Hiking at Ghost Ranch

A New Mexico hiking destination that had been on our list for awhile was Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, New Mexico. Saturday we planned to be in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, for a wedding and decided to combine that trip with a visit to Ghost Ranch. The Presbyterian Church owns Ghost Ranch and there is a large facility there for spiritual retreats and educational events. The trailheads start at the facility and, as long as you check in first, you are welcome to hike the trails.

We drove to Pagosa Springs on Saturday, passing through Abiquiu and Chama, enjoying our first look at the scenery in that part of northern New Mexico. We spent the night Saturday in a comfy, quiet motel in Chama, a 45-minute drive north of Abiquiu. We woke up on Sunday to a gray, rainy day. The waitress at the restaurant where we ate breakfast assured us that the weather was often dramatically different once you started driving south from Chama and just because there was rain there didn’t mean it would be raining in Abiquiu. Her words were prophetic.

As we left Chama the rain began to turn to snow and we soon found ourselves driving through a significant snowstorm. Fortunately, it only lasted about 20 minutes and once we got to lower elevations there was no sign that it had snowed. It was obvious, though, that there had been some rain and, although the clouds were breaking up, we couldn’t tell if the weather was going to clear or not.

When we got to Ghost Ranch we discovered that the Box Canyon and Kitchen Mesa trails were temporarily closed to hikers. Those are the two most popular trails and we had intended to do at least one of those two. We were advised of two other trails that were open and the recommendation was to start with the Chimney Rock Trail because it climbed up on higher ground and would be more likely to have dried out from the rain.

We were almost to the top of the mesa at Chimney Rock when the slight drizzle of rain turned heavy enough that Kevin and Liz got out their rain ponchos. Lee already had on his raincoat. I just trudged along trying to ignore the increasing wetness soaking through my pants and jacket. Since the trail isn’t that long, I knew we could get back before having to spend too much time out in the cold and wet. We obviously weren’t going to be hiking the other trail that we had planned.

The hardest part of getting back was on the portion of the trail on lower ground that had been dirt and sand when we went up. The rain had turned it into a stretch of slick, sludgy mud. We did a lot of slipping and sliding, but no one fell down. I was very thankful that I had dry clothes with me and that there were restrooms in the main facility where we could change before the drive back.

Ghost Ranch is as beautiful as we had been told, even on a rainy day. We will definitely be going back there to hike Kitchen Mesa and Box Canyon and enjoy the views on a sunny day.

Snowy stretch of road between Chama and Ghost Ranch.
Snowy stretch of road between Chama and Ghost Ranch.
Mesas along road that we viewed driving north Saturday were obscured on Sunday by the falling snow.
Mesas along road that we viewed driving north Saturday were obscured on Sunday by the falling snow.
Clouds beginning to clear at lower elevations.
Clouds beginning to clear at lower elevations.
Looking southwest from Chimney Rock trail, Abiquiu Reservoir in the distance.
Looking southwest from Chimney Rock trail, Abiquiu Reservoir in the distance.
Chimney Rock in the distance.
Chimney Rock in the distance.
Chimney Rock up close and personal.
Chimney Rock up close and personal.
Liz in her rain poncho.
Liz in her rain poncho.
Looking southeast from Chimney Rock trail.
Looking southeast from Chimney Rock trail.

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Flowers on cliff edge.
Flowers on cliff edge.
View of Ghost Ranch from top of mesa at Chimney Rock.
View of Ghost Ranch from top of mesa at Chimney Rock.
Along the Chimney Rock Trail.
Signs of spring along the Chimney Rock Trail.

Tunnel Springs Hike

Once again, I benefit from George’s creativity and hard work capturing the Tuesday ASCHG group hike experience. Instead of having to post my photos and write a description I will link to his blog for those of you interested in seeing what we enjoyed.

https://ondafringe.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/day-hike-tunnel-spring-sandia-mountains-placitas-new-mexico-usa/

I did want to add one photo that is a close-up of the prolific yellow wildflowers we saw along the Crest Trail and along Tunnel Springs Road on the drive in. While we were hiking I couldn’t remember the name of the flower, but later identified them as Fendler’s Bladderpod. I should have remembered them from the hike we did a couple of weeks ago in the Manzanitas.

Fendler's Bladderpod
Fendler’s Bladderpod

Also, a note that we did this same hike last year, but in the reverse direction, which I found much easier. Downhills are not my favorite, as you can see in some of George’s photos that show me inching slowly down the steep, rocky descent. If we are going uphill I’m usually ahead of the crowd, but on the downhills I generally trail behind.

Cerrillos Hills Bramble Ramble

Since the Cerrillos Hills are desert country this wasn’t a ramble through brambles; rather it was a scramble through rough, rocky terrain trying to avoid slipping into the many patches of living and dead cacti blocking every turn. We weren’t always successful avoiding the cactus thorns. But we were successful at reaching our goal, the summit of Grand Central Mountain.

We have done several hikes at Cerrillos Hills State Park and there are many well-marked, historically interesting trails. But just north of the state park, on an area of BLM land, sits Grand Central Mountain, which has no official trail for climbing to the top. We got close to it on one of our hikes awhile back and have always meant to go back there and make our way to the top. Today seemed like a good day to do the climb.

The trails in the state park that you start off on are quite a contrast to what you have to do once you leave the northernmost trail and head off towards the mountain. It’s not like this is a huge mountain, but the terrain is really rough. Cerrillos Hills look fairly benign from the distance but once you get in amongst them, there are sharp dips and steep inclines up and down through arroyos and over loose rocks and boulders. Hiking off trails through dry grasses and sticker bushes requires high-top boots or gaiters, neither of which I have, so I’m constanly complaining about getting my boots full of prickly debris.

We couldn’t have picked a better day, though, for doing this hike. In the morning it looked like it could become a windy, New Mexico spring day, but the winds seemed to die down as the day progressed. There was just enough of a breeze to keep us from getting too hot. It was a struggle on the steepest slopes, but once we got back down and on the main trail I forgot all about my complaints and was thankful for another day of great hiking.

Map showing the route and elevation.

Lots of nice signposts on the trails in the State Park.
Lots of nice signposts on the trails in the State Park.
Last chance for smiling and a rest before heading off trail through rough terrain.
Last chance for smiling and a rest before heading off trail through rough terrain.
Grand Central Mountain up ahead.
Grand Central Mountain up ahead.
Ortiz Mountains and town of Madrid to the south.
Ortiz Mountains and town of Madrid to the south.
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Tough climbing

 

At the summit looking north towards Santa Fe.
At the summit looking north towards Santa Fe.
La Bajada Mesa in the distance.
La Bajada Mesa in the distance.
View south from summit.  Ortiz Mountains with Sandia Mountains in far distance.
View south from summit. Ortiz Mountains with Sandia Mountains in far distance.
View of Galisteo Creek.
View of Galisteo Creek.
Most common flower seen today was Western Wallflower.
Most common flower seen today was Western Wallflower.
Green-flowered hedgehog.
Green-flowered hedgehog.

Day Hike: Pine Shadow ~ Manzano Mountains ~ Belen, New Mexico, USA

Thanks to my good friend, George, and all the hard work he put into capturing the hike we did yesterday with the ASCHG, I don’t have to blog about our enjoyable day. I’ll just let you read George’s post, look at his great photos, and, be sure to click on his link for the topo map with the trail route.

----- ondafringe -----

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Went on a group hike today, all the way down to the southern end of the Manzano Mountains to hike the Pine Shadow Trail (#170A), and it took almost two hours just to get to the trail head! The Pine Shadow Trail Head is the southern entry/exit point of the Manzano Mountains and leads up towards Manzano Peak and the Crest Trail (#170), although we did not venture that far today. Hey… we’re seniors!! 😉

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What’s In a Name?

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Heading east from Albuquerque on Interstate 40, about 15 miles out of town, we have always been fascinated by the name Zuzax on the Exit 178 sign. Where in the world did such a name come from? If you do a Google search on the word there is no information except what we could see from the highway–Zuzax is a small community east of Albuquerque. It’s just a subdivision, nothing historic, and only a single gas station, so we have never had a reason to go there. But finally, today, we had the opportunity to take the Zuzax exit.

A couple of miles from the Zuzax exit there is a parking area for some Cibola National Forest trails that are part of the Manzanita Trail System. We knew there wouldn’t be anything particularly exciting about the hike itself. I think it was the idea of taking the Zuzax exit that drew us.

We have hiked parts of this trail system before and knew what to expect. The Manzanita Mountains are a low ridge of mostly piñon pine and juniper covered slopes that lie between the Manzano Mountains to the south and the Sandias to the north. The only significant peak is Cedro Peak (about 7700 feet), which is prominent because of the communication towers on the top. Probably because it is so close to Albuquerque, the trails are more popular with motorcycles, ATVs and mountain bikes than they are with hikers. If we had gone on a weekend we would have been overrun, but since it was a Monday, we saw only 3 bicyclists on the trail.

So no spectacular vistas or rock formations in today’s pictures but just a few photos to give you a sense of place.
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Cedro Peak in the far distance.
Cedro Peak in the far distance.
Looking north towards the South Crest of the Sandias.
Looking north towards the South Crest of the Sandias.
Some nice ponderosa pine amongst the piñon pine and juniper.
Some nice ponderosa pine amongst the piñon pine and juniper.
We always enjoy seeing a horny toad, another New Mexico oddity.
We always enjoy seeing a horny toad, another New Mexico oddity.
An indication that bicyclists had input into naming some of the trails.  Lots of rocky gulches further down this trail that would require some gear shifts.
An indication that bicyclists had input into naming some of the trails. Lots of rocky gulches further down this trail that would require some gear shifts.

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And speaking of weird names for things. We saw 3 varieties of spring flowers that I think have really odd names: Dwarf Lousewort, Cutflower Pucoon and Fendler’s Bladderpod.

Cutflower pucoon
Cutflower pucoon
Dwarf lousewort
Dwarf lousewort
Fendler's Bladderpod
Fendler’s Bladderpod