Chupadera Wilderness Trail

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.

In the morning, at the start, the clouds to the north looked threatening, but the skies soon cleared.
Lots of desert to cross before you get to the climb up Chupadera Peak.
A strange looking cloud formation.
The trail crosses under Interstate 25 here.
Not Chupadera Peak ahead–the trail curves to the left.
Looking back the way we came. Water in the distance is some of the ponds at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.
Interesting section of the trail passes through the red canyon ahead.
In the canyon. Red rock is solidified volcanic ash.
Looking back again at the refuge after passing through the canyon.
Getting higher.
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At the top–view to the north.
View to south.
View to east.
View to east.
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View to west.

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Happy Valentines Day, from a New Mexico prickly pear cactus.
Happy Valentines Day, from a New Mexico prickly pear cactus.

Hiking in the Socorro Area

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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.

First half of Chupadera Trail is a long trek across the desert from the wildlife refuge to the Chupadera Mountains.
First half of Chupadera Trail is a long trek across the desert from the wildlife refuge to the Chupadera Mountains.
The blue strip in the distance behind us is the wetlands of the wildlife refuge.
The blue strip in the distance behind us is the wetlands of the wildlife refuge.
Starting approach to Chupadera Mountains.
Starting approach to Chupadera Mountains.
Trail goes through a small canyon.
Trail goes through a small canyon.
Looking southeast, I-25 highway is the line visible in the distance.
Looking southeast, I-25 highway is the line visible in the distance.
Less than a mile around this hill and up another ridge to get to the top.
Less than a mile around this hill and up another ridge to get to the top.
At the top of Chupadera Peak.
At the top of Chupadera Peak.
View northeast from Chupadera Peak.
View north from Chupadera Peak.
View east towards Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.
View east towards Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.

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.

Sunset at Apache del Bosque Wildlife Refuge.
Sunset at Apache del Bosque Wildlife Refuge. Where are all the birds?

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.
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Not a manmade trail, but natural forces of erosion provide many paths like this wash that we could follow to explore the Quebradas backcountry.
Not a manmade trail, but natural forces of erosion provide many paths like this wash that we could follow to explore the Quebradas backcountry.

You have to like geology to enjoy views on this hike.
You have to like geology to enjoy views on this hike.

Erosion exposes rock layers.
Erosion exposes rock layers.

Looks like someone spilled a paint can on these rocks.
Looks like someone spilled a paint can on these rocks.

Looks like a road in the distance but it's the wash that we were hiking up on the way to the slot canyon.
Looks like a road in the distance but it’s the wash that we were hiking up.

Through a small slot canyon.
Through a small slot canyon.

Looking west from a view at the top of the canyon.  Socorro visible in the distance.
Looking west from a view at the top of the canyon. Socorro visible in the distance.

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.