The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


(Top right): Crossing the Alamo Canyon at Bandelier National Monument is a steep hike.

(Top right): Crossing the Alamo Canyon at Bandelier National Monument is a steep hike.

(Right): Mark Dankert relaxes at the Stone Lion’s Shrine.

(Right): Mark Dankert relaxes at the Stone Lion’s Shrine.

Jiking in the Jemez

I just hiked out of Capulin Canyon here in the Bandelier National Monument. My friend Mark opted to laze around camp for a while because it’s beautiful down there. Our campsite was next to the creek on level ground carpeted with Ponderosa pine needles.

I’m happy to be sitting here at the Stone Lion’s Shrine, resting up for the final five-and-a-half miles back to the parking lot. Last time I sat here was twenty-one years ago, shortly after arriving in New Mexico. I was solo then, everything I owned packed into a ‘79 Subaru station wagon. The skies were clear then when I crawled into my tube tent (plastic pitched between two trees with a rope). I learned my first lesson about New Mexico weather when a spring storm dumped over a foot of snow that night, covering the trail. I had to bushwhack in a northerly direction toward Frijoles Canyon. After that, getting back to the car was easy.

In 2006, the National Park Service celebrated the monument’s ninetieth year. A $12 per vehicle entry fee gets you seven days in 33,750 acres, most of which is part of the national wilderness system. There are seventy miles of trails, but only three miles of public road. The road leads to the visitor’s center and museum at the Frijoles Canyon ruins, which are one of those not-to-be-missed highlights popular for day trips. Take a carload of out-of-towners on the fabulous loop through the Jemez corridor—stopping at the Red Rocks of Jemez Pueblo, Battleship Rock, Spence Hot Springs, Jemez Falls, and Bandelier. They will be impressed.

Hiking the backcountry at Bandelier requires a permit, obtainable for free at the visitor’s center. Park rangers will tell you the rules: no bikes, no dogs, no horses, no fires, and no camping in unauthorized places. My dog was unhappy to be left behind, but with outdoor recreation on the rise, the rules are needed to keep the place pristine.

We’ve seen no one on the trails—of course, it is midweek during the off-season. At this shrine, which is still shared by several tribes, two mountain lions chiseled in stone have crouched here for a long time. The guidebook (A Guide to the Bandelier National Monument, by Dorothy Hoard) has a picture of them that was taken in 1890. (To respect the sanctity of the place, monument brochures no longer mention its location.)

We could loop around by Frijoles Canyon, but will probably go back the way we came to get another look at Yapashi, possible ancestral home of Cochiti Pueblo. It commands spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos to the northeast (Rio Arriba), and the Rio Grande rift and Sandia Mountains to the south (Rio Abajo). The ground is littered with pottery potsherds and obsidian flake left by the ancients from early in the last millennium. A central kiva is clearly visible amid the extensive stone ruins.

It would be hot up here in mid-summer, and a day hike to Yapashi and the Stone Lions then would be ambitious for most. If you make the effort to lug a backpack, you might as well stay a few days. Water flows year-round in the major canyons, which have lots of side canyons to explore, and all lead to the Rio Grande.

To get back to the trailhead, we’ll have to re-cross the narrow, five-hundred-foot-deep Alamo Canyon. Its steep switchback trails and stone steps through thick layers of compacted volcanic ash (Bandelier Tuff) were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s. Tepee-shaped tent rocks, unique to the Jemez, are scattered along the canyon floor. We can refill water bottles in the creek.

I hope Mark finishes his explorations pretty soon so we can escape the fifty-mile-per-hour winds forecast for this afternoon—and make it to the Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe in time for Happy Hour.

Outdoor EXPO coming in May

The New Mexico Outdoor EXPO is fun for the whole family. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the huge aquarium, catfish pond, firearm and archery target shooting, casting, fly tying, fabulous free exhibits, a climbing wall, and much more. Learn from the experts how to improve your fishing and shooting skills at the Albuquerque Shooting Range on May 5 and 6.

The EXPO is free to the public and no registration is required. All ranges will be overseen by Certified Hunter Education Instructors using Department firearms and bows. Safety will have top priority.

The shooting range can be reached by driving west on I-40 to the top of Nine-Mile Hill and exiting on Paseo Del Vulcan. Go north on Paseo Del Vulcan 4.2 miles to the park sign, then west at the park sign 2.6 miles to the range. For more information, call the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at (505) 222-4731.

Completing the Continental Divide Trail a statewide priority

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed today, key New Mexico agencies and organizations joined together to make completing, maintaining, and protecting the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) a statewide priority. Running from Canada to Mexico, the thirty-one-hundred-mile-long CDT connects numerous nationally significant cultural, natural, and historical treasures.

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA), the Acoma Tribe, the New Mexico State Land Office, the State of New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service state in the MOU that they will “work together in a cooperative manner on issues regarding the construction, management, and coordination of resources related to the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in the State of New Mexico.”

Seven hundred-forty miles of the CDT are within New Mexico, but only forty-six percent of the New Mexico portion is complete, compared with sixty-three percent of the Trail overall. When complete, the Trail will link many of New Mexico’s natural wonders such as El Malpais National Monument, famous for its unique landscape created by lava flows; Mount Taylor, a towering peak considered sacred by several nearby tribes; and the Big Hatchet Mountains, a remote and scenic area in the Southwest corner of the state. It will also connect with important historical and cultural sites such as Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, El Morro National Monument, and the Zuni Acoma Trail.

The Continental Divide Trail was established by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 1978. When complete, the “King of Trails” will be the most significant trail system in the world. Stretching thirty-one hundred miles along the backbone of America from Canada to Mexico, it accesses some of the most wild and scenic places left in the world, while conserving the environment and promoting personal wellbeing.

For more information about the Continental Divide Trail, call (303) 838-3760 or toll-free (888) 909-CDTA (2382) or visit

Construction near Fenton Lake begins

Crews have started Phase II construction on NM Highway 126 in the Jemez Mountains near Fenton Lake State Park. This portion of the Highway 126 project will take place near the park entrance and will include constructing a 530-foot bridge over the Rio Cebolla and paving four miles of road.

“The project will improve access for park visitors,” said Charles Pety, New Mexico State Parks Northwest Region Manager. “Despite the short-term disruptions, Fenton will remain open and we anticipate a great season.”

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, is administering the construction project to widen and pave the existing roadway from east of Fenton Lake to the turnoff at Seven Springs Fish Hatchery.

The FHA anticipates that the roadwork may cause up to a thirty-minute delay for motorists using Highway 126. The project may also require some overnight closures of the road.

Though temporary delays will exist, the paving component of the project will significantly improve access to the park and general travel on Highway 126, especially during seasonal conditions. The project will also reconfigure the park entrance to better accommodate visitor traffic and larger recreational vehicles. In addition, the new bridge will elevate the new road sections over the sensitive wetlands of the Rio Cebolla, which flows through the park.

Phase I of the project, which included paving Highway 126 from mile marker ten to mile marker fourteen, east of Cuba, was completed in 2005. Phase II construction will involve paving four miles of Highway 126 (from mile marker twenty-six to mile marker thirty west) to Fenton Lake. Phase II construction is slated to finish by the fall of 2007.

For more information, contact Fenton Lake State Park at (505) 829-3630 or More information on FHA’s road projects is available at or (505) 829-3217.

Forest Service hosts off-road travel management workshops

The Cibola National Forest Service is hosting two public workshops to address travel management on the Sandia District. The identical workshops are scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the UNM Continuing Education Conference Center (North Building), Rooms B and C, 1634 University Boulevard NE (just east of Indian School) and Wednesday, May 9, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Los Vecinos Community Center in Tijeras.

Participants will build upon information from two previous public workshops and from meetings of the Sandia Travel Management Work Group and Forest Service interdisciplinary team. Interested citizens do not need to have attended previous workshops in order to participate. Workshop participants will review and comment on preliminary route designations developed by the Sandia Travel Work Group. Participants will also have an opportunity to add routes that they would like to see considered for inclusion in a motorized system for the Sandia Ranger District.

The Cibola National Forest is committed to involving the public in a collaborative process as it implements the Travel Management Rule on all districts within the next four years. The Sandia District is the first unit on the forest to address travel management.

Riders of four-wheel all-terrain vehicles, motorbikes, and other off-road vehicles are seeking to extend wilderness areas that are available for motorized recreation. A huge national issue pits a powerful off-road vehicle lobby against advocates of roadless wilderness.

Locally, a group of residents are seeking protection for Perdiz Canyon, east of Placitas. They were dismayed to discover that, far from becoming the wildlife corridor they envision, this area could be opened to off-road vehicles.

Dave Parsons of the Rewilding Institute, in a letter to Placitas activist Mitch Johnson, wrote, “In my opinion, the opening of this area to off-road travel would have unacceptable impacts to ecologically-important species, such as mountain lions and black bears, biological diversity, and ecological and watershed values on both a local and eco-regional scale.”

For more information concerning efforts to preserve Perdiz Canyon, call Mitch Johnson at 868-5100 or Elise VanArsdale at 867-8396.

For further information about the USFS travel management workshops, contact Nancy Brunswick, Travel Management Team Leader, Cibola National Forest at (505) 346-3900 or

Long distance hiker sets off on Continental Divide Trail

With a focus on building greater awareness for the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), Mat Matson begins an epic journey from Mexico to Canada. As part of the Rotary CDT Challenge, the Conifer, Colorado resident, who will turn seventy later this year, sets off April 26 to hike the entire seven-hundred-thirty-five-mile-long section of the CDT in New Mexico. In 2008, he and his team will hike through Colorado; in 2009, through Wyoming; and in 2010, he will complete the thirty-one-hundred-mile-long trail, hiking through Idaho and Montana.

Matson hopes to raise enough funds as part of the Challenge to support the endowment of a Rotary-sponsored Youth Corps that would spend ten weeks each summer working on the CDT.

Matson and his fellow hiker Pem Sherpa of the Rotary Club of Nepal—who has climbed Mount Everest several times—are seeking volunteers to assist with resupply and shuttles in New Mexico. Anyone wishing to help is encouraged to contact Suzanne Barkley at






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