Saturday, August 31, 2013
Friday, August 30, 2013
Hike Difficulty: Easy (little elevation gain but walking in soft sand is tough!)
Hike Distance (Round Trip): 6 miles
Time (Round Trip): 3-4 hours
Elevation: 5450 feet to 5850 feet
Diablo Canyon hike is not on a marked trail, but rather follows an arroyo (dried up river bed) from the parking area all the way to the Rio Grande (3 miles one way). The canyon itself is quite spectacular. This hike was so different from the hikes we've been doing in the Santa Fe and Taos ski basins. Where those hikes are shaded by Ponderosa pines with views of green mountains, Diablo Canyon is definitely a desert environment with close to zero shade. We completed this hike on an August morning. We were at the trail by 9am, so we had some shade in the actual canyon. However, we got through the canyon pretty quickly. Probably 2 1/2 miles of the 3 mile one way hike is not in the canyon. We roasted. We enjoyed the hike, but I think it would have been more pleasant on a fall day.
If you are completing this hike in the summer, please remember lots of sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of water. As they say in New Zealand, "slip, slop, slap." Slip on a shirt, slop on 30+ sunscreen, and slap on a hat. Add plenty of water to your pack, and you'll be ready for Diablo Canyon!
Also, make sure there are no thunderstorms in the forecast or suspicious looking clouds in the area. I wouldn't want to be in the canyon during a flash flood.
Getting to the hike wasn't tricky, but it did require driving 8.6 miles down Old Buckman Road. It's a dirt road with some sandy parts. We had good directions in our "Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area" book by the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club. This book is the bible for day hikes in this area. So far, I'm super impressed with this book and it's well worth the $17 we spent on it. We ended up buying it at this great little bookstore - Garcia Street Books - off Canyon Road, but they also sell it at REI.
We arrived at the parking area and were the only people there. It stayed that way for the entire hike. We followed a little path to a break in the wire fence and made our way into the arroyo.
The moon was still out during the start of our hike.
But the sun was definitely about to make it's presence known.
Not a difficult "trail" to follow. Take the same path the water takes all the way to the Rio Grande.
You'll find some quartz along the way.
This is what the majority of the hike was like.
Looking back at the canyon.
I just can't get enough of these flowers!
Started to feel like we might be trespassing on some government land or something.
The Rio Grande. Not quite what I was imagining. I wanted to swim. Once I saw the river, that didn't sound quite so appealing. We needed to eat lunch but between all the trash people had left (lots of broken beer bottles and cans) and the flies that wouldn't leave us alone, we ended up eating while standing up in some shade slightly back from the river. Definitely not the lunch spot I was imagining.
We headed back the way we came. The sun was hot. The flies stuck around. However, there is something about walking through the desert that is quite meditative. I enjoyed the hike but I wouldn't say it was my favorite. Worth the trip out there to see the canyon, but I think I'd wait until fall if I had to do it again.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Hike Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
Hiking Distance (Round Trip): 6(ish) miles
Time (Round Trip): 4 to 5 hours
Elevation: 10,252 feet to 12,340 feet
Our friend, Ciara, came to visit us in Santa Fe this past weekend. Ciara and I had to keep ourselves occupied on Saturday while Allyson worked, so obviously we decided to get a little "work" done ourselves. We had a couple of hikes in mind, but decided on a 6 mile hike that gained 2,500 feet in elevation. We figured we should be as tired as Allyson was after her 10-12 hour work day, and we were!
The hike to Deception Peak is often written up as part of longer hikes to other peaks, such as Lake and Penintente. A couple of notes: 1. The hike up to Deception Peak is strenuous because of the insane elevation gain and maybe because of the small amount of scrambling you have to do over a small boulder field. But honestly, it's a great hike with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views. 2. To continue on to Lake Peak means some very uncertain footing and loose rock with steep cliffs, so better with good shoes on and maybe some hiking poles. Because the weather was really questionable on Saturday and we were being very conscious of the possibility of thunderstorms, we decided not to go on to Lake Peak. Regardless, we were very satisfied with our hike to Deception Peak.
The hike starts at Winsor Trail, along with many other hikes heading into the Pecos Wilderness. Parking is plentiful at the end of Hyde Park/Ski Basin Road. When driving into the parking lot, the Winsor Trail is on the left by a couple bathrooms. Once on the trail, we headed north (right) on Winsor Trail and began the infinite climb up.
Follow the Winsor Trail to the right.
Plenty of shade on this hike until reaching the ridge right before Deception Peak. Lots of beautiful aspens on the first part of the trail.
At the fence (the Pecos Wilderness boundary), we turned right rather than going through the fence and followed the trail that goes along the fence. This trail is Raven's Ridge but is not marked with a sign. You cannot get lost on this part of the trail. We just stayed next to the fence until it ended at the first terrific view.
Follow the fence.
Once we took some time to catch our breath and enjoy the first of the views, we backtracked a couple steps and continued on the trail that takes off to the right (if standing on the trail with the fence to the left). There were some great views out over Santa Fe and farther from this section of the hike.
Soon, we came across a small boulder field, which we found our way through by following the rock piles people have built to mark the trail. This part isn't tricky. As long as you head up, you'll find the trail.
The next section of the hike wasn't very strenuous. The ground was nice and soft and there were lots of beautiful trees providing shade. There was some increase in elevation but the trail had some flat or even declining sections as well.
You can see Santa Fe Baldy behind us. This is a must-do hike that we haven't done yet, but definitely plan on it.
Nambe Lake is another moderate-in-length hike and a fairly popular one. We could see people (very little people) down at the lake from this vista point.
Looking up at the ridge to Deception Peak
The trail we just came up.
We continued up the trail and then took a left to follow a not-so-well marked trail to Deception Peak. We could see the peak, so there was no chance of getting lost. But the trail isn't really that necessary up on top, so I think a lot of people kind of make their own. There were some rock piles to guide us.
This is the view from Deception Peak. It's called Deception Peak because Lake Peak is the real peak. Lake Peak is the one in the immediate foreground of this picture. The trail to that peak goes down and around the right side of the peak. We began the trail but the clouds were looking quite ominous and the trail isn't easy. We didn't like the idea of racing back to escape lightening/thunderstorms on treacherous trail. Maybe on a clearer day I'll brave that section of the trail.
You can kind of make out the trail down and around the right of Lake Peak.
The view south from Deception Peak
After spending some time on the peak, we turned around and went back the way we came. We felt challenged and our knees were definitely feeling the pretty constant downhill, but this was one of the better hikes I've been on. I really enjoyed the level of difficulty, the views, and the trail. Also, because this isn't one of the most talked about trails in the area, there were only a handful of people out there (even on a Saturday). We felt like we had it to ourselves! Except for the birds of course....this guy in the picture below really wanted to share our lunch with us!
Ciara took this panoramic shot of me at the top of Deception Peak.