Day 189 – Jemez Mountain Trail, June 4, 2011
It turned out that a geocache was hidden just down the road from where I camped in Carson National Forest. I found it not too far from another makeshift campground which included a homemade toilet – a wooden box with a toilet seat on filling the hole. After finding the cache, we took 84 south past farmland to Echo Amphitheater, a natural echo chamber carved into a sandstone cliff by wind and water. Petey joined me in the short, paved walk to the cliff where I hollered GO MAVS and listened as the walls repeated my exclamation. This location is also a virtual cache, so I got to log another one!
As the farmland switched to multi-colored cliffs and hills striped in hues of oranges, maroons, and golds, we passed through Abiquiu and eventually reached Espanola where we successfully found free Wi-Fi. Upon completing my post in the McDonald’s parking lot, we skirted alongside land owned by Los Alamos National Laboratory where scientists developed the atomic bomb during World War II and hung a left at White Rock to visit White Rock Overlook. The overlook is part of a park where little leaguers battled to win their Saturday game and soccer fields awaited a competition.
An asphalt trail followed the road to the overlook which was perched above the Rio Grande Valley where the Rio Grande cut between slopes peppered in junipers and pines. Petey preferred to take in the view beneath the shaded platform while I snatched up another cache – a magnetic micro. I passed up the opportunity to visit the Puye Cliff Dwellings and Bandelier National Monument, because I have seen more ruins than I thought possible and because I have been to Bandelier with my friend Deb and flat Sam, a paper version of my nephew that traveled with family for a school project.
By mid-afternoon after VANilla charged up the winding highway beneath spruce and fir trees, we descended into Valle Grande, a giant valley covering 175 square miles. The valley formed over one million years ago when a volcano collapsed into itself, ending over 13 million years of volcanic activity.
My goal was to reach Jemez Falls Campground in Santa Fe National Forest, enjoy a restful afternoon, and to take a short walk to the falls. Much to my dismay, the campgrounds were closed. Along the way, I had noted a few trailheads, conspicuous due to the cars lining the roadside, so I turned VANilla around, and judging from the number of cars picked the most popular trail in the area. The Conchas Trail was simply beautiful and my most favorite type of trail to walk. The single dirt path followed a quiet creek trickling through a lush green meadow edged by pine covered hills and mossy rock ledges. Butterflies flitted to and fro as grasshoppers chirped in the tall grass, and ravens soared overhead.
Strolling in and out of the shade, Petey and I followed the trail across countless bridges, as climbers clinged to craggy cliffs, anglers cast for fish in the creek, and teams of geocachers participated in their special caching event where they searched for camouflaged boxes. Based on their clothing and a soccer ball nearby, many of the geocaching kids and parents were soccer players. If I thought Petey could be friendly to all the unleashed dogs that bounded up to play, I probably would have stopped to take a few taps on the ball, but subjecting a restrained dog to an unrestrained dog is asking for a dog fight so I kept moving, of course at a snail’s pace back to VANilla.
Not too far past Jemez Falls Campground, a dirt road led into Santa Fe National Forest where I found an area to crash for the night. Petey and I enjoyed the early evening sitting beneath the tall spruce trees while listening to birds sing and woodpeckers tap on a tree in the distance. ETB