(Top right): Crossing the Alamo Canyon at Bandelier
National Monument is a steep hike.
(Right): Mark Dankert relaxes at the Stone Lion’s
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
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
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
For more information about the Continental Divide
Trail, call (303) 838-3760 or toll-free (888) 909-CDTA (2382) or
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 www.nmparks.com.
More information on FHA’s road projects is available at http://www.cflhd.gov
or (505) 829-3217.
Forest Service hosts off-road travel management
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long distance hiker sets off on Continental Divide
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
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 InDesign2@wispertel.net.