“It’s so crowded you’d think we were in Colorado.”
So said the woman at the end of a long line of hikers I was waiting to pass on a cat walk above the Jemez River. If it was this crowded on a hike that is not exactly near anywhere (over an hour’s drive from both Albuquerque and Santa Fe), I can’t imagine how packed the trails right outside Santa Fe are.
The Santa Fe National Forest reopened after a week or so of frequent afternoon showers. It was announced yesterday Carson National Forest near Taos will follow suit shortly. I’m anxiously awaiting Cibola to do the same, although the rains have been less frequent down here.
In the meantime, this inconvenience has compelled me to explore new areas. On Sunday, it was Cerrillos Hills State Park, a rather barren landscape of scrub (and old mines). But the history and geology were interesting and the views of distant mountains spectacular.
Last year, a friend and I drove through the Los Alamos compound into the Valle Caldera and then the red rock splendor of San Diego Canyon. I’d vowed to return and the opening of SFNS was the perfect incentive.
So yesterday I hiked from Battleship Rock to McCauley Springs, turning around there since I’d forgotten my hiking guide and didn’t realize I was nearly to Jemez Falls.
The trail is “littered” with obsidian as the 13.7 mile wide Valle Caldera is nearby (Battleship Rock is 200 feet of compacted ash). Just before meeting the hikers on the catwalk, I rounded a corner and was stopped in my tracks by what appeared to be a solid block of clear ice a few yards ahead of me. Ended up it was a piece of obsidian so sheer and polished it was reflecting the sun like a mirror.
That optical illusion and waiting for more than a dozen hikers to pass seemed to disorient me as I promptly lost the trail. When I finally conceded the point and turned around, I ran into a young woman who pointed me in the right direction even though in retrospect (she was also looking for the springs) she was as lost as I was.