Shallow Thoughts : tags : hiking

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 16 Nov 2023

Lost and Found: Missed the Mitchell but Found Something Unexpected (also, 30-day Map Challenge #15)

[GPS Track of a hike in Los Alamos, NM] Yesterday's 30-Day Map Challenge theme was OpenStreetMap.

I use (and contribute to) OpenStreetMap quite a bit, and I use OSM basemaps in pretty much all my mapping. (I have used Google in the past, but between their changing or withdrawing APIs every few years, and suddenly deciding to charge for previously free APIs, I switched to using only open source maps.)

But that was yesterday, which was group hiking day, so I was out tramping over mountains instead of sitting at the computer making maps. But a wrong turn on the hike led to a serendipitous discovery that wouldn't have happened without OpenStreetMap.

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[ 11:08 Nov 16, 2023    More mapping | permalink to this entry | ]

Sun, 17 Sep 2023

Carrying Water for a Canine Companion

[Labrador retriever drinking from a water bottle] The weekly hiking group I'm in has quite a few members who bring their dogs on hikes, as long as the trail allows it (National Parks, Monuments and Preserves don't allow dogs).

I've seen various solutions for carrying dog water: bowls that telescope out in use, and can be compacted flatter. Bowls out of flexible materials like waterproofed nylon. Smallish cups. Then there's the tricky job of pouring the unused water from a flexible bowl back into a narrow-mouthed water bottle each time.

But dogs are more flexible than you might think. One of our canine hiking companions, Lewis, has been trained to drink from a water bottle. He just laps at the stream as it falls, and spills surprisingly little. So his person can give him a drink at any time, without stopping and digging around for a bowl.

I'd never seen this before, but it seems pretty handy for a dog and person who go hiking just about every day.

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[ 18:04 Sep 17, 2023    More hikes | permalink to this entry | ]

Thu, 31 Aug 2023

Signs on the Way to San Antonio Hot Springs

[Rock wall on the way to San Antonio Hot Springs] This week's group hike was to San Antonio Hot Springs, in the Jemez above La Cueva. It was nice and cool up there, especially since the trail is mostly shady, winding through ponderosa forest with views of San Antonio Creek below and towering rock walls above.

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[ 12:06 Aug 31, 2023    More hikes | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 07 Jul 2023

Beaver Ponds at Bandelier

[Beaver pond at Bandelier]

A couple of years ago, while hiking up Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier we came across some hikers one of whom carried a huge boxy backpack with a sheet over it.

We asked about it, and it turned out they were carrying a pair of beavers for release.

Like many places in the western US, Frijoles Creek used to have quite a population of beavers, but they were all wiped out for one reason or another. Now, park officials are trying to repopulate them.

It looks like it's working. We had heard rumours of beaver dams and beaver ponds, and about a month ago we hiked up Frijoles Canyon to see what beaver evidence we could see.

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[ 19:21 Jul 07, 2023    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Tue, 27 Jun 2023

Tyuyoni Overlook in June

[View from Tyuyoni Overlook in Bandelier] It's been hot this week, but most of the spring was lovely. We went for a quick hike to Tyuyoni Overlook a week ago. There was a virtuoso mockingbird singing his heart out near the amphitheatre. Mockingbirds aren't at all common here, so in case it might be a thrasher or something else, I fired up Merlin on my phone. Merlin agreed with my ID of the mockingbird; but I left it running for a few minutes, during which it identified lots of other birds (the mockingbird was the only one singing): Woodhouse's scrub jay, piñon jay, mountain bluebird, chipping sparrow, Cassin's kingbird, and ... Virginia rail! Fun.

I sure hope he sticks around and finds a mate. Global warming is scary, but if it brings mockingbirds here, that would at least be a small up side.

Here's the view from the overlook, looking down into Frijoles canyon toward the ancestral puebloan ruins called Tyuyoni. Visible on the left is the Frey trail ascending up the mesa to join with the Tyuyoni Overlook trail. Tip: now that the shuttle buses are running again, a great hike is to take the shuttle to the Visitor's Center, hike up the Frey trail and catch the shuttle from there back to White Rock. Or, if you prefer to go downhill, you can do it in the other direction. Great views, either way.

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[ 19:27 Jun 27, 2023    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Sun, 22 Mar 2020

B is for Badlands

[hiking in Nambe Badlands] The idea of blogging the alphabet came from a conversation during a hike in Nambe Badlands. It's beautiful a hike that we don't do very often, about 40 minutes from Los Alamos.

"Badlands" is a term for any sort of soft, dry, eroded terrain: a place of mostly dirt and loosely consolodated sandstone, where the terrain erodes into a maze of rounded hills, steep gullies and arroyos, with occasional pillars where harder rocks emerge.

Badlands are often fairly colorful due to the mixture of different rock and soil types. Arizona's Painted Desert, with its stripes of red, white and green, is a famous example. The colors around Nambe and the rest of the Española valley is more subtle: mostly reds, tans, yellows with a few bright white veins running through.

[Nambe Badlands white rim layer; Los Alamos in the background] One thing you get in the badlands is views. In the image at left, we're looking southwest past the "barrancas" of Pojoaque. You can see the Pajarito plateau -- the line of white buildings is part of LANL, fairly near my house in White Rock -- and beyond it, the Jemez mountains, Out of the photo behind us are the Sangre de Cristos, running up toward Taos and eventually Colorado.

[Nambe Badlands white rim gleams in the distance] The badlands themselves are interesting too. They're mostly Santa Fe Group sediments, eroded primarily from the Sangres with a little contribution from the Jemez. In this area, there's a prominent white layer running through. Since it's harder than the dirt on either side of it, it tends to make a "white rim" reminiscent of the famous Canyonlands White Rim, but of course the rock itself is very different. This white rim, while harder than the normal badlands dirt, is still relatively soft, flaky; it erodes to a powder anywhere where it's exposed.

Geology books don't cover this area, but as best I can determine, from papers online, the white layer is probably an ash layer that's part of the Skull Ridge group of the Tesuque formation (those are all finer gradations of the Santa Fe Group). There are four white ash layers, probably erupted from 13-16 million years ago (estimates vary quite a bit, but middle Miocene), possibly from Nevada. So although the white ash is volcanic, it's apparently quite a bit older than most of the Jemez and comes from somewhere else entirely.

It's hard to be sure: I wish geological papers included better maps. In the one Field Geology class I had the opportunity to take, we spent most of our time making maps, and I suspect maps are a big part of what most professional geologists do; but somehow, the geology papers online seem remarkably lacking in maps. Oh, well.

[Nambe Badlands Owl Tower] We climbed up to a high lookout for lunch, during which Charlie, our best birder, was scanning with binoculars and discovered an owl sitting in the tower across from our lunch spot. Alas, due to coronavirus "social distancing" concerns, she couldn't pass her binoculars around, but I was able to see the owl, just barely, with the little monocular I keep in my pack. After some debate over its size, and scrutinizing the photos (not good enough to be worth sharing) afterward, Charlie concluded (and I agree) it was a great horned owl.

[Ken inspects a Nambe Badlands formation] Badlands exploring is fun; aside from spectacular views, there are always interesting hoodooes and other rock formations to inspect. We did a relatively easy 5.5-mile loop, but there are plenty of other trails in the badlands that I'd like to explore some day.

A few relevant papers I found:

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[ 12:02 Mar 22, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Mon, 17 Feb 2020

A Couple of Nice Hikes

[The lunch spot on Lion Cave Mesa] We've had some wild weather recently. Two weeks ago, our weekly hiking group was sscheduled to go on a hike in sunny White Rock that Dave and I had proposed, a few miles from home. Then the night before the hike, we got our heaviest snowstorm of the year so far.

Sounded like a great opportunity to test those new ice spikes (for shoes) I'd ordered on eBay. We went down Lion Cave Canyon, around the mesa and up Water Canyon, then climbed up to the top of the mesa and went out to the end to a lunch spot with a panoramic view of Water Canyon and the Sangre de Cristos.

[Walking the Neck] Then back across the narrow neck of the mesa. The temperature was just about perfect for hiking with the sun and the snow. The ice spikes worked perfectly -- the snow wasn't deep enough to need snowshoes, but there were plenty of places where it would have been slippery without the spikes.

[Snow Bumps] We also had fun speculating on the cause of the "snow bumps" that formed around the grama grass stems.

[Dramatic light in Pueblo Canyoo] Now, two weeks later, most of the snow is gone and it's a beautiful day with a high of 60. We headed out for a short exploration in Pueblo Canyon, looking for the old airport that some folks in the R/C flying club thought might make a good flying site.

Some clouds moved in while we were walking, making for dramatic views of the cliffs. I just never get tired of the way the changing light plays on the mesas and canyons.

[Dramatic light in Pueblo Canyoo] We didn't find the old airport -- more exploration needed! -- but we did find the new connector to the Tent Rocks Trail, where the Youth Conservation Corps has been busy with trailwork in Pueblo Canyon. And we explored the remains of an old road -- below Anderson Overlook: possibly the original horse/mule road that they used in the Ranch School days before the Manhattan Project.

Another beautiful day in Los Alamos.

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[ 19:58 Feb 17, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Sun, 13 Jan 2019

Snowy Views and Giant Curling Icicles

[Snowy back yard] And the snow continues to fall. We got a break of a few days, but today it's snowed fairly steadily all day, adding another -- I don't know, maybe four inches? Snow is hard to measure because it piles up so unevenly, two inches here, eight there.

[Snowshoe trail, Jemez East Fork] The hiking group I'm in went snowshoeing up in the Jemez last week -- lovely! The shrubs that managed to stick up above the snow all wore coats of ice, which fell by afternoon, littering the snow around them with an extra coat of glitter.

[icicle] And it was lovely here too, with a thick blanket of snow over everything. (I need to get some snowshoes of my own, to make it easier to explore the yard when conditions get like this, otherwise the snow would be thigh-deep in places. For the hike last week, I borrowed a pair.)

[Curling icicles] And, of course, there's the never-ending fascination of watching icicles, snow glaciers moving down the roof, and, this time, huge curving icicles growing downward above the den deck. They hung more than four feet below the roof before they finally separated and fell with a huge THUMP!, leaving a three-foot-high pile of snow that poor Dave had to shovel (I helped with shoveling at first, until I slipped and sprained my wrist; it's improving, but not enough that I can shovel ice yet).
Images of the snowstorm and the showshoe hike: Snowstorms in January 2019.

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[ 16:00 Jan 13, 2019    More misc | permalink to this entry | ]

Thu, 05 Apr 2018

Cave Creek Hiking and Birding Trip

A week ago I got back from a trip to the Chiricahua mountains of southern Arizona, specifically Cave Creek on the eastern side of the range. The trip was theoretically a hiking trip, but it was also for birding and wildlife watching -- southern Arizona is near the Mexican border and gets a lot of birds and other animals not seen in the rest of the US -- and an excuse to visit a friend who lives near there.

Although it's close enough that it could be driven in one fairly long day, we took a roundabout 2-day route so we could explore some other areas along the way that we'd been curious about.

First, we wanted to take a look at the White Mesa Bike Trails northwest of Albuquerque, near the Ojito Wilderness. We'll be back at some point with bikes, but we wanted to get a general idea of the country and terrain. The Ojito, too, looks like it might be worth a hiking trip, though it's rather poorly signed: we saw several kiosks with maps where the "YOU ARE HERE" was clearly completely misplaced. Still, how can you not want to go back to a place where the two main trails are named Seismosaurus and Hoodoo?

[Cabezon] The route past the Ojito also led past Cabezon Peak, a volcanic neck we've seen from a long distance away and wanted to see closer. It's apparently possible to climb it but we're told the top part is fairly technical, more than just a hike.

Finally, we went up and over Mt Taylor, something we've been meaning to do for many years. You can drive fairly close to the top, but this being late spring, there was still snow on the upper part of the road and our Rav4's tires weren't up to the challenge. We'll go back some time and hike all the way to the top.

We spent the night in Grants, then the following day, headed down through El Malpais, stopping briefly at the beautiful Sandstone Overlook, then down through the Datil and Mogollon area. We wanted to take a look at a trail called the Catwalk, but when we got there, it was cold, blustery, and starting to rain and sleet. So we didn't hike the Catwalk this time, but at least we got a look at the beginning of it, then continued down through Silver City and thence to I-10, where just short of the Arizona border we were amused by the Burma Shave dust storm signs about which I already wrote.

At Cave Creek

[Beautiful rocks at Cave Creek] Cave Creek Ranch, in Portal, AZ, turned out to be a lovely place to stay, especially for anyone interested in wildlife. I saw several "life birds" and mammals, plus quite a few more that I'd seen at some point but had never had the opportunity to photograph. Even had we not been hiking, just hanging around the ranch watching the critters was a lot of fun. They charge $5 for people who aren't staying there to come and sit in the feeder area; I'm not sure how strictly they enforce it, but given how much they must spend on feed, it would be nice to help support them.

The bird everyone was looking for was the Elegant Trogon. Supposedly one had been seen recently along the creekbed, and we all wanted to see it.

They also had a nifty suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing a dry (this year) arroyo over on another part of the property. I guess I was so busy watching the critters that I never went wandering around, and I would have missed the bridge entirely had Dave not pointed it out to me on the last day.

The only big hike I did was the Burro Trail to Horseshoe Pass, about 10 miles and maybe 1800 feet of climbing. It started with a long hike up the creek, during which everybody had eyes and ears trained on the sycamores (we were told the trogon favored sycamores). No trogon. But it was a pretty hike, and once we finally started climbing out of the creekbed there were great views of the soaring cliffs above Cave Creek Canyon. Dave opted to skip the upper part of the trail to the saddle; I went, but have to admit that it was mostly just more of the same, with a lot of scrambling and a few difficult and exposed traverses. At the time I thought it was worth it, but by the time we'd slogged all the way back to the cars I was doubting that.

[ Organ Pipe Formation at Chiricahua National Monument ] On the second day the group went over the Chiricahuas to Chiricahua National Monument, on the other side. Forest road 42 is closed in winter, but we'd been told that it was open now since the winter had been such a dry one, and it wasn't a particularly technical road, certainly easy in the Rav4. But we had plans to visit our friend over at the base of the next mountain range west, so we just made a quick visit to the monument, did a quick hike around the nature trail and headed on.

Back with the group at Cave Creek on Thursday, we opted for a shorter, more relaxed hike in the canyon to Ash Spring rather than the brutal ascent to Silver Peak. In the canyon, maybe we'd see the trogon! Nope, no trogon. But it was a very pleasant hike, with our first horned lizard ("horny toad") spotting of the year, a couple of other lizards, and some lovely views.


We'd been making a lot of trogon jokes over the past few days, as we saw visitor after visitor trudging away muttering about not having seen one. "They should rename the town of Portal to Trogon, AZ." "They should rename that B&B Trogon's Roost Bed and Breakfast." Finally, at the end of Thursday's hike, we stopped in at the local ranger station, where among other things (like admiring their caged gila monster) we asked about trogon sightings. Turns out the last one to be seen had been in November. A local thought maybe she'd heard one in January. Whoever had relayed the rumor that one had been seen recently was being wildly optimistic.

[ Northern Cardinal ] [ Coati ] [ Javalina ] [ white-tailed buck ]
Fortunately, I'm not a die-hard birder and I didn't go there specifically for the trogon. I saw lots of good birds and some mammals I'd never seen before (full list), like a coatimundi (I didn't realize those ever came up to the US) and a herd (pack? flock?) of javalinas. And white-tailed deer -- easterners will laugh, but those aren't common anywhere I've lived (mule deer are the rule in California and Northern New Mexico). Plus some good hikes with great views, and a nice visit with our friend. It was a good trip.

On the way home, again we took two days for the opportunity to visit some places we hadn't seen. First, Cloudcroft, NM: a place we'd heard a lot about because a lot of astronomers retire there. It's high in the mountains and quite lovely, with lots of hiking trails in the surrounding national forest. Worth a visit some time.

From Cloudcroft we traveled through the Mescalero Apache reservation, which was unexpectedly beautiful, mountainous and wooded and dotted with nicely kept houses and ranches, to Ruidoso, a nice little town where we spent the night.


[ Lincoln, NM ] Our last stop, Saturday morning, was Lincoln, site of the Lincoln County War (think Billy the Kid). The whole tiny town is set up as a tourist attraction, with old historic buildings ... that were all closed. Because why would any tourists be about on a beautiful Saturday in spring? There were two tiny museums, one at each end of town, which were open, and one of them tried to entice us into paying the entrance fee by assuring us that the ticket was good for all the sites in town. Might have worked, if we hadn't already walked the length of the town peering into windows of all the closed sites. Too bad -- some of them looked interesting, particularly the general store. But we enjoyed our stroll through the town, and we got a giggle out of the tourist town being closed on Saturday -- their approach to tourism seems about as effective as Los Alamos'.

Photos from the trip are at Cave Creek and the Chiricahuas.

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[ 10:04 Apr 05, 2018    More travel | permalink to this entry | ]

Sun, 23 Jul 2017

Nambé Lake Grey Jays

[Nambe Lake]

This week's hike was to Nambé Lake, high in the Sangre de Cristos above Santa Fe.

It's a gorgeous spot, a clear, shallow mountain lake surrounded by steep rocky slopes up to Lake Peak and Santa Fe Baldy. I assume it's a glacial cirque, though I can't seem to find any confirmation of that online.

[Grey jay taking bread from my hand.] There's a raucous local population of grey jays, fearless and curious. One of my hiking companions suggested they'd take food from my hand if I offered. I broke off a bit of my sandwich and offered it, and sure enough, a jay flew right over. Eventually we had three or four of them hanging around our lunch spot.

The rocky slopes are home to pikas, but they're shy and seldom seen. We did see a couple of marmots in the rocks, and I caught a brief glimpse of a small, squirrel-sized head that looked more grey than brown like I'd expect from a rock squirrel. Was it a pika? I'll never know.

We also saw some great flowers. Photos: Nambé Lake Grey Jays.

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[ 09:55 Jul 23, 2017    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Mon, 19 Sep 2016

Frogs on the Rio, and Other Amusements

Saturday, a friend led a group hike for the nature center from the Caja del Rio down to the Rio Grande.

The Caja (literally "box", referring to the depth of White Rock Canyon) is an area of national forest land west of Santa Fe, just across the river from Bandelier and White Rock. Getting there involves a lot of driving: first to Santa Fe, then out along increasingly dicey dirt roads until the road looks too daunting and it's time to get out and walk.

[Dave climbs the Frijoles Overlook trail] From where we stopped, it was only about a six mile hike, but the climb out is about 1100 feet and the day was unexpectedly hot and sunny (a mixed blessing: if it had been rainy, our Rav4 might have gotten stuck in mud on the way out). So it was a notable hike. But well worth it: the views of Frijoles Canyon (in Bandelier) were spectacular. We could see the lower Bandelier Falls, which I've never seen before, since Bandelier's Falls Trail washed out below the upper falls the summer before we moved here. Dave was convinced he could see the upper falls too, but no one else was convinced, though we could definitely see the red wall of the maar volcano in the canyon just below the upper falls.

[Canyon Tree Frog on the Rio Grande] We had lunch in a little grassy thicket by the Rio Grande, and we even saw a few little frogs, well camouflaged against the dirt: you could even see how their darker brown spots imitated the pebbles in the sand, and we wouldn't have had a chance of spotting them if they hadn't hopped. I believe these were canyon treefrogs (Hyla arenicolor). It's always nice to see frogs -- they're not as common as they used to be. We've heard canyon treefrogs at home a few times on rainy evenings: they make a loud, strange ratcheting noise which I managed to record on my digital camera. Of course, at noon on the Rio the frogs weren't making any noise: just hanging around looking cute.

[Chick Keller shows a burdock leaf] Sunday we drove around the Pojoaque Valley following their art tour, then after coming home I worked on setting up a new sandblaster to help with making my own art. The hardest and least fun part of welded art is cleaning the metal of rust and paint, so it's exciting to finally have a sandblaster to help with odd-shaped pieces like chains.

Then tonight was a flower walk in Pajarito Canyon, which is bursting at the seams with flowers, especially purple aster, goldeneye, Hooker's evening primrose and bahia. Now I'll sign off so I can catalog my flower photos before I forget what's what.

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[ 20:17 Sep 19, 2016    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 29 Apr 2016

Vermillion Cliffs trip, and other distractions

[Red Toadstool, in the Paria Rimrocks] [Cobra Arch, in the Vermillion Cliffs] I haven't posted in a while. Partly I was busy preparing for, enjoying, then recovering from, a hiking trip to the Vermillion Cliffs, on the Colorado River near the Arizona/Utah border. We had no internet access there (no wi-fi at the hotel, and no data on the cellphone). But we had some great hikes, and I saw my first California Condors (they have a site where they release captive-bred birds). Photos (from the hikes, not the condors, which were too far away): Vermillion Cliffs trip.

I've also been having fun welding more critters, including a roadrunner, a puppy and a rattlesnake. I'm learning how to weld small items, like nail legs on spark plug dragonflies and scorpions, which tend to melt at the MIG welder's lowest setting.

[ Welded puppy \ [ Welded Roadrunner ] [ Welded rattlesnake ]

New Mexico's weather is being charmingly erratic (which is fairly usual): we went for a hike exploring some unmapped cavate ruins, shivering in the cold wind and occasionally getting lightly snowed upon. Then the next day was a gloriously sunny hike out Deer Trap Mesa with clear long-distance views of the mountains and mesas in all directions. Today we had graupel -- someone recently introduced me to that term for what Dave and I have been calling "snail" or "how" since it's a combination of snow and hail, soft balls of hail like tiny snowballs. They turned the back yard white for ten or fifteen minutes, but then the sun came out for a bit and melted all the little snowballs.

But since it looks like much of today will be cloudy, it's a perfect day to use up that leftover pork roast and fill the house with good smells by making a batch of slow-cooker green chile posole.

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[ 12:28 Apr 29, 2016    More travel | permalink to this entry | ]