Posted at 10:37 am by NativeNM, on September 2, 2022
The Sandia Mountains are located just east of Albuquerque and provide a picturesque view over the city. The Sandia’s were named for the watermelon color that they display during the evening hours of sunset. When that happens it’s quite stunning to see those vibrant colors but usually it only lasts for a few minutes. There are numerous trails on either side of the mountain but up on top is where Joe and I love to go. You can drive all the way to the top where there are easy to moderate trails that head along the rim either to the north or south. With every mile upward the altitude reduces the temperature making it a very comfortable place to hike and explore in the summer. Joe and I recently celebrated our 40th anniversary and spent the day up on top of Sandia Crest. We enjoyed a gorgeous day with amazing views. The landscape is so green from the recent rains, and the wildflowers are blooming in every color of the rainbow. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a day more! I hope you enjoy some of the highlights!
After a tumultuous drought season in New Mexico with record fires, we’ve finally received some much needed rain. The monsoon season arrived in June and gave our national forests some relief. Many of our national forests, state parks and many other trails had been closed to the public due to fire safety. I am happy to say that most if not all are now open. Joe and I couldn’t be happier and anxious to get back up north where the weather is cooler amid so many beautiful hiking trails. Bandelier National Monument is an archaeological site with the remains of cliff dwellings nestled in the Frijoles Canyon. Along the Pueblo Loop trail you will see the tall cliffs that provide natural caves large enough for shelter which we were able to enter by climbing ladders. Some of these ladders are quite high and not for the faint of heart if you have a fear of heights. Halfway through the loop trail is the Alcove House which is a ceremonial cave with a reconstructed kiva. After we successfully climbed to the Alcove House we made the loop back and took the Frey Trail to the top of the Frijoles Rim Mesa where we enjoyed stunning views of the canyon and the layout of the circular remains of a pueblo village below. There are numerous trails within and surrounding the Frijoles Canyon from easy short trails to strenuous long distance trails that you can backpack with a permit. For now I hope you will enjoy our trip to Bandelier National Monument, who knows, you may want to explore it too!
Chaco Canyon located in the Four Corners area of New Mexico is the remains of an ancient civilization that began in the mid 800’s. Over the next 300 years, ancestral Puebloans aka Anasazi constructed several communities including single story and multi story stone buildings using techniques that were unique for the times. Every construction was like a community, some having hundreds of rooms. The architecture alone is amazing, oriented to solar, lunar and cardinal directions. By the early 1100’s, Chaco Canyon was a ceremonial and economic hub. It was considered a central place binding regional tribes together for ceremonial get togethers as well as trade. By the late 1100’s the Chacoans shifted in focus to other regional areas such as Aztec, Mesa Verde and beyond. There is evidence that water once flowed through the arroyo near Pueblo del Arroyo which may indicate that climate change could also be a factor why they dispersed to other areas. It’s amazing to see these villages that were built so long ago still standing and here for all of us to witness. Within Chaco Canyon there are many communities with ruins spread out across the canyon. Some are built with such sophistication it makes one wonder how they gained the knowledge to design and construct such precise curved walls, round kivas and multiple stories of rooms. Where did they learn the masonry techniques which still stand today? Chaco has been on my bucket list for the longest time. Our first visit was in May of 2021 touring the many ruins, walking within the walls learning the history and getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Now we’ve returned a year later to hike along the Pueblo Alto trail which overlooks the canyon to get a birds eye view of the ruins below as well as the landscape of the canyon. The architecture is stunning and takes you back in time wondering how they did it.
If you ventured along with Joe and I to the top of Pyramid Rock, you will likely enjoy our hike along the Church Rock Trail, which is also part of Red Rock Park. From the start of the trail, this majestic image has the features of a church and steeple. Church Rock trail includes two loops which resembles a figure 8. The first trail covers 2.6 miles round trip looping back when you get to the base of Church Rock. The second loop is approximately another 1.5 miles and continues around Church Rock. The trail takes you close to the rock formations with a little bit of climbing and scrambling. The perspective changes as you take a 360 degree look at all sides and angles. We found a narrow slot canyon hidden by tent rocks decorated in layers of color. We spotted a white sand dune in the distance that turned out to be a mirage; it was actually white rock that has been carved by wind and sand in the image of a dune. Oh, and if you use your imagination you might find an image of the “Mother Mary” in a rock. At least that’s what the locals told us. I’m reminded by a quote from my son Josh; “don’t look at your feet, always look ahead and upward or you’ll miss the best part”!
My heart is saddened that over the last couple of month’s our beautiful state has been ravaged by wild fires. We are under severe drought conditions and have been battling high winds which makes it so hard to contain them. Please don’t take nature for granted. If there are places you’ve dreamt of seeing, don’t put it off for tomorrow. Enjoy them now while you still can.
Last year Joe and I started exploring the northwest part of New Mexico. Since then we’ve taken several day trips or long weekends to explore the breathtaking areas that you can only experience when hiking to them. I’m biased but I think this area is one of the most beautiful parts of the state. One place in particular that we wanted to go back and explore was the Red Rock Park approximately 10 miles east of Gallup, NM. As part of the Navajo Nation, these two trails lead to Pyramid Rock and Church Rock. There is a connecting trail between the two but it’s a bit too much for Joe and I to do all in one day. They are both moderate trails approximately 3 – 4 miles roundtrip respectively that have some spectacular views. Pyramid Rock as we discovered is not only beautiful from a distance, but the trail leads all the way up to the tip top of the peak. From there you can see for miles and miles in any direction. Joe and I are not in the same shape as our grown kids but we both felt this trail was fairly easy to climb. We met many hikers that had been hiking these trails year after year. They shared with us that if we didn’t go all the way to the top we would miss out on an amazing experience. When someone stops to tell you how much you will treasure an experience; listen. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Looking from above you can see the landscape that surrounds Gallup. From the beautiful Mesa’s that are dotted with shades of green and blue to the Red Rock formations that have been sculpted by the wind and sand, this area will always be one of my most cherished places to visit!
Posted at 10:31 am by NativeNM, on October 1, 2021
September is one of the best times to travel. The summer travelers are headed back to work and school plus the weather is cooler. It’s been over 2 years since we’ve had a true vacation and I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed our time in Wyoming. Jackson Hole is where Josh calls home these days and we can truly see why he loves it so much. And to make our vacation complete, Cameron, our youngest son took some time off and joined us for the week as well. We all enjoyed the sights as Josh served as our tour guide taking us to picturesque places to hike and breathe the fresh mountain air. We had the most amazing weather, cool mornings with peaks around 75 degrees for a daytime high. But when the sun begins to set you better have a jacket nearby. One day was reserved to go to Yellowstone National Park. Between all of us we took hundreds of pictures of the many attractions along the way. We expected to see buffalo, moose or elk during our drive through Yellowstone but that didn’t happen until late in the day. As we started to head out of the park we spotted a lone buffalo who had us in stitches as he swam across a river and then promptly found a sandy spot where he rolled and rolled in the dirt. That was a highlight moment for sure! On other days we walked the shops in Jackson Square, went to one of Josh’s favorite places for stargazing near Mormon Row, and hiked along beautiful lakes with the most pristine clear blue/turquoise water you’ve ever seen. And the food . . . well, it was an experience in tasting new things and delighting in the discovery. But my favorite thing of all was the latte that Josh made especially for me.
El Malpais National Monument is located approximately 80 miles west of Albuquerque off of Interstate 40. There are two exits off of I-40 that will take you to different sights and things to do along those roads. For the El Malpais Overlook and La Ventana Arch, take exit 89 South onto Hwy 117 for approximately 15 miles. The overlook point stretches for miles and miles across a landscape that is covered in old lava flows and sandstone bluffs. The view is amazing, showcasing a valley of lava fields with colorful Mesa’s surrounding the area. We hiked from the top down to the area below for a little over 2 miles. It was a beautiful walk that we enjoyed immensely. A few miles further south on Hwy 117 is the La Ventana Arch. La Ventana is one of the largest arches in New Mexico and is very easy to get to with a short half mile hike. It’s a stunning sight from afar but as you get closer you will be in awe of the enormous beauty of this arch. Across El Malpais on the west side you can take exit 81 off of I- 40 and travel south along Hwy 53 from Grants, NM where you can hike trails through lava tubes and old lava flows. There is a “Big Tubes” area in which you will need to stop by the El Malpais Visitor Center to obtain a wild cave permit in order to explore the caves. Currently all the caves are closed due to covid until further notice with the exception of the privately owned the Bandera Ice Cave and Crater. There is a small Trading Post on site where you can get tickets. A couple of years ago we took Cameron (our youngest son) to see the Ice Caves and Bandera Crater which is located along the continental divide. It’s known as the land of “fire and ice” with the Bandera Crater and Ice Cave where the cave temperature never rises above 31 degrees. It seems the more we explore New Mexico the more there is to discover.
The Bisti Badlands are located in the four corners area of New Mexico south of Farmington off of Hwy 371. The Bisti’s have been #1 on my bucket list for many years, but for different reasons we haven’t been able to go until now. You can look at photos and watch YouTube videos but there is nothing like seeing this landscape in person that makes you feel transported into another place and time. Much of the landscape appears black and white or sepia tone. It’s dry and desolate and the heat becomes a factor much of the afternoon so hiking in this area is best in the mornings. We carried several bottles of water with us knowing that there were no water stations to refill our bottles. The area is 45,000 acres and 60 square miles so unless you have an idea where to go, you could wander for hours. We did our research and decided we needed a GPS to coordinate areas and also keep track of our path because there are no trails and many of the footprints are blown away with the wind. We parked at the south parking lot and entered our coordinates into our GPS with 3 areas that we wanted to see; the Wings, Cracked Eggs and the Petrified Logs. We made it to those areas but we were also lured into other areas that we wanted to explore. There’s just so much to see, much more than we could even imagine in the few hours we were there. I hope you can imagine being transported to this enchanted land that was shaped by time and mother nature!
Diablo Canyon is located in a remote area North and West of Santa Fe. It’s about a 1 1/2 hour drive from our home in Northwest Albuquerque. Joe and I drove up to the canyon on Easter Sunday and had the most amazing day! We saw many folks hiking, some biking, rock climbers and many trailers filled with ATV’s to enjoy the rough terrain. We even saw a hang glider floating in the wind. There were two trails that we hiked, this one through the Diablo Canyon and one along the Rio Grande River about 3 miles further West called Buckman. To get here we traveled a very rough dirt road called Old Buckman Road which is pure washboard for a little over 10 miles. It was like getting a vibrating massage as you travel down this dusty dirt road. We read in our guidebook that parts of the movie 3:10 to Yuma were filmed in this canyon. We got there early and enjoyed several hours before the sky started to get dark with a few clouds blowing in. When we left there wasn’t a parking place to be found. Many families had the same idea as us and wanted to enjoy the holiday outdoors where it really does feel spiritual at times with such beauty all around us.
At the north and west edge of the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge sits the San Lorenzo Canyon. Located 1 1/2 hours south of Albuquerque just west of Interstate 25, this remote canyon is a hidden gem to be explored. It’s a primitive area that is lined on both sides of a dirt road with tall sandstone formations, the narrow slots and a cave. It is a wonderous sight to see and hard not to be lured into the slot canyons along the way. We had an amazing day enjoying the warm sun and cool tunnels. We arrived around 10 am with only one other car in sight. We wandered around for 2 – 3 hours exploring the canyon and finding a trail that would end at a dry spring Hopefully they will see some rainfall soon allowing the spring to fill, however a long hot Summer is predicted with drought throughout the season. We took a picnic lunch and enjoyed the view while munching on sliced ham and cheese with crackers and fresh fruit. We are looking forward to the next hike to check off our list in our “60 Hikes within 60 miles” guidebook which can’t come soon enough! Continue reading →