Skiing along the edge of a thirteen (13) mile wide caldera is well, intimidating! The below photo shows only a small portion of the Valles Caldera which is now a national preserve. Formed over a million years ago when a volcanic dome erupted, geothermal activity ie soaking in hot springs is a popular activity in this part of Northern New Mexico.
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.