Out west people stop on the roadside to take pictures of the setting sun. It’s a good time to count your cold weather blessings too…yes another day of direct sunshine and free vitamin D.
A ten mile hike through the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains puts one in the right frame of mind to handle the upcoming holiday stress. It’s also an effective way to burn extra calories in anticipation of the inevitable holiday treats!
6-7 million years ago volcanoes dispersed ash and rock over what’s now northern New Mexico in some areas up to 1000 feet thick! Weather, wind and water flows have eroded these deposits leaving an unworldly place now called Tent Rocks National Monument. In recent millennia native peoples have lived here (notice the fire scorched cave ceiling) benefiting from its closeness to the Rio Grande.
Winter is the right time to hike New Mexico. No scorpions or rattlesnakes in sight. John Wayne riding through an arroyo after the bad guys is easy to imagine (his movie The Cowboys was filmed here in 1972). Sharing a trail with a steer is possible if you’re near good water. And coyotes call to each other late into the night. One down side: it’s almost impossible to stop humming Happy Trails.
The next time someone says they’d like to live in the mountains imagine life in the Puye Cliff Dwellings of northern New Mexico. Over the course of a millennia Native Americans dug caves and built adobe like structures into the mountain for shelter in winter. Pottery shards are widely scattered displaying their creative use of color and design.
Named for their blood red appearance at sunset, the Sangre de Cristo mountains are the southern most range of the Rocky Mountains traversing southern Colorado and New Mexico. The low foothills around Santa Fe are dotted with sparse groves of pinyon pine, prickly pear and cholla cactus perfect for hiking even during the winter months.
While related to reindeer aka caribou (both are members of the deer family), these elk were looking for greener pastures along a major north south highway. I expect this group will stay well grounded over the next few days. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, safe travels to all!
Wet suits are required attire for winter surfing as this group of four (one paddling out) would surely agree. Low tide can also be a popular time for harvesting California mussels (wet suit optional) on boulders completely submerged later in the tide’s range.
The tiny village of Trinidad California tucked behind its beach head and 19th century replica lighthouse has a long history. First as a village site for native peoples before harboring Spaniards, Russians and Brits in the 1500-1600s. European settlers arrived in the 1800s; their grave markers still evident in the town’s cemetery. Today Trinidad is a tourist mecca and fishing village known for supplying Dungeness crabs to California and states beyond.
If you’ve ever been hit by even a small wave you know there’s power behind that water. Sea stacks are the eroded rock formation left standing after a millennia of wave activity. They add character to an already beautiful coastline AND make great nesting sites for birds and other wildlife.