Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gentle Walks Renegade

On Veterans Day, I went on the PEEC Gentle Walks hike. We parked near Guaje Pines Cemetery and took a trail into Rendija Canyon at the back of the cemetery and then followed a narrow footpath north, also called Neblina's Trail, into an obscure side canyon of Rendija Canyon that parallels Upper Guaje Road, Forest Road 442. The unnamed canyon starts off as a lovely little "walk in the woods" in a quite pretty forest. The group's turn-around point was near where the the footpath disappears but I was destined to blunder on alone. I have followed this canyon maybe twice before with other hikers out to where it intersects Upper Guaje Road and desired to do it again for "old time's sake".  It was a rough go the other times, full of deadfall and boulders. But, there was always a chance that someone came in since with a chainsaw and cleared a path! Now that I have fought my way up it again, I can't say it's gotten worse - still no real trail and still plenty of deadfall and boulders to climb over, under and around. Yet, I'm pleased both that I did it and that I survived!

A look down at the narrow trail in the unnamed side canyon of Rendija Canyon. This photo is from Upper Guaje Road on the way back.

Also from Upper Guaje Road, looking up canyon. It is wooded like this for a while until it enters the burn area of the 2000 Cerro Grande wildfire. Soon after this, anything like a trail disappears and the going is very rough. Cabra Canyon, just to the north, is as pretty and has a "real" trail! Also, simply walking Upper Guaje Road, which this wild canyon parallels, is a nice walk.

Here, I'm above the canyon to bypass a particularly impassable section. I followed some cairns up a scrabbly hillside. Very pleased to have made it up in one piece so took this overlook photo to celebrate. Celebration premature because I'm really not very far along yet! Lots more scrabbling to do. To keep myself company, I chattered a lot to the "imaginary" mountain lion "stalking" me! Felt hopeful that rattlesnakes would find it too cold to be active but thought of them  every time I put my hands and feet in the line of fire to gain purchase to climb over boulders and deadfall.

Going downhill, back into the canyon bottom, I noticed these pretty ferns tucked at the edge of a large rock. I turned a leaf over and saw spores so I'm sure this is a fern but identifying which one is beyond my skill set.

Some views of the impediments encountered up canyon:

Almost out of canyon and happy I am still alive! Earlier, I spotted a cairn above which I was sure was beckoning me to go uphill around a nasty area. I practically crawled up the hillside, holding onto oak branches, wedging my feet against well-planted rocks and deadfall but I eventually had to admit that I didn't see a real path going sideways and going any further began to look too steep and slippery. That is, my sense of self preservation kicked in. So I discarded the bypass plan and reversed course. It was safest to resort to the seat of the pants method and do a controlled slide down, even over the rose bushes and barberries in my path. When I safely got back down to the bottom, I found I no longer minded clambering over all the impediments!
Completely out of the canyon now. I'm calling the reddish shrubs up ahead willows.
Closeup of willows with a few spindly willow leaves hanging on.
A more mature willow with yellow-green leaves, right next to the small reddish ones.
Walking back to Guaje Pines Cemetery on Upper Guaje Road, munching my chocolate bar lunch, these bright red rose hips really stood out. In the background, below the peak,  is the canyon I followed up.
On Upper Guaje Road, Forest Road 442, looking toward one of the hills that bicyclists call "The Three Bears". Walk up it and you'll understand the name even without a bicycle! This is looking back at the plain crossed by the unnamed side canyon. This whole area was badly burnt by the 2000 Cerro Grande wildfire.
Downhill from yet another of "The Three Bears", entering an area with trees that didn't burn. Years ago, I remember attending a forest service tour to an area where they had recently completed a controlled burn, somewhere in the Upper Guaje Road area. We saw some smoking tree roots where fire was still smoldering. I can't remember the year but I wonder if it was before Cerro Grande. Maybe this area didn't burn as badly because of past efforts of the forest service to reduce fuel loads.

One of my first hikes in Los Alamos was in winter 1985 on Upper Guaje Road from the quad we were subletting on 36th Street in North Community. We had just moved to Los Alamos in January 1985 from Gainesville, Florida. There was lots of snow on the ground. Somehow, through sheer stubbornness, I walked from the quad to Upper Guaje Road and postholed a little further uphill from this view to where I overlooked a very snowy Los Alamos.

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Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States