Cerro Grande Revisited

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Pile of rocks marking Cerro Grande summit.

Yesterday when we discussed a hike to the Cerro Grande summit, the highest point in Bandelier National Monument, we realized that it had been almost exactly one year ago that we first did this hike.
This is certainly not a challenging hike, and because of the huge 2011 Las Conchas forest fire in the surrounding area, one could also say that the scenery leaves a lot to be desired. While it is true that the burn scars detract from many of the views at the top, there is still enough awesome beauty to make the 2-mile hike to the top more than worth it.

Patches of bright yellow wildflowers contrasted with blackened tree trunks.
Patches of bright yellow wildflowers contrasted with blackened tree trunks.
Harebells, some of my favorite wildflowers, were everywhere.
Harebells, some of my favorite wildflowers, were everywhere.
Trudging upward.
Trudging upward.

View towards the Valles Caldera, showing some of the burned areas in the background.
View towards the Valles Caldera, showing some of the burned areas in the background.

View east towards Los Alamos
View east towards Los Alamos

View south towards Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center.
View south towards Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center.

Another reason for wanting to revisit Cerro Grande was to share it with our two friends who have recently moved to New Mexico and are anxious to enjoy all the natural beauty this part of the state has to offer. The four of us had camped overnight last night at the Jemez Falls campground. The trail to Cerro Grande is near Jemez Falls, actually on the road that they would be taking back to their home in Espanola.

Yesterday we had enjoyed hiking with them on 2 different sections of the East Fork of the Jemez River trail. We first went the 2 miles down to the McCauley Warm Springs and back up. Then a short drive took us to the Las Conchas trailhead where we walked for a mile or so along the river, before backtracking to get back to the camp for dinnertime. Both days of hiking were enjoyed by all and we look forward to many other enjoyable hikes together.

Jemez Falls overlook
Jemez Falls overlook

At McCauley Warm Springs.
At McCauley Warm Springs.
On the trail from Jemez Falls to the springs.
On the trail from Jemez Falls to the springs.
The East Fork of the Jemez trail near Las Conchas trailhead.
The East Fork of the Jemez trail near Las Conchas trailhead.
Many interesting mushrooms.
A sample of one of many interesting mushrooms brought to life by recent rains.

Flailing and Fighting Fifty

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The thermometer did reach the promised 100 degree mark before we reached the finish line, but it wasn’t the temperature that had us flailing and fighting our way along the 50-mile loop.  It was the dreaded headwinds that faced us on the second half when our route made the turn southwards.  Unfortunately, the direction of the loop had us enjoying tailwinds in the early part of the ride, knowing that for each mile we were pedaling north of town we would have to face south winds coming back.  And, of course, the winds get stronger as the day progresses.

But we pushed onwards, taking advantage of every rest stop to get shade, food and water.  It wasn’t exactly record time and not worthy of the praises due the many riders who pedaled the full 100 miles.  But at the finish line everyone gets the medal, no questions asked about time or distance.

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It was a long wait at the starting line because the 100-milers get to go first.

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One of the stops was on Sheppard Air Force Base.

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Living Up To Its Name

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It looks like tomorrow’s bike ride in Wichita Falls, Texas, is going to live up to its name.  The temperature reading above was taken at 10:30 this morning in the trailhead parking area for the 6-mile hike we did at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  I felt sorry for the many hikers and bikers we saw just heading out on the trail.  We had already finished our hike by 10:30.  Yesterday afternoon when we arrived at the park we felt the brunt of the blistering Texas summer heat and knew that we’d have to start out early today if we wanted to make the walk to see the famous Lighthouse landmark.

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The Lighthouse is a beautiful rock formation in the canyon and it’s not accessible by car.  You can see it through a telescope that’s set up in the Visitor Center, which is probably the only way a large majority of the hoards of people who visit this park have ever seen it.  I’m very thankful that we have the health and energy required to get up close and personal with natural wonders.  By the way, Lee wants to let Ruth know that if she had been on this trip the two of them would have climbed to the top. Ha!

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red cliff

Now we’re on the road to Wichita Falls, enjoying the air-conditioning in the car.  Miles of flat, northwest Texas landscape viewed from here makes me wonder even more that a place like Palo Duro could be in the same state.

Southern Oregon Sightseeing the Easy Way

Along the highway between Roseburg, Oregon, and Diamond Lake, a number of areas in the Umpqua National Forest provide easy access to viewpoints of spectacular waterfalls. A part of our annual trip to Oregon is a visit with a friend who lives in Roseburg. After a week of strenuous outdoor activities we decided that we could allow ourselves one day that would involve more time driving instead of hiking to view this scenic part of southern Oregon.

We met our friends at the Toketee Ranger Station for a picnic lunch. We then drove the short distance to Toketee Falls and walked the half-mile trail to the viewpoint. A dive into the pool at the base of the falls would have been refreshing, but we couldn’t find a way to get close to the rocks at the edge of the falls.

The trail to Watson Falls approached the bottom of the falls so at this waterfall we could get close enough to feel the refreshing spray from the falls. Many ferns and lush vegetation take advantage of the shade and moisture here, which added to our enjoyment of this beautiful spot.

Toketee Falls
Toketee Falls

Trying to find a way to get to the pool at Toketee Falls.
Trying to find a way to get to the pool at Toketee Falls.
First view of Watson Falls.
First view of Watson Falls.
Watson Falls refreshment
Watson Falls refreshment
Lush vegetation at Watson Falls.
Lush vegetation at Watson Falls.
Nice stroll through woods on trail to Watson Falls.
Nice stroll through woods on trail to Watson Falls.

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