Celebrating Wilderness

After several days of overcast skies, the return of clear, sunny weather today was a welcome sight.  There was no better way to celebrate our anniversary than to get out and enjoy a hike.  We decided to explore an area of the Ojito Wilderness we hadn’t yet seen, using a hike description from Stephen Ausherman’s book, “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Albuquerque.”

The drive into the Ojito requires a stretch on a dirt road that can get messy and muddy if there has been any rain.  We don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and didn’t know how far down the road we could get.  After carefully going through a couple of bad spots, we were less than a mile from the parking area when it became obvious that the puddle covering the road in front of us was going to be too soft and muddy for us to get through.  We knew the proposed hike was not on regular trails and we could see the mesa in front of us that we would be hiking around and over.  That made it a simple decision to park the car where we were and walk in from there.

We weren’t too far along before a 4-wheel drive vehicle came roaring down the road past where we were parked and with great fanfare splashed through the mud puddle, spraying mud everywhere.  Each to his own.  Shortly after that a pickup went by and the folks in that crowd turned out to be target shooters, planning to spend their morning at one of the several target shooting ranges in that part of the Ojito.  We got to listen to their gunshots for most of our time hiking.  But, other than that, it was a great place to wander the desert badlands, making our own trails, using the familiar mountain ranges surrounding us in the distance as our directional guides.

The puddle that had our car saying "Nope, not going through that one."
The puddle that had our car saying “Nope, not going through that one.”
Looking south towards Albuquerque.  Sandia Mountains in the background.
Looking south towards Albuquerque. Sandia Mountains in the background.
One of the viewpoints.
One of the viewpoints.
Looking northeast towards Cerro Grande peak.  Strip of white to the right is the White Mesa hiking area.
Looking northeast towards Cerro Grande peak. Strip of white to the right is the White Mesa hiking area.
These New Mexico cacti will grow anywhere!
These New Mexico cacti will grow anywhere!
Sandstone cliffs
Sandstone cliffs
White gypsum and reddish sandstone.
White gypsum and reddish sandstone.
Love looking up at New Mexico's rocks and skies.
Love looking up at New Mexico’s rocks and skies.
Cabezon Peak is the volcanic plug in the distance.  Saving that hike for when Ruth visits us.
Cabezon Peak is the volcanic plug in the distance. Saving that hike for when Ruth visits us.
Looking behind us at the place where we climbed back down the mesa.
Looking behind us at the place where we climbed back down the mesa.

I suppose that most people would not think of an afternoon in the Ojito Wilderness as a romantic outing to celebrate a wedding anniversary. But for two people who met on a hike with the Northern Virginia Hiking Club and are fortunate enough to still be healthy and strong, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Ancient Trails at Tsankawi

entrance sign
A short distance from the main part of Bandelier National Monument, an area on the top of a mesa that was once inhabited by the Ancestral Tewa Pueblo people, has an interpretative trail that lets visitors view petroglyphs, cave dwellings and other ruins that have been excavated here.  One of the most interesting features is the part of the trail that has been worn into the rock by generations of pueblo people as they passed back and forth from their mesa-top homes to the fields and springs in the canyon below.  You are literally walking in the footsteps of the people who lived here hundreds of years ago.

trail map
Map showing trail as it wraps around mesa and ascends wooden ladders.
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Looking behind at part of the trail ascending the mesa.

 

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At the eastern edge of the mesa.

 

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Stopping to consult the interpretative guide.

 

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One of the pathways worn into the rock.

 

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Ascending one of the ladders.

 

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On top of the mesa. Storm clouds to the north threatened, but we only felt a couple of drops.

 

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The steps turned out to be easier than the ladder.