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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