Thursday, November 04, 2010

Land of Enchantment Day 3

Lori had suggested yesterday that Valles Caldera Natural Preserve would be a good day trip, as it is scenic, has some good hiking trails, and one can do a loop, going west and then north, up over Santa Fe, and then dropping down to Santa Fe via Los Alamos and then back down to Albuquerque. Jim was game to come along again, for which I am ever so thankful, as I don't think I could have hiked the steep trail we ended up hiking, without his encouragement.

So we set off mid morning, up 25 North, and then west on 550, and north on 4. There was a steady, curving incline as we climbed up the Jemez Mountains. Since we were going to go for a "real hike" (meaning that it was going to be moderately strenuous, at least for me!) I voted to get coffee at the Laughing Lizard Inn & Cafe in Jemez Springs (point B on map below) on the way to give me courage, what with my being out of shape and all.... Good, strong coffee with a chocolaty feel and look gave me that needed kick in the pants for what was to come!

Then we headed over to the Jemez Falls trailhead/picnic area. (see point C on map for approximate location.)

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The Jemez Falls are beautiful and only a short quarter mile hike away from the trailhead.
But then, we returned to where the trail forked, to go down to the McCauley Hot Springs... more like the McCauley lukewarm springs, as we learned... The way down (down and down!) to the springs was gorgeous, with a Tahoe-like atmosphere created by plentiful fir and pine trees (not surprising, considering we were at over 7000 feet in elevation.) The springs are about 600 feet down in elevation from the start of the trailhead, which was all very well and easy on the way down, but on the way back... well, let's just say that the going was s-l-o-w... :-)

But all the effort was worth it, as the McCauley springs are these gorgeous little dammed up pools filled with clear lukewarm water and sand, and minnows that like to nibble at your feet. In case you're wondering, it tickles! And did I mention the views are just stunning? Don't take my word for it... take a look at some of these pics!

After the steep back to the trailhead, we realized that more time had passed than we had allotted for the hike (hmm... wonder who might have caused that?) So we got back on our merry way, as we had yet to actually see the ancient volcano top (now a grass valley) that is Valles Caldera... Good thing that our path naturally had us driving around part of the rim of it, on our way to and through Los Alamos. It is huge and... well huge. Vast. Mountain tops formed back in the day, by lava erupting, in the middle of it. I don't think this photo (the one with the yellow grassy meadow) does it justice... You'll have to go yourself and check it out!

At this point, exhausted, it was decided to try to get back to Albuquerque to meet Lori for food as soon as possible, but it did take a while. After all, we had to pass through Los Alamos (there was a security checkpoint!) and Santa Fe as well. No visit to the old town this trip, as the sun was setting, but we were lucky to get a wonderful view of the sunset on the way back! Take a look!


sradha said...

Sounds like a simply amazing trip, my friend! Gorgeous pics and wonderful descriptions. Congrats on completing the "real" hike in good spirits! Talk soon! Smitha

why said...

thanks smithaji!

look fwd to your upcoming Dance!