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

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New VCNP Hike: South Mountain!

Just yesterday, a friend emailed me that the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) has a new hike called South Mountain. It's offered every day that the VCNP is open. No reservation is required. It only costs $5 and doesn't include a van ride. It costs an additional $5 if you want a van drive along VC01 to the trailhead on VC02. Otherwise, you have a bit of a trek. I'll save the $5 and see the scenery along the way.

To get to the Valle Grande Staging Area (VGSA) where you'll park your vehicle, drive into the Valle Grande entrance off NM4. Go in 2 miles on a graded, gravel road to the VGSA and park your vehicle. Pay your money and get trekking!!

The routes up South Mountain are on old logging roads. Last year I got a peek at them when I helped out Sam Beard and the NM Cross Country Ski Club group do some trail maintenance in preparation for that season's cross country skiing. (Beard and his group are very strong skiers and routinely ski to the top of South Mountain!) I was the "lopper" - snipping off aspen saplings.

The VCNP write-up of this 8 mile or so hike says, "Once on South Mountain, hikers have a myriad of trail choices." It would be a good idea to print out the map the VCNP provides on their website (a PDF download), check the area on Google Earth and bring the Redondo Peak topo map (purchase here), compass and GPS (if you have one).

It's gratifying to have this hike appear on the VCNP calendar and most fortuitous that it occurred just after I had written this letter to the editor on Monday in response to an opinion piece by Ed Tinsley that had recently appeared in the Albuquerque Journal and Los Alamos Monitor. I have since rescinded my letter but reproduce it here for your amusement:

Give Me Freedom to Roam

Dear Editor:

Vice Chair Ed Tinsley of the Valles Caldera Trust recently presented an invitation to look at the "list of activities at http://www.vallescaldera.gov/comevisit/ and the daily calendar of attractions at
http://www.vallescaldera.gov/calendar/ViewCal.html" He intimated that people who complain of lack of public access really don't know what they are talking about because public access is plentiful at the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP).

I'm a hiker who took his challenge and looked on the Preserve website for unguided hikes of more than a few miles. For the remaining weeks in August, I saw 2 unguided hikes listed and for September, I saw none.

If the Valles Caldera National Preserve doesn't offer me what I want, they are in effect offering me no access. It's not like I'm able to buy an annual pass and make up my own hikes in the Preserve. No, I'm offered a menu of recreation opportunities but they are not the ones I want. I'll keep my money for the meantime!

This week, I walked up Pajarito Mountain Ski Area's jeep roads to the top (a free activity!) and I looked longingly over the VCNP boundary fence at all that land I'd love to hike and explore but am not allowed to. Hiking opportunities in the Preserve are of their time and choosing.

Sincerely,

Here is a link to Ed Tinsley's piece in the Albuquerque Journal. Let me know if it doesn't work. It's sometimes difficult to link to newspaper articles because the links may change as time passes. Click on Trial Premium Pass (FREE!), watch the brief commercial and then enter the Albuquerque Journal website to read Ed's opinion piece. (It also appeared in the Los Alamos Monitor but their website archive is extremely problematical to search and I wasn't able to find the article.)

This new hike addition has me excited and eager to give the VCNP my money!!

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Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States