Looking over the landscape of the area east of Socorro, you wouldn’t think of it as a very interesting place to hike. A 25-mile dirt road known as the Quebradas Backcountry Byway cuts through a vast emptiness of arroyos, ridges and open rangeland. But if you park at one of the stops along the Byway for a closer look you find many opportunities worthy of further exploration. Today we chose a hike up one of the named arroyos, Arroyo del Tajo, and were rewarded with spring wildflowers, as well as interesting geology.
I had hoped that we would see more of the claret cup cactus blooms, as they really are my favorite. But I think this spring has been too dry. Most of the cactii I saw had blossoms that looked like they had dried up before they had a chance to bloom. But it never ceases to amaze me that as dry as the desert is, it can still produce such a variety of wildflowers. I only posted photos of a small portion of the different kinds that we saw today. And with even a little bit of rain between now and when we go on our next hike there will be all kinds of new blooms. If you just get out of your car for a closer look at what might seem a barren landscape you realize the desert is actually full of life.
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.