Blog Posts

Manzano Metamorphic

Some of my favorite rocks are metamorphic rocks that have been formed by intense heat and pressure into wavy patterns referred to as foliation or schistosity. One of the best places I know to find metamorphic rocks is in the Manzano Mountains. On two hikes that we took there recently I found myself continually stopping along the trail to take pictures of the rocks.

The map view shows the location of the two hikes. The red line is a hike up Trigo Canyon, which is on the west side of the mountains, about midway between the north and south end of the range. The blue line is the Kayser Mill Run trail, at the south end on the east side.

I’ve made two groups for the metamorphic rock photos that I took. The first group was taken on the Trigo Canyon hike and the second group was along the Kayser Mill Run trail. I hope that you will appreciate the fascinating artistry of God’s handiwork in creating these formations.

If you are viewing the page that shows the two groups in a gallery, please click on the individual photo to see a larger image.

Trigo Canyon

Kayser Mill Run


A New Tradition

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s–we all have special traditions that we celebrate this time of year. When children grow up and leave home and families are scattered far and wide many of our traditions are no longer meaningful. Then it’s time to think about creating new traditions.

I think I’m going to start a new tradition for me and Lee. Today was just one day short of being exactly a year ago that we hiked up Manzano Peak. As we hiked along I found myself pondering events of the past year. We have so much to be thankful for, not the least of which is the fact that we are both healthy and strong enough to be doing this hike again. With 9 miles of hiking and a 2000-foot elevation gain on the way up it’s not an easy hike.

Click on map for interactive version.

Observing a tradition once every year can be a milestone that allows us to measure changes over the course of the year. I thought about all that was different in our lives and what things had stayed the same. I remembered concerns I had last year that never materialized. There were obstacles and rough spots, but just like this hike, they were overcome as we moved along one step at a time.

I also looked for landmarks along the trail that I remembered from last year. One was this heart-shaped rock. It had tumbled a bit further down the slope but was still close enough to the trail that I spotted it. Lee moved it back close to the trail, in spite of my concern that someone might come along and remove it. I’ll look forward to seeing if it’s still there next year.

This year the weather was more sunny, but there were also some patches of snow at the higher elevations; whereas last year there hadn’t been any.

The left photo is last year’s hike and the right photo is this year. I’m looking forward to next year!

Lee’s Ridge

If it’s my turn to propose a hike for the day, I most likely will suggest an established trail that’s a good workout. I won’t be too concerned if it’s a hike we’ve done before. Lee, on the other hand, is always looking to explore new territory. And chances are we won’t even be on a trail.

I can work up lots of energy when I know what to expect for elevation and distance. But when I’m tagging along behind Lee as he follows his desire to see what’s around the next corner or over the next hill, I feel totally exhausted after just a short distance. Usually, though, by the time we finally get back to the car I will end up agreeing that it was a fun hike.

Today he wanted to show me a “bushwhack” hike that he had explored on his own last spring. Twice this summer we had tried to do it but were stopped by a road closure sign on the Forest Service road leading up the canyon where we needed to go. On the first attempt we wandered around on some abandoned dirt roads near there as a substitute hike. A month later we assumed the road would be open. When we found it still closed we drove to nearby San Pedro Parks and did a regular (my style) hike.

I wasn’t too happy when Lee proposed trying his bushwhack hike a third time. Especially when he said that if the road was still closed we would explore somewhere else in the area. But the weather was absolutely perfect today and if we were going to be outdoors then that was all I really needed to enjoy the day.

The road was open but we were surprised to find it snow-covered on the first stretch that was on the shady side of the canyon. The snow was long gone everywhere else, though, so it didn’t present a problem. After we parked the car Lee pointed to a ridge up towards the mountains and said that was the goal for the hike. Since there are no signs in the area and some of the roads aren’t even on maps, I’ve decided that this hike will now be called Lee’s Ridge. We made it to the top and back down and still had time to walk up another road that Lee wanted to check out.

The curved reddish-orange formation with the beige line on top is Lee’s Ridge, goal for the hike today.
A short stretch in the beginning that followed a small drainage.
This area reminded us of the red sandstone formations around Sedona, Arizona.


3 mounds


I think I have solved one of my issues when it comes to “bushwhack” hikes. The shoes that I hike in are not high tops and I can’t find hiking pants with legs long enough to cover the tops of my shoes. As we walk through brush and brambles my socks get filled with stickers and it totally annoys me to have things poking and itching in my shoes as I hike. This time of year when everything is dried up is especially bad. So today before we left on the hike I asked Lee if he could find his old pair of gaiters that we had stashed away somewhere. It wasn’t that easy to figure out how to get them attached to my shoes and pant legs, but I think we got it figured out. I didn’t get any stickers in my socks today. The pair of gaiters is now in my backpack ready for our next bushwhack hike.

This Weeks’ Hike

Our hike this week was one that we have done twice before. For some reason, we call it the “Red Dot Blue Dot” hike when the way that we’ve done it all three times is by starting at the Blue Dot trailhead, connecting to the River Trail, then the Red Dot trail, and finishing on the Canyon Rim trail. At least finishing on the Canyon Rim trail is the goal, but we didn’t manage that goal the first two times on the hike.

The hike leads down to the Rio Grande River at White Rock, NM, where the river cuts through a canyon lined by steep lava escarpments. A series of blue dots are painted on the black lava rocks to mark the trail as it descends into the canyon. At the bottom it connects to the River Trail and about 2 miles further along the River Trail it connects to the Red Dot Trail. This one climbs back out of the canyon over the lava escarpments and is marked with red dots painted on the rocks.

At the top of the canyon the trailhead for the Red Dot trail is on a side street in a subdivision of White Rock. It doesn’t directly connect to the Canyon Rim trail. Walking on the street is required and if you aren’t careful you miss the spot along the ditch where you get off the street and follow a path that leads to the Canyon Rim trail. There are many local neighborhood paths between the houses and it’s easy to miss the official trail. The first time we tried we added some extra walking trying to find the beginning, as well as at the end when we left the Canyon Rim trail too soon and went out of our way to get back to the car. The second time was a really long hike because we took a wrong turn almost as soon as we got on the Canyon Rim trail and then ended up walking back to the car through the town itself. The third time is a charm, though, and now we’ve finally figured out that tricky part at the end.

Below is a map that shows our 3 times on this hike. The purple line is the preferred way that we successfully accomplished on our third try. The blue overlaps the purple on the trip down to the river and back up but then shows how we had to walk through the subdivision. And the red line overlaps the purple except for a couple of extra side trips.

Start Blue Dot.
Beginning descent on Blue Dot trail.
From Blue Dot
From Blue Dot trail, view east to mountains above Santa Fe, Rio Grande flowing south (from left to right)
Blue dot
Blue dot trail marker.
Lava tumbled down from the ridge at White Rock; old cinder cone on Buckman Mesa in the background (another hike in the area)
Rio Grande
Rio Grande
Trail-side waterfall on a spring- and snow-fed stream
Animal prints made this patch of snow look like a mask!
View downriver from Red Dot Trail.
Canyon Rim.
View from Canyon Rim trail.

And now for old time’s sake I’m including a link here to the page describing
the first time we did this hike.

Sandstone Bluffs

Sandstone Bluffs is like an out-and-back hike because the trail follows a line of narrow bluffs for several miles before turning around and heading back. But the fun part is that you have a choice of walking on top of the bluffs or walking through the desert at the base of the bluffs. Since the wind was rather chilly when we started we chose to start hiking at the bottom where we would be more protected from the wind.

The trail at the base is unofficial and the challenge of starting the hike that way is figuring out exactly where to climb down from the bluffs. We wandered back and forth along the edge and finally took a guess at what looked like the best way to get down. After we got home I researched a track of this hike from 2 years ago where we had done it the opposite way. I was surprised to see that we had picked the correct spot because it didn’t seem like it when we were slowly threading our way down the steep, rocky slope.

Another interesting aspect of hiking at Sandstone Bluffs is the opportunity at many spots to find pottery shards left from the time when native peoples lived in the area. It’s against the law to take any of them, but we like to gather them together in one spot to make a nice arrangement for someone else who might be walking this way. A couple of examples:

There are some petroglyphs at the far end of the hike that we have seen on previous hikes here. But we weren’t sure exactly where they were and found out later we hadn’t walked quite far enough.

The next couple of photos are from a previous hike here. We did see the rock bridge on this hike but my picture of it wasn’t very good. And we didn’t get as close to the lava rocks as before and that is another thing that we like about hiking Sandstone Bluffs.

Saving Daylight

Those who know me are probably tired of hearing my opinions this time of year and again in the spring when we adjust our clocks to accommodate “Daylight Savings Time.” If you are one of those people, please pardon me if you’ve heard this before. But what I like to point out is that, as much as we would want to, there is no way that we can “save daylight.” When the idea of Daylight Savings Time was conceived, giving it that name made it easier to get buy-in because it does sound good. If you like doing outdoor activities in the evening it’s great in early March when you suddenly have an extra hour of daylight in the evening after you finish work. But, if like me, you are a morning person and enjoy outdoor activities first thing in the morning, then it’s depressing to look outside and see that it’s still dark when you want to go out.

So, for me, this morning’s run before sunrise was a time of rejoicing that we had set our clocks back yesterday. I no longer had to run my double circuit around the SIPI campus to take advantage of the street lights. The sun wasn’t up yet, but there was enough daylight that I could once again go back out on my run through the Bosque. As I got on the levy road the trees were beginning to glow from the brightness of the sun just about ready to come over the Sandias. Several flocks of cranes flew overhead on their morning flight from bedding down overnight in the river to feeding in the SIPI fields during the day. Crossing the ditch and getting on the road behind SIPI I could see the sun hitting the tops of the golden cottonwood trees up ahead. And, best of all, as I came around the SIPI fields, there was a flock of several dozen cranes chattering and munching in the field.

All of that I would have missed if we were still on Daylight Savings Time. It would have happened after I had finished my run and we were sitting down at breakfast. God’s creatures don’t adjust their meal times and sleep times to accommodate what man decides to use as the current hour on the clock. The only way we will get more daylight is to look forward to December 21 at the winter solstice when the days will once again start to have more daylight hours and less hours of darkness.

Lost in Chupadera Wilderness

Actually, when I saw this sign I knew I was no longer lost, but had found my way back to the trail. And, considering the type of terrain I was hiking in, it’s probably not accurate to describe my experience of getting off the trail as being “lost.”

I had set off to hike the 9-1/2 mile Chupadera Wilderness National Recreation Trail, which I have hiked before.  The first couple of miles traverses Chihuahuan desert scrub dominated by creosote bush and prickly pear cactii growing in loose, gravelly soil.  Recent rains had caused the surface here to erode with multiple, small ruts weaving over and around the trail.  Since this is a wilderness trail there are no trail markers.  As I walked the first mile I was having difficulty figuring out if I was on a trail or on an eroded section of gravel.

When I finally spotted some rock cairns I thought all was well.  Further along, the trail crossed under a power line and started heading down an old gravel road.  What I failed to notice was that the trail and road overlapped for only a short distance.  I kept walking on the road, eventually figuring out that there were no more rock cairns and that the road was curving back towards the parking area instead of heading west towards Chupadera Peak.

A friendly rock cairn.
wrong marker
I thought I was OK when I saw the sign in the distance but it was only a boundary sign when I approached it and I knew I was no longer on the trail.

Once I realized I had lost the trail I had two choices–either backtrack to the last cairn I had seen or continue forward and see if I could reconnect to the trail. As I said, it’s hard to be truly lost in this terrain because the mountain is directly visible ahead to the west and if you get on a ridge the Rio Grande is visible behind to the east. Plus Interstate 25 bisects the trail about 2-1/2 miles from the parking lot.

When the trail gets to the Interstate there is a hiker tunnel that goes under the road. I pulled up Google Maps on my phone and by looking at the satellite imagery I was fairly certain I could see where the tunnel was. I decided to take the continuing forward option, leaving the gravel road and bushwhacking across the desert towards what I guessed would be the tunnel.

When I reached the fence line that separates the refuge from the highway, I wasn’t at the tunnel so I had to make a guess if I should follow the fence line north or south. Fortunately, I had correctly picked the tunnel on the satellite imagery. It showed the location was south of where I was and I didn’t have to walk much further before I found the tunnel. At that point I knew I was back on the trail–Whew!