Last Week's Hike

The early onset of winter gave way to a few days of unseasonably warm weather last weekend (like, the last one in October — not the one that just passed, though that was pretty nice, too). There were errands and such to be done, but with 70° predicted and some time since we got outside, a hike was in order. So Saturday was getting stuff done and Sunday was off to the Valles Caldera.

The plan was to head out to the Coyote Call trail, which is not actually in the Caldera, it's across Route 4. But it's one we've done, a good afternoon hike, and the drive and points along the trail would give views of the Caldera.

But Sunday morning, I checked the Web site, to make sure I knew where we were heading, and noticed the Calendar section, — which may have been there before, but was never that organized. And that afternoon there was a geology tour, down in the Caldera. We headed to breakfast and to the "staging area," the little headquarters in the park.

Turns out that the tour is a van tour, driving around some points of interest in the Caldera. We were the only two there for the tour, and it was actually the last day of tours for the season. The tour combines some of the geological history with human history, lasted just shy of an hour-and-a-quarter, and took us a couple miles further into the Caldera.

We saw some of the housing, dating back from when it was first used by Spanish settlers to graze sheep, up to the modern hunting lodge built in the 60s, as well as a few buildings from movie sets. We heard how the whole area was the result of a volcanic explosion millions of years ago — maybe from one mountain taller than Everest, or maybe a group of smaller mountains — that scattered rock and ash as far as Kansas. Subsequently, the land flooded and was an inland sea for millions of years; the resulting sandy soil is why it's not really forested in the bowl of the caldera. A couple herds of elk were there, away from the hunting happening in the surrounding mountains; way too far away for photos.


Kathy, our tour guide, was full of all sorts of anecdotes and information, some of pretty techncial (at least to me). She is also clearly very involved in the organizing of the programs and services there, so we got a good overview of what's offered. The Web site has expanded recently, but was still never quite sure how the hikes worked, or what the overnight accomodations are, but now we've got a better understanding. There will be some cross-country skiing (snow allowing; so far, shaping up to be dry, dry here) starting in early December, but otherwise we'll have to see about taking advantage of their offerings when they reopen in the spring.

We then headed across the highway and up into the trail. It begins with a pretty steep ascent and then levels off, following a ridge parallel to the highway that offers glimpses of the Caldera.

It was probably above 70° in the sun, but the shady spots still had remnants of snow the week before. About an hour-forty-five out on the trail, including a stop to snack on apples. Through Los Alamos for some reference photos, then home.

This past weekend was a little foil competition at NMFF, where I did about as well as I expected (7th out of 14), though it was exhausting; chores; and the monthly 7000 BC meeting.

1 comment:

M & D M said...

We want to go on an Elk Hunt. According to the description on the Caldera Calendar

"Our hunts are designed to pay homage to man's oldest relationship with animals by [killing them]"