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.