Ghosts in the Forest

Odd and amazing rock formations are one of the features we have come to appreciate in our hikes around New Mexico. Some, like those at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, are tourist attractions visited by many people, but others are hidden away in unexpected places. This week we visited some rock formations that are in the latter category.

About an hour from Albuquerque, in the Jemez Mountains, there is a Santa Fe National Forest campground at Paliza Canyon and several dirt roads and trails in and around the canyon. There aren’t any formal trails so we were glad to have our friend, Sue, and her GPS device along to guide us. We were on our way to visit the rock formations called The Goblin Colony.

By walking about a mile up the dirt road where we parked our car, we could have directly gotten to the formations, but to make it a longer hike, we first went along a wooded creek in the canyon. Then we ascended to a ridgeline viewpoint where we could look out over the canyon. After lunch we descended through a side canyon and approached the goblins from above, sneaking up on them from behind, you might say.

Other oddities are weird plants with weird names.  This pink stuff is a patch of Fetid Goosefoot.
Other oddities are weird plants with weird names. This pink stuff is a patch of Fetid Goosefoot.

Ridgeline viewpoint looking over Paliza Canyon.  Sandia Mountains in far distance.
Ridgeline viewpoint looking over Paliza Canyon. Sandia Mountains in far distance.
View from the rock ledge where we had our lunch.
View from the rock ledge where we had our lunch.
First sighting of the goblin rocks.
First sighting of the goblin rocks.
Closer view of the Goblin Rocks.
Closer view of the Goblin Rocks.
Lee is standing in front to give a sense of scale (the goblins didn't get him).
Lee is standing in front to give a sense of scale (the goblins didn’t get him).
These look like silent ghosts marching down the hill.
These look like silent ghosts marching down the hill.
This looks like a face.
This looks like a face.
How is that gray rock staying perched up there?
How is that gray rock staying perched up there?
This place was a maze of eroded rocks you could walk through--petrified version of a corn maze.
This place was a maze of eroded rocks you could walk through–petrified version of a corn maze.

As we approach the month of October and commercialized America begins to fill stores and advertisements with images of Halloween ghosts and goblins, we can say we have already enjoyed nature’s version of ghostly images.

Two In a Row

I can’t think of a better way to start off the week than to hike two days in a row.  Monday’s hike was a favorite that I have done before.  I decided to take a break from picture-taking on that one.  To see photos and map check out June 3 and September 8 posts.  I should have taken pictures, though, because even though the awesome views don’t change, the environment certainly changes with the seasons.  On the hike in June we were struggling through snowbanks, whereas Monday the snow was a distant memory and we reaped the benefits of the snow’s moisture with sightings of many varieties of beautiful wildflowers.

Today’s hike was in the Jemez Mountains, northeast of the small village of Ponderosa.  Driving up to the Jemez for other hikes, we always pass the turnoff from Highway 4 that goes to Ponderosa and I’d been curious about what was out that way.

Not surprisingly, once through Ponderosa, the drive was over a rough, rutted forest road.  One of the benefits of hiking with the Albuquerque Seniors hiking group is that a city van is getting us over the rough roads and we don’t have to drive our own car.  Also, if we hadn’t had a hike leader who was following a GPS track of the hike, it would have been an impossible trail to find.

After a scramble over a rocky ridge, the trail followed an abandoned road through San Juan  Canyon.  A couple of places had trickles of water in what was once the stream through the canyon, but mostly it was very dry.  The mountains around Albuquerque are just beginning to experience the summer thunderstorms that develop this time of year.  We had rain gear with us and our hike leader set a goal that we should be back to the van by 2:00.  That turned out to be perfect timing.  The clouds had begun to gather by the time we reached the van and we heard the first rumbles of thunder.

Looking behind us on the drive back to Albuquerque we  could see that there were some significant rain showers in the area we had just left.  That is a welcome sight around here and, hopefully, there will be more to come in the days ahead.

GPS Track on Every Trail

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Beardlip Penstemon
Beardlip Penstemon

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Cutleaf coneflower
Cutleaf coneflower

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Alligator juniper
Alligator juniper
Butterfly milkweed that had a butterfly on it!
Butterfly milkweed that had a butterfly on it!

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