The Chupadera Wilderness Trail on the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge is a 9.5-mile hike ideally suited for a sunny, warm January day in New Mexico. Although today it felt like it was, winter is not over yet. This 70-degree weather is only supposed to last until tomorrow and then we are in for another stretch of cold weather. We had a free weekend and took advantage of it with this enjoyable hike.
We had hiked on this trail once before, but it is the type of hike you don’t mind doing over again. The only part that gets tiresome is on the way back after you cross the interstate and then you know there’s a 3-mile trudge across the desert to get back to the trailhead. Certainly doable today, but I kept thinking how awful it would be on a 100-degree summer day. Winter hiking has a lot of advantages.
Thursday we joined a group of ASCHG hikers who were making the trek up Chupadera Peak, a 9-1/2 mile round trip hike on the Chupadera National Recreation Trail in Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. Rather than ride with the group in the city van, we arranged to meet them at the trailhead. With our own transportation, we then had the option of spending more time in the Socorro area.
We finished the Chupadera hike with just enough time to get to the Apache del Bosque visitor center before it closed. Our plan was to drive into the refuge at sunset and find a place to view the evening fly-in when the snow geese and sandhill crane flocks come in from feeding in the surrounding fields to nest overnight in the wetlands of the refuge. The volunteer at the desk answered our questions about timing but I guess we should have also asked about the best viewing area. We assumed we would see the fly-in from any of the many locations along the roads in the refuge. We had a nice view of the sunset from where we parked but didn’t see any of the flocks. It was only on our way out, when it was almost dark, that we came upon a big crowd of people near a pond that was filled with cranes settling in for the night.
Yesterday we ventured east of Socorro on the Quebradas Backcounty Byway. Various pullovers along this 24-mile unpaved road provide parking areas for getting out on foot and exploring the rugged, eroded desert landscape. There aren’t any marked trails, but Lee had been on a hike here before with the ASCHG group and knew where to park for a hike in the Arroyo del Tajo.
The Socorro area doesn’t have the spectacular mountains that we see around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but for us two desert rats who like geology and the flora and fauna of Chihuahuan desert scrub habitat it’s a great place to spend a couple of days in mid-December. Especially when you consider that much of the country is now shivering in the winter cold.