any rain. From the size of the road puddles and the water runoff in upper Water Canyon, which FR181 crosses, the area saw some nice rainfall last night.

This is looking downstream into upper Water Canyon where the road bends around to cross the canyon. I often see Armstead Spring running (rusty pipe to the right) but don't remember ever seeing the road culvert running. The road culvert is in its pathetically exposed condition because the edge of FR181 has eroded ever backward here since Las Conchas wildfire 2011.

Upstream from Armstead Spring and the road culvert, behind the log weir, Water Canyon has a tiny waterfall! The log weir showed up after the Las Conchas wildfire, maybe to catch and slow down debris from the burned slopes above.

Closer look at the waterfall reveals a short cascade that forms a "pool"! Not very far from here and short of the road,  the water disappears underground but then must somehow be captured by the road culvert even though the culvert is not visible and presumably buried by debris. What else would explain how the culvert is draining storm runoff down Water Canyon? I saw no water running over the road surface. Mysterious plumbing at work!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Time of Year I Like to Haunt Pajarito Mountain

Yesterday, had an afternoon appointment but managed to get up Zero Road East to the backside of Pajarito Mountain and home in time to eat lunch. It was cooler and felt like early fall even though it's still the tail end of summer. I like to see the mountain both when it's "opening up" in the spring and when it's "closing down" the end of summer/beginning of fall. The mountain doesn't know it and doesn't care but that mountain and I have a history together!

Going downhill, rounding the final corner on Zero Road East, overlooking the Townsite. The clouds produced nothing but were scenic.

End of walk, back at the parking lot, an attempt at "artistry"! The clouds and blue sky looked pretty through the ski area's gate.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Reservoir Road to Bottom of Knapp Trail

Today's hike was glorious! There were four of us and we walked up the Los Alamos Reservoir Road, starting from the Ice Rink, to the bottom of the Knapp Trail. The dirt road was more pleasant than when I walked it a month ago - it wasn't dusty (thanks to our recent rains) and there were no front end loaders going back and forth. In the Reservoir itself, we imagined we saw fish darting about but a closer look showed they were salamanders.

The real beauty of the hike begins on the Los Alamos Canyon Trail going past the Reservoir to the base of the Knapp Trail. All around, there is food aplenty for any wild bears - ripe chokecherries, rosehips, raspberries, thimbleberries - and we enjoyed sampling some! The trail is all leafed out with aspens, shrubs and wildflowers and there are blind corners. I fully expected to meet a bear around each one but saw neither bear nor sign. The steep canyon sides are so green that one hiker commented that they looked velvet-covered. We saw a large hawk fly overhead and land on a cliff and then fly across canyon as we watched.

Around 10:30am, as we sat on a log at the base of the Knapp Trail, eating our snacks, gray clouds moved in from the south. On the way back, we heard thunder and had enough rain drops for some to don rain gear. Pretty soon, the rain stopped but not the thunder and we heard more the closer we got to the Reservoir Road gate. The real rain held off until around noon, after all the hikers, except me, got into their cars and drove off. I sat in my car and ate lunch while I watched the rainfall with its small hail and thunder and lightning.

I'm so grateful to this group of hikers who agreed to go all the way up Los Alamos Canyon to the Knapp Trail!

In Upper Los Alamos Canyon, near the base of the Knapp Trail, view from our turnaround.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Scooter Peak

Today's Wednesday Irregulars hike was Scooter Peak, via Coyote Call Trail. Must say that lower Scooter Peak Road is in decent enough condition and there's even evidence that someone cuts away fallen trees from the road. The area was burnt during the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire. On the upper road, though, it has mostly become a morass of burnt, fallen trees. You can always tell where the road is by looking for dead trees slung across the road and supported at their ends by the road edges.

At one point on the way up, the deadfall became so dreadful that the leader tried to find an easier way around. When I noticed we were no longer following the old road, I decided to separate from the group, informing the leader thusly.  I headed southward toward the live trees, carefully clambering over deadfall and got to where the road breaks out into the lower meadow. At the meadow, I  slowly worked my way diagonally through the partially burnt and rock strewn woods to the upper meadow and Scooter Peak. It helped that a hiker wearing a yellow shirt stood on top like a trail sign!

I can't say I have ever mastered exactly how to get to Scooter Peak except take it on faith that if I go sort of eastward through the woods, I'm going to get to the upper meadow and then, if I muddle about to what looks like a relatively "high" point, I'm going to get to the Scooter Peak benchmark. It's not a strategy that builds confidence so I don't lead this hike!

At Scooter's rounded, barely perceptible "peak", the group, who had worked their way out of the deadfall and traversed the meadows, sat down for lunch. I stood and admired the views through the burnt trees but I determined to forgo lunch and start back down alone. Pivotal to my decision was that the skies toward Los Alamos looked like Armageddon. The way down is a bit challenging because of all the deadfall and to be caught in a thunderstorm would make it even more so.  Even so, I didn't hurry but stopped often to look around. Also, I stubbornly followed the old road down, stepping over sections of truly awful deadfall on the upper part. I love the old road and do not wish to hand it back to Mother Nature just yet!

As I finally meandered in sight of the trail back, I could hear the hikers coming down the Scooter Peak road. It turned out that, in view of the darkening skies and thunder rumbles, they abbreviated their lunch. Despite the threatening skies, we all made it back to the cars and no rain fell on us. I'm really grateful the group hiked there today. I've wanted so much to go there but did not want to do it completely on my own!

Redondo and clouds, from lower meadow, on way back down.

From Scooter Peak Road, looking across at small meadow in sunlight on Rabbit Ridge.

Looking down on Alamo Boundary Trail area, below Rabbit Ridge, from Scooter Peak Road.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pajarito Mountain Monday Musings

Where did I go today? Zero Road East up Pajarito Mountain, where else!! Don't know what it is about that road and that mountain which makes me start thinking philosophically but I started thinking about how just a week ago, I was moaning about the high heat - 90 degrees inside the house! The only relief was to  spray myself with water, again and again. Then, lately the monsoon graced us with an appearance. Dark clouds formed, rain fell, thunder rumbled. The spring flowers are long gone and summer flowers are senescing. I now believe that summer will NOT last forever and cooler temperatures WILL come. But, and here's where the philopsophizing begins: I don't appreciate summer, or anything, enough while it's here and the cause is cosmic. Each minute is 60 seconds. Each hour is 3,600 seconds, etc., etc. Think how fast a second is. It feels as though my life has flown by and I was largely "sleeping" during most of it.

OK, now for reality: I picked up a 8" diameter ball of discarded, plastic caution tape and carried it down the mountain, depositing it in the wastebasket in the ski hill office. I think it had been left there by recent construction activity on the skinny tower with the more than 20 guy wires. The tape closed off the ski hill jeep road just uphill from the tower. When the tape wasn't needed anymore, someone broke it off the road but left it wrapped around shrubs and trees at the side of the road to lay there for eternity so I hauled it away.

Further reality: At the back of the mountain, just before the snow-making pond, I looked to the southeast and could see smoke from a small fire in the distance. It could have been on Bandelier National Monument land. We had a lot of rain, thunder and lightning last night so it was probably a lightning caused fire. I called the Los Alamos Police Department non-emergency number just to make sure it had been reported and it had been.

Looking toward Pipeline Road - so green!

Tschicoma Mountain and Caballo Peak on the way up Zero Road East. Note blue skies and no storm clouds.

Little cloud dots (low down between the big clouds) flying overhead.

Tschicoma Mountain and Caballo Peak on the way down. Cloud cover has increased but no rain fell on my watch on the mountain.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Lunch Spot Today!

Redondo from Coyote Call Trail, Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Valle Grande from Coyote Call Trail, Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pajarito Mountain - Storm Coming

Walked up Zero Road East today. Coming down, storm clouds were gathering to north but only produced a little thunder and a little rain. (Last Friday, walking on Camp May Road Trail, lots more rain, even hail.)

On the way down, spied a bull elk above me on a ski run. Too far away to take picture with my tiny point and shoot. He seemed to be cautiously enjoying the mountain but very aware of me because he took cover in the woods when I stopped to watch him. At first I thought he was a rock or bear or stump, until he moved!

At the back of the mountain, found a long stick - wood was fresh and bark all peeled off - nice enough to haul downhill. At home, sawed it in two. I now have a stout "bear stick" to whack any bear that ventures too near. Course, my golf umbrella also serves that purpose, plus I can open and close it, while holding it high overhead. Hopefully, I will look like a frightful, gigantic insect flexing my black carapace - up and down, up and down! Surely I will scare any bear away (and many a fellow hiker as well!)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Wall of Green - FR181

Incredibly green scene, from FR181/American Spring Road. This belies how dry it is. Wind stirred up dust devils as I walked. The breezes cooled me but net effect is they further dry out everything. Monsoon is shorting us and all we're getting is hot, hot, hot.

Pajarito Mountain ridgeline, background.

Remnant grove that did not burn in either Cerro Grande or Las Conchas wildfires. Always seems to invite me in.

Cliffs above Upper Water Canyon, looking eastward.

Another forest spared by both Cerro Grande and Las Conchas wildfires.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Townsite from Townsight

Back on The Mountain today! Pajarito Mountain, that is!! As I parked, three modulars (probably from Granite Mountain filming) were being hauled down Camp May Road. Yay, they're gone!! Now I can roam the mountain again in peace.

It's quintessential summer up there now - butterflies and flowers everywhere. Wonder if bears eat red elderberries? There are a lot that will ripen soon. Didn't see any roaming bruins but spent some time throwing sticks and stones off the road (so I wouldn't trip on them) and hoped the noise scared them away.

Had a thought today about why I like to be outdoors hiking: When I'm hiking, I feel "timeless". That is, I have no age, I'm just traveling through the scenery, putting off all cares and worries for the meantime.

Los Alamos Townsite from near Pajarito Mountain Ski Area Townsight Lift

Monday, May 2, 2016

Quick Shot from Satch Cowan Trail

Despite snowing and raining all day yesterday, May 1, the weather didn't win! The Monday group was able to do its scheduled hike this morning - up the Satch Cowan Trail and then up the Quemazon Trail to Pipeline Road. Trails were in good condition. We even enjoyed "visiting" winter as there was light snow alongside the trail the closer we got to Pipeline Road. The Wooten's Senecio (hopefully the right name) grows quite happily in the snow. Beautiful views of a still amazingly snowy Pajarito Mountain. Some aspens have already leafed out in that innocent-springtime-green while others are just in bud.  We saw a Steller's Jay, a big red-tailed hawk perched on a tall snag, and heard the fleeting, Tinker Bell sound of passing hummers.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dome Road Winter Redux

I took these last week after Monday's big snow dump in the Jemez. A few cow elk were roaming the woods but not much else except for me.

Alamo Boundary Trailhead along Dome Road/Forest Road 289. Rabbit Ridge in background. Can't wait to hike this again. It's always so pretty in the spring with the wild irises blooming.

Dome Road swirls on past Graduation Flats (left) and Sawyer Mesa Road/Forest Road 287 (right).

Graduation Flats meadow.

Monday, April 18, 2016

American Springs Trailhead Map Display

To my wonder and amazement, last week I "accidentally" noticed this informative map displayed at the parking area for Forest Road 181, aka American Spring Road. Over the years, I have not seen much of interest posted here by the forest service so I basically ignored the brown, roofed structure. It looked decrepit. The week before, though, I saw a forest service employee  busily sprucing it up. It looked like he was applying stain. Maybe that's when the map was posted.

The map shows the trails for the "American Springs Recreation Area" and where dispersed camping is allowed and which roads vehicles can drive on per Santa Fe National Forest's Travel Management Plan.  Kind of neat to see such helpful signage!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

First Time This Year on American Spring Road

I was going to title this "The Good, the Bad and the Utterly Ridiculous"...

This small, fallen ponderosa is last in line downhill from a row of ponderosas (and even a fir!) that sprouted along the road after the 2000 Cerro Grande fire.  It appears the shallow-rooted tree was undermined by the drainage ditch the forest service dug several years ago. This was to stem erosion caused by flooding after the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire. (BTW, officially, American Spring Road is Forest Road 181.)

The above-mentioned row of post-Cerro Grande conifers. I always look forward to seeing their progress toward becoming tall ponderosas like those in the background which didn't burn!

The first 2 miles (as far as I walked) of American Spring Road are dried out. This remnant snowfield is at the side of the road going into Water Canyon. Only a taste of winter remains. In the newly melted out meadows that I saw, the grass is still matted down from winter's heavy snow pack. About a month ago, I pulled into the forest road's unplowed parking area, just off NM4, and saw the road was still in deep snow cover, marred by tire track ruts. I didn't attempt to walk the road then. A lot of melting has occurred since - maybe too much, too fast.
Quick - someone call a plumber!! Looks like Armstead Spring has sprung a leak!! Pour, Armstead, down Water Canyon!! All the moisture we received this winter is the "Good" in my discarded title (see top of post)! No wildflowers yet but seeing the wild rose's red canes makes me long for the blooms of springtime. I'll even be happy this year to see the pink flowers of that thorny hikers's nemesis, New Mexico locust!
This would qualify as the "Ugly". This peaceful and pretty meadow, about 2 miles in from NM4, is used often as a mud proving grounds. Poor neglected, disrespected meadow!

Yes, always bring your "Lovey" with you when you shoot in the forest! This would qualify as the "Utterly Ridiculous"! This is the same meadow above and when it's not a mud proving grounds, it doubles as a shooting gallery!

White Rock Canyon from Blue Dot Trail

Yesterday, the Monday group, five of us, went down the Red Dot, then along the River Trail and up the Blue Dot. I go down the Red Dot Trail in slow motion. I feel like I'm descending a steep, dry waterfall. In some places, I use the "seat of the pants" method to negotiate the boulders.

I was surprised there aren't more wildflowers blooming yet. Only saw a few verbena and some spindly golden smoke. Maybe that was because my attention was on surviving the "trip" down the rocky trail! Once in White Rock Canyon, I absolutely love the River Trail. It's a whole different world down there with all the beautiful basalt boulders, the petroglyphs, the Rio Grande flowing and the splendid Pajarito Springs forever tumbling into its pool.

Going up the Blue Dot Trail, not too bad. Lots of switchbacks wind up the side of White Rock Canyon and before you know it, you're crawling out at the Blue Dot trailhead and are much pleased with yourself!

On the way up the Blue Dot Trail, I took lots of "enjoy the scenery" breaks. Rio Grande in midground, Buckman Mesa/Otowi Peak on left, Caja del Rio plateau on right and Sangre de Cristos in far background.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Rito de los Frijoles Rock Jumble

Today, in Bandelier National Monument just off the Falls Trail: Rito de los Frijoles tumbling over a rock jumble. On the hike: Saw mountain lover growing on shady part of trail. Near Upper Falls, the  Mormon tea looks very robust and bright green. At the Upper Falls overlook, a red-tailed hawk graced us with a flyover high above Frijoles Canyon. The sun shone bright through its red tail feathers. Trail is in good condition.

Virga Over the Dome from Burnt Mesa Trail

Yesterday, looking south from Burnt Mesa Trail at San Miguel Mountains: Boundary Peak on left (sharp) and St. Peter's Dome on right. Burnt Mesa Trail is almost completely dried out. Sky trying to do something - looks like virga over the Dome. Saw several waves of cranes heading north and a herd of nine doe deer watching me while I watched them! Impressed by the work someone has done to remove stout fallen trees off the trail. Amazed by the many mounds where ancestral puebloans dwelt.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dome Road Winter Walk

Walked on Dome Road Thursday - only went as far as the intersection of Dome Road and FR36, just a little past Graduation Flats. Someone had driven in on snow-covered Dome Road at that turnoff. Other times I've been there this winter, the snow was too deep for anyone to have driven on and the only tracks were from cross country skiers. It was so tempting to just turn onto Dome Road and walk in the vehicle tracks and I did but only for the merest distance. I knew I had to save my energy, in short supply that day, for the walk back. Besides, when would I have wanted to turn back? Wish I could have walked the whole road and then called for a ride back!

On Dome Road, FR289, in Bandelier National Monument, not too far from NM4, looking back at contrails. Saw lots of signs that elk have been running around in the forest and back and forth across the road but saw not a single one. Before this week's Tuesday, February 23, snowfall, the road was almost completely dried out but after the infusion of new snow, there are long strips of snow on the sides and in the middle. The road is plowed for access to private property. The gate at NM4 is locked until April 15.

Is it perverse to consider the burnt woods beautiful? Maybe so but I do like their colors and their starkness. This is on the Scooter Peak side of the road. The burnt trees are the aftermath of the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire. This June, it will be 5 years post-fire. A lot of these dead and standing trees will surely topple this year. Even among the starkness, though, there is always new growth of young aspens.

This is on the side of the road where Bandelier's Upper Frijoles long ski trail is. I never noticed this stock pond before. This winter's snowfall has really filled it up.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Upper Falls Yesterday

I haven't walked the Falls Trail in Bandelier National Monument since the construction detour instituted last year and, really, not much since the lower part of the trail was destroyed after the August  2011 Las Conchas flooding. But yesterday, along with a friend, I walked the trail once again.

The Falls Trail now dead ends at Upper Falls. Look at the photos of the August 2011 Las Conchas flood damage to the trail and you'll understand why - the portion of the trail that went just past the Lower Falls was undercut and washed away. I remember that section as very steep and slippery (with somewhat slaty-looking rock) even before the cataclysmic trail destruction.

Yesterday, the trail was mostly ice free and the Rito de los Frijoles flowed in pretty riffles and runs down canyon. The tall, red-trunked ponderosas were lovely to see. At Upper Falls, I sat enjoying the cascade of water. It seemed to have more water than I remembered.

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