This blog is about hiking trips along the Valles Caldera Rim. For more information, see link for the Valles Caldera Rim Trail blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Valles Caldera North Rim--Garita Ridge-Hunter's Point and Cerro de la Garita

Seasons and Sights Seen Along Valles Caldera North Rim


View of Valle Toledo from High Meadow on Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point

Immediately surrounding Valle Toledo, clockwise, are the west dome of Cerros de los Posos, a ring-fracture dome of the 1.6 million-year-old Toledo Caldera, and two of the ring-fracture domes of the 1.2 million-year-old Valles Caldera, Cerro del Medio, and Cerros del Abrigo. On the very far horizon and on the Valles Caldera east rim, left to right, are Cerro Bonito, Pajarito Mountain (two peaks close together), and smoothly-rounded Cerro Grande, behind Cerro del Medio.

When the Valles Caldera magma erupted, it broke the surface rock into a ring-shaped fracture all around the collapsing caldera. The ring-fracture domes that encircle Redondo, the Valles Caldera’s resurgent dome, formed when residual magma continued to squeeze and erupt through the broken ring-fracture zone.

One hike in the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) goes up the bald, grassy face of Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point, following a dirt road up to the locked Garita Gate on the west end of the ridge. You don’t have to go all the way to the gate, though, to get fantastic views--just walk up the grassy face. At the top of the ridge are numerous logging roads coming in from the north; all lead back to the boundary fence between the VCNP and Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF). The VCNP calls the hike La Garita or Garita. The description of the hike in the September 2007 Draft State of the Preserve (page 45) refers to this area as Garita Ridge. Others say that historically this whole ridge was called Hunter’s Point. On USGS topo maps, neither name appears. This seems a grave oversight for such a lovely place. Regardless of what you wish to call it, sign up for this hike! The views are spectacular.

When you go on this hike, be sure to have a map and binoculars to study how everything fits together in the Valles Caldera. You’ll see close-up views of the ring-fracture domes (also called moat rhyolite domes) and valles of the northern caldera, plus far-off views all the way to the east and south rims. Kirt Kempter has taken wonderful panoramic photos of the Valles Caldera from this ridge. You can see them at both the Bradbury Museum and the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) in Los Alamos.

If you don’t want to make a reservation for the Garita hike, there is another way to get to these great views. It involves, however, a very long drive on Forest Road (FR) 144 out of Española. After all that distance traveled, you are constrained to look at the beauty of your public land from behind a fence.

Eastern End of Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point

On a SFNF map you’ll notice clearly the encroachment of Santa Fe National Forest into what was once the perfectly square Baca Location No. 1 land grant, in the Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point area at the middle of the VCNP’s north rim. This happened in 1966, when the United States Forest Service made a land trade with Pat Dunigan, owner of the Baca Location, for an “access road”, which probably refers to the construction of FR 144.

At the eastern end of Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point, the SFNF boundary makes a strongly V-shaped incursion into the VCNP. It’s rumored that the V-shape on the eastern end of the land exchange was made to allow people to get closer to the stunning views without trespassing on Dunigan’s land. Located here is a memorial to someone’s son and, nearby, prayer flags are attached to a tree. This “point” is obviously of great importance to people, because they make their way here even though the distances are great. Once here, though, they’re not allowed to set foot on the Preserve--even though they own it!


Golden Aspens along FR 144

FR 144 runs west of Española and accesses portions of the Valles Caldera north rim that are on SFNF land. It’s truly an amazing road. From it, views of practically all of northern New Mexico can be had--these include Polvadera Peak, Cerro Pedernal, Abiquiu Dam, Clara Peak, and Caballo Mountain. In places, FR 144 wanders back and forth across the caldera rim and sometimes the road is smack-dab on the rim. Myriad old roads, trails, tree blazes, aspen dendroglyphs, gray weathered tree stumps are to be seen, and there are tons of peace and quiet. The 10,000’ elevation makes the hiking pleasant, and afterwards, on descending to 82-degree temperature in Española, makes you wish you’d stayed up there!

In Santa Fe National Forest on Cerro de la Garita, Looking toward South Rim

This excellent viewpoint is off on old logging road west of Garita Ridge-Hunter’s Point, near Cerro de la Garita. In the immediate foreground, looking south, are the Cerro Santa Rosa dome complex, Valles Caldera moat rhyolite domes. The complex comprises a large dome, 9701’ (above the tallest aspens) and a small dome, 9232’ (partially hidden behind the lone conifer on left). On the horizon are the Valle Grande with Rabbit Ridge-Rabbit Mountain, left, and the Paso del Norte-Peralta Pass-Las Conchas area, right. Beyond that, Sandia Mountain, east of Albuquerque, is a barely visible hump of blue haze

In Santa Fe National Forest on Cerro de la Garita Looking toward East Rim

A skinny piece of Valle San Antonio is at the right center, Valle Toledo is left, and a smear of Valles de los Posos is seen on the horizon. The Valles Caldera east rim is also on the horizon--left to right, Cerro Bonito, Pajarito Mountain (two peaks close together) and gently-rounded Cerro Grande. The ring-fracture domes preen beguilingly--Cerro del Medio, low-slung, in front of Cerro Grande, and Cerros del Abrigo, with its loads of aspens.

To me, standing on the north rim, looking into the Valles Caldera National Preserve, is much like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time--I almost can’t believe what I’m seeing! It’s an astounding tableau of visual delight, especially in autumn with the yellow aspens!
Valles Caldera North Rim: Garita Ridge-Hunter's Point
On this map, Garita Ridge-Hunter's Point is the area that's plastered with waypoints. Cerro de la Garita arcs around the left middle of the map. Both are on the Valles Caldera 's north rim and both are partly on Santa Fe National Forest land and partly on Valles Caldera National Preserve land. They are accessed from FR 144 out of Española or from FR 100-FR99 out of Youngsville.

The waypoints are from when I went on the VCNP's La Garita hike. I've left the waypoints on the map so as to easily differentiate Garita Ridge-Hunter's Point from Cerro de la Garita which is to the west.

Special thanks to Donald and Dorothy Hoard for their encouragement and help on this project.

Valles Caldera Rim Eclectic Resources

Advocacy Groups

Caldera Action
Caldera Action is a new group that replaces the Valles Caldera Coalition. Caldera Action advocates low impact public use and preservation of the natural, cultural, and historical features of the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP). It desires much greater public participation in decisions affecting the VCNP and hopes to inspire more activism on all VCNP-related issues. Caldera Action is concerned about what may happen to the Preserve’s unique landscape and the public’s access to it if the Trust doesn’t reach financial self sufficiency by 2015. The group believes that currently the Preserve is not being well managed and this negatively impacts both the protection of the land and the public’s access to it. Its vision, mission, and guiding principles are detailed on its website.
Los Amigos de los Valles Caldera
Los Amigos and Caldera Action are both non-profit organizations but Los Amigos works very closely with the Valles Caldera Trust in helping it achieve the goals of protecting the Valles Caldera National Preserve, educating people about it, and achieving financial self sufficiency. Los Amigos does this by such actions as garnering volunteers and securing grants and donations.
Books and Publications

Anschuetz, Kurt F. & Merlan, Thomas. More Than a Scenic Mountain Landscape: Valles Caldera National Preserve Land-use History. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-196. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2007.
Quote from the website:

“This land-use history deals mainly with the economic development of the locality over the 124 years of intense use and development. We provide a regional context in which the caldera’s users, from the first legal owners, the Baca heirs, to the last private owners, the James Patrick Dunigan companies, acted during their respective tenures.”

You may download chapters as pdf files. Appendix I includes an annotated bibliography.
Beard, Sam. Ski Touring in Northern New Mexico (2nd ed.). Albuquerque, NM: Nordic Press, 1991.
The Jemez Mountains section provides an invaluable aid to exploring the cross-country ski trails in the Peralta Road-Corral Canyon-Las Conchas-Los Griegos area, on or near the Valles Caldera rim. Even if you don’t ski, these trails can be used year-round. Sam Beard still regularly goes out with a crew of volunteers to maintain the cross-country ski trails in the Jemez Mountains.
Burns, Jim. Cross-Country Skiing in the Jemez Mountains. Santa Fe, NM: Mountain Empire Press, 1991.
This guidebook includes brief descriptions and topo maps of cross-country ski trails, from Paso del Norte to Los Griegos Mountain, which will get you on or near the Valles Caldera south rim.
DeBuys, William & Usner, Don J.. Valles Caldera: A Vision for New Mexico's National Preserve. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2006.
Both the essay by DeBuys and the photos and text by Usner provide a good way to get to know the Valles Caldera more intimately. It’s guaranteed that if you don’t care now about the Valles Caldera National Preserve, you will after reading this book!
Goff, Fraser. Valles Caldera: A Geologic History. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, May 16, 2009.
Fraser Goff is a retired Los Alamos National Lab geologist and adjunct professor in the University of New Mexico’s Earth and Planetary Sciences department. Fraser and his wife, Cathy, lead geology tours at the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Fraser has many years of experience leading geological tours.

This book is now published. Here are the details.
Hoard, Dorothy. Guide to Bandelier National Monument (4th ed.). Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos Historical Society, February 12, 2009.
The book includes these hikes which are on the Valles Caldera rim: Cerro Grande, Scooter Peak and Scooter Pass (the latter two are accessed from the Alamo Boundary Trail). The book has been completely redone because there have been so many changes in Bandelier National Monument since the third edition, published in 1989. Here are the details.
Hoard, Dorothy. Los Alamos Outdoors (2nd ed.). Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos Historical Society, 1993.
Even though much of the landscape around Los Alamos changed drastically after the 2000 Cerro Grande fire, this invaluable book will still teach you a lot about what you’re seeing in the Jemez Mountains around Los Alamos--the birds, the flowers, the geology, the past history. It includes directions, sketch maps, and interpretation for Guaje Canyon Trail 282 on the east rim of the Valles Caldera and the Canon de Valle hike which was a historic route into the Valles Caldera.
Kues, Barry S., Kelley, Shari A., Lueth, Virgil W. (Eds.). Guidebook 58: Geology of the Jemez Region II. Socorro, NM: New Mexico Geological Society, 2007.
This compilation of research papers and road guides, from the September 2007 fall field conference of the NM Geological Society, includes fascinating information on the geology of the Valles Caldera.
Martin, Craig. Los Alamos Trails (2nd ed.). Los Alamos, NM: All Seasons Publishing, 2006.
The second edition has many changes taking into account both the effects of the Cerro Grande Fire and the San Ildefonso Pueblo land transfer. It describes four hikes which will get you on or near the Valles Caldera rim: Canada Bonita-Guaje Canyon Trail 282, Alamo Boundary, Coyote Call, and Valle Grande. Waypoints, detailed directions, and inset topo maps are provided.
Martin, Craig. Valle Grande: A History of the Baca Location No. 1.Los Alamos, NM: All Seasons Publishing, 2003.
This well-researched book gives the history of the Baca Location No. 1 up to its acquisition by the United States government.
Matthews, Kay. Cross-country Skiing in Northern New Mexico. Placitas, NM: Acequia Madre Press, 1989.
The Jemez Mountains section gives directions and sketch maps to trails and roads that can get you on or near the Valles Caldera south rim in the area between Paso del Norte Road, Forest Road (FR) 268, and Peralta Road, FR 280.
Pettitt, Roland (Revisions and Maps by Dorothy Hoard). Exploring the Jemez Country (3rd ed.). Los Alamos: Los Alamos Historical Society, 1994.
Provides a fun-to-read orientation to the marvels and adventures the Jemez Mountains offer outside of the Valles Caldera. Trips on roads, both paved and dirt, take you to the southern and northern Jemez Mountains and to many of the sights you’ll also see from the Valles Caldera rim like Battleship Rock and San Antonio Canyon. The “3-D” sketch maps, a unique feature of all Dorothy Hoard’s hiking books, allow enjoyable and easy visualization of the geography.
Prisciantelli, Tom. America’s Great Western Volcanos. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press, 2004.
This book contains a brief geologic interpretation of a hike which the author calls “Rim Hike”, on the south Valles Caldera rim, within the Santa Fe National Forest. It’s on Cat Mesa Road, FR 135, off FR 10. The author discusses the youngest volcanics in the Valles Caldera: Battleship Rock, El Cajete, and Banco Bonito. He uses both the East Fork Trail 137, starting from Battleship Rock, and a roadcut along NM-4 to interpret these southwestern moat rhyolites. It’s written by a non-geologist and is layman-friendly.
Salzman, Joan and Gary. Hiking Adventures in Northern New Mexico.Los Alamos, NM: Aventuras Publishers, 2006.
This innovative hiking book includes a CD chockfull of waypoints, photos, and Google Earth maps for each hike. Directions for the alternate, unofficial route up Cerro Grande and the hike along the north rim of Santa Clara Canyon, starting from Tschicoma, are in this book.
S. Self, G. Heiken, M. L. Sykes, K. Wohletz, R. V. Fisher, and D. P. Dethier. Bulletin 134—Field Excursions to the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico. Socorro, NM: New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources, 1996.
Tom Prisciantelli says this is one of the sources he used and found helpful in writing America’s Great Western Volcanos.

Geographic Names Information System
Quote from the website:

The GNIS contains information about physical and cultural geographic features of all types in the United States, associated areas, and Antarctica, current and historical, but not including roads and highways. The database holds the Federally recognized name of each feature and defines the feature location by state, county, USGS topographic map, and geographic coordinates.”You look up a place name and get a link to a Google Earth map that pinpoints exactly what you are looking for--a fun way to learn the geography of the Valles Caldera!
Grand Enchantment Trail
A 700 mile route that goes from Phoenix, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico using existing trails and dirt roads. This concept of no-new-trails is a good precedent for the Valles Caldera Rim Trail in this era of federal government cutbacks of outdoor recreation monies.
Lists of John New Mexico Member Sites
You can find elevations for Valles Caldera summits either by county or elevation range. On the Sandoval County Summits list, many of the caldera peaks are listed with their elevation, the USGS quadrangle they are found on, and a small satellite view provided by Google Earth. A few even have photos of the mountain.
Geology of the Pajarito Plateau  
by Shari Kelley and Kirt Kempter
Pajarito Environmental Education Center
The Pajarito Plateau is the handiwork of the Toledo-Valles Calderas. This fascinating write-up includes photos of the rocks of the plateau going back in time from most recent rocks, El Cajete Pumice, to the oldest, the Santa Fe Group. The authors are geologists who have studied and mapped in the Jemez Mountains.
New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Publications
This website is a real thrill to those who love maps. You can download geological maps of the Valles Caldera as pdf files.
New Mexico Geological Society Publications
You can order Guidebook 58: Geology of the Jemez Region II on this website.
Resurgent calderas and the valles caldera
This page is on a website called Views of the Solar System. It tells how a resurgent dome such as Redondo forms. You can download a shaded elevation map and Landsat image of Valles Caldera from links at the bottom of the webpage.
United States Geological Survey Cascade Volcano Observatory
Warning: This website can lead to serious web browsing!
The Valles Caldera 1
The Great Desert: Geology and Life on Mars and in the Southwest
Valles Caldera 1 - Overview

In two chapters--illustrated with Space Shuttle photos - are everything you always wanted to know about how the Valles Caldera formed!
Valles Caldera 1
The Great Desert: Geology and Life on Mars and in the Southwest
Valles Grande Caldera - Geologic History 1

Five chapters contain an excellent introduction to the Valles Caldera with good photos of volcanics in the area and also Space Shuttle views of the caldera. Keep hitting “Next” to see all five chapters.

Valles Caldera Lake Cores 
This page is on a website called Teacher's Guide to Valles Caldera: The Science.
It explains that to understand past climate history, scientists are studying sediment cores from a ancient lake bed in the Valle Grande. There is a
large amount of important scientific research being conducted on an ongoing basis in the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Valles Caldera National Preserve Reference Documents
Here you can download the State of the Preserve - DRAFT, September 2007, as a pdf file. It has a good bibliography of publications relating to the Valles Caldera under Chapter 6, “Literature Cited”.
Volcanology and Geothermal Energy

Wohletz, Kenneth, and Grant Heiken. Volcanology and Geothermal Energy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
This book is available in electronic form on eScholarship Editions. Both authors are geologists: Wohletz works at LANL and Heiken is retired from LANL. If you look up “Valles Caldera” in the index, you will be able to find interesting diagrams and information.
Volcanos of New Mexico
NM Museum of Natural History
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History website provides information on New Mexico volcanos, including Valles Caldera and the Jemez Volcanic Field. The website has links to other Internet volcano resources.

You can also download a pdf file of this paper:

Crumpler, L. S., and Lucas, S. G. (2001). Volcanoes of New Mexico: An Abbreviated Guide for Non-Specialists. Volcanology in New Mexico. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 18, p. 5-15.

This paper presents information, in layman-friendly form, on about two dozen volcanic areas in New Mexico.

Kempter, Kirt & Huelster, Dick. Valles Caldera: Map and Geologic History of the Southwest's Youngest Caldera. Santa Fe, NM: High Desert Field Guides, 2007.
Great primer on the geology of the Valles Caldera is on the back of the map! One can visualize the outline of the caldera rim on this shaded relief map.
Smith, R.L., Bailey, R.A., and Ross, C.S.. Geologic Map of the Jemez Mountains. New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey, 1970.
This is where you can order the original geologic map of Jemez Mountains and Valles Caldera: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR). A new version, authored by Fraser Goff and others, should be out soon. In the meantime, you can freely download on the NMBGMR website the updated, individual USGS 7.5 minute series topographical geologic quad maps that cover the entire Valles Caldera National Preserve--Valle San Antonio, Cerro del Grant, Polvadera Peak, Valle Toledo, Redondo Peak, and Bland.
Valles Caldera National Preserve Maps Overview
Click on “STATIC” to download maps of various hikes and activities offered in the Preserve. The other link, “DYNAMIC”, has been under construction for years. It was originally planned to have linked interactive maps with photos, but this hasn’t happened yet. The VCNP is plagued with frequent staff shortages. Congress’s refusal to pass a permanent budget the past two years only worsens the situation.

Car trip into the Valles Caldera National Preserve 8-26-2006
Photo Gallery by Bob Walker

The caldera publicized a Drive and Discover day open house in 2006 but had to shut down early, turning away droves of disappointed visitors. Bob Walker was one of the lucky ones who got into the sacred inner sanctum that day. There are only 18 photos but they include shots of a long line of vehicles on the VCNP’s entrance road, an elk herd, mushrooms, and the Valle Grande.
Don Usner - Photography
Don Usner has on online photo gallery of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Click on “galleries”, then “places”, then “valles caldera”, and prepare to be astounded!
Kirt Kempter makes amazing panoramic photos of the Valles Caldera from both the north and south rim. The panoramas can be custom-ordered from Pajarito Environmental Education Center and the Chamber of Commerce in Los Alamos or from the Audubon Center and the Public Lands Information Center in Santa Fe or by contacting Kirt through his website.
Jemez, New Mexico
The fifth photo down on this page is by Roland Pettitt It’s taken from the top of Redondo Peak and shows a view of the Valle Grande, looking east toward the Valles Caldera east rim and beyond to the Sangre de Cristos. It’s unique because the top of Redondo is now off-limits to the general public. This is another one of those gray areas which the Valles Caldera Trust will have to face one day. The Preserve’s enabling legislation does not bar the public from hiking on Redondo.

This website is Volcano World and its purpose is to help children in grades K-12 learn about volcanos. But for some of us whose understanding of science is, ahem, rudimentary, this is the perfect website to learn about volcanos!
Redondo Peak, Roland Pettitt, National Park Service, no date.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Valles Caldera National Preserve
This is the official website of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Valles Caldera Rim Trail

Valles Caldera Rim Trail
This is the official blog of the all-volunteer effort to have a rim trail around the Valles Caldera. It’s a valuable resource for anyone who wants to explore the Valles Caldera Rim. On this website, you can read trip reports by volunteers who have walked segments of the rim and learn what areas of the rim are open right now and which are off-limits for the meantime. The majority of the trip reports were written by Dorothy Hoard. Dorothy was accompanied on the reconnaissance trips by volunteers who were very happy to hike along with her on the Valles Caldera Rim.

Los Amigos de los Valles Caldera

Los Amigos provides information on available Preserve volunteer opportunities. 
Valles Caldera National Preserve
          Details how to find out about volunteer opportunities at the Preserve.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Valles Caldera South Rim Explore Toward Los Griegos

I took a hike on Thursday, November 15, 2007, with the Valles Caldera Rim Trail volunteers. Dorothy parked her car at the intersection of FR 10 and the Cat Mesa Road, FR 135. This is just up the road from the Sierra de los Piños housing development, in the Vallecitos de los Indios, in the Jemez Mountains, NM. We started east from the intersection on an unnumbered dirt road.

The idea of this Valles Caldera south rim explore was to connect in with the route of an earlier trip to the top of Los Griegos done in Autumn 2005. We would follow the true rim east from FR 10 whereas the 2005 trip was only on the Valles Caldera rim whilst hiking up the western ridge of Los Griegos.

Right away, Ed spotted turkey tracks in the dry dust. I hardly ever see the turkeys--just their tracks. As we walked, I envisioned myself quietly watching a flock of turkeys walking across the road at sunrise.

We followed the unmarked road for about 3/4 of a mile, but then left it for the woods and a fence just north of and parallel to the road. After a little bit, we intersected an abandoned road that was at a right angle to the barb wire fence. The road continued north of the fence and we wanted to see where it went. We decided that we’d come back to follow it if there was time at the end of the hike. We turned south and followed the abandoned road back to the main dirt road.

Throughout the day, we didn’t see much in the way of real, live animals. I can’t remember if it was elk or cows that Ed spotted in the distance on one of the roads we intersected. We saw an aspen that had perfect bear claw marks going up the trunk further than I’d like to think a bear could climb! We saw lots of deer and elk tracks in the dust.

What’s surprising is all the signs of people we saw in the woods--the dirt road bed had yellow warning ribbon exposed by erosion that cautioned about the electrical line buried underneath. We passed an electric fence with a warning sign from the forest service to go very slowly through the gate but the gate was missing. We saw a sign for Jemez Mountains Electric Co-op next to some manhole covers for what could have been meter boxes. We could hear the racket of heavy machinery somewhere below and Ed said that was from a pumice mine. It was most likely Copar’s South Pit Pumice Mine, off FR 270, located immediately south of the road we were on. There is another pumice mine--the Cerro del Piño Pumice Mine, on FR 10, run by Utility Block, an Albuquerque maker of cast concrete that’s been mining pumice deposits in Santa Fe National Forest since the 1940’s--but it was even further south of our road.

Strolling along, we saw a sign posted on a tree that said it was a Northern Arizona University (NAU) School of Forestry Silviculture Lab Experimental Research Area. Here and there in our wanders, we saw variously colored plastic flags dangling from trees. We saw groups of trees that had three white bands painted around them and one that had white numbers arranged vertically on its trunk, probably to mark an archeological site but other than a moundish area, there was nothing much to see. We found the ruins of what was once a very sturdy timber structure in a pretty meadow.

Throughout the day, we saw a Clamato jar, beer and soda cans, rifle and shotgun shell casings--all had been carelessly tossed aside. Why don’t people litter money or gold or silver?? Dorothy found a Bureau of Land Management benchmark at a fence corner. The only person we saw was in an old Suburban-type vehicle that passed by with dog yapping inside. We were impressed at how well he drove over the deep ruts but had no idea where he had come from.

The views along our route were bashful ones of mountains glimpsed very distantly through the trees--Redondo, Los Griegos, Pelado, Cerro del Piño. To the west, we could see the cliffs above San Diego Canyon and rising smoke from a prescribed burn beyond the cliffs. Dorothy pointed out a very far off view of a prominent roadcut on NM-126, above La Cueva, and the Valles Caldera west rim. At one point, early in the hike, I glimpsed a very distant view of what I’m sure was Pajarito Mountain’s tree speckled south meadow.

By following twists and turns of dirt roads, with a few short passages through the woods, continuing generally east toward Los Griegos, Dorothy was able to intersect, via her Garmin GPS track, the path of the 2005 trip to the top of Los Griegos. At that point, we headed uphill toward Los Griegos through a lot of dead fall to have our lunch in a leafless, towering aspen woods, but still far below the top of Los Griegos.

At the end of the hike, Dorothy said she had found out that it was possible to follow roads east from the FR 10-Cat Mesa Road intersection to Los Griegos. Dorothy always makes a map of our route when she gets home. I would like to know if we were always on the true Valles Caldera rim. The Valles Caldera rim makes a big southward bow to stay on the high points which form the rim in this area.

We started the hike a little before 9 am and got back to Dorothy’s car around 3:30 pm. The hike was 7.67 miles total. We’ve saved for another day exploring the old, abandoned road that crossed the barb wire fence.

A bashful, through-the-trees view of Redondo Peak, the resurgent dome of the Valles Caldera, looking northward.

Pretty meadow.

Ruin of timber structure in pretty meadow.

Los Griegos which is on the Valles Caldera south rim.

Dorothy and Ed going through terrible deadfall on the way toward Los Griegos. On the way down, we went more to the south (right) and there was less deadfall.

Aspens near our lunch spot.

I only took a few waypoints but they show the trend of our hike was toward Los Griegos.

Monday, November 12, 2007

San Antonio Canyon near Valles Caldera National Preserve Boundary

I had the good fortune last week of driving in on the Thompson Ridge Road, FR 106, to Mushroom Basin in the Jemez Mountains . The road is dirt and wasn't bad for a passenger car--a couple of rough spots. There are good views of Redondo and Redondo Border while you're driving in. You access Thompson Ridge Road, FR 106, off NM-4. It's on the right before you get to La Cueva, New Mexico. There's a housing development there--Sulphur Estates, I believe it's called.

I parked at the Santa Fe National Forest boundary and walked 4 miles, approximately, to this beautiful spot in San Antonio Canyon, on Santa Fe National Forest land that is below the west rim of the Valles Caldera. This is literally just outside the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) boundary fence and near the signed and locked gate that forbids you from entering the Preserve. The sign says temporarily closed to the public and has said that for 7 years now. It's odd but in the Preserve, San Antonio Canyon is called Valle San Antonio and here, it's just plain old San Antonio Canyon. This place is west of the westernmost ring fracture dome of the Valles Caldera, San Antonio Mountain but is still within the topographic rim of the Valles Caldera.

In the photo above, San Antonio Creek is downhill and not visible. FR 376, that you access off NM-126, outside La Cueva, is across the creek . If you notice the opposite hillside, on the left where there are some gray, leafless aspens, there is a road, barely visible, that goes up out of San Antonio Canyon to FR 144. (FR 144 is also accessed off NM-126, not far past the turn off for FR 376.) If you walk that road up to the top, you will be on the west rim of the Valles Caldera. Since it's on forest service land, you're allowed to walk on it without paying money or making a reservation. There is a single track motorbike trail that runs along the Valles Caldera west rim, paralleling FR 144. The motorbike trail, though, tends to waver all over the place to avoid obstacles like grazing allotment fences and drainages. It sometimes seems to go on and on and is very steep and can be rutted on uphill sections.

This is looking across the VCNP fence toward the northwest rim of the Valles Caldera. A lot of the northwest rim is on VCNP land and is heavily wooded. From the northwest rim, you can see close up views of Cerro Seco and San Antonio Mountain, two of the ring fracture domes of the Valles Caldera, and also Redondo.

I like this area because it's isolated, there's not a lot of people on a weekday at least, and it's peaceful and beautiful.

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Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States