Jemez Mountains and Santa Fe National Forest

05Jun12

We left Bandelier National Monument on Saturday May 26th. We turned left and immediately started climbing on Route 4. We went through more of Los Alamos National Laboratory and more Monument property. It was lush, green, alpine forest. After about an hour we started to really climb and the signs on the road indicated we were now on the Jemez Mountain Scenic Trail. Tight switchback and no shoulder made it a bit hairy. The traffic was relatively light but picked up as the hours wore on thank to Memorial Day weekend. Once at the summit we found a dreamy grassy forest and had a long lunch break.

Bryan climbing on the Jemez Scenic Trail

Lunch Break

Wild Iris

After lunch we bombed down in to Valles Grande Caldera. This area was formed by collapse, after a series of tremendous volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. We could see herds of elk in the distance and the wind was strong enough to almost blow us down. It was an amazing sight to behold. It was challenging to capture it on camera due to the size.

Part of Valles Caldera

Parts of the caldera look like islands

We continued on to Jemez Falls campground and it was swarming with people. Lots of folks drinking out of plastic cups and barbecuing. We decided to disperse camp near the river and avoid the crowds. As the evening wore on the smoke in the air became pretty thick. It was coming from the Whitewater Baldy Complex wildfire in southern New Mexico thanks to direct winds going north. It made for a wild looking sunset.

Jemez River

Hazy sunset

On Sunday the 27th we had a slow start, drinking our tea in the woods. Then we got going and had some fantastic downhill. We stopped and chatted with some young forest service workers who were at a table at an overlook educating the public about the local geology and “leave no trace” principles. They were fun to chat with. The downhill continued and we reached Amanda’s Country General Store in La Cueva center. The coffee was gone and the pickings were slim, we settled on some bananas. It was busy, there were lots of pickups pulling in with coolers and plastic bags of camping gear strapped haphazardly to roofs. We got back on our bikes and headed up route 126 to Fenton Lake State Park. This too was super busy, it looked more like a pond than a lake. We got some water, had lunch and kept on going.

Eagle’s nest outside of Fenton Lake State Park

Soon the pavement ran out and turned out to be our dustiest, sandiest road yet. It was okay at first until the traffic started passing us leaving us in clouds so thick we couldn’t see each other. Tough going for a few miles, lots of pushing. We quit about 5pm, fed up with pick up trucks blazing by us without regard for dust. We found a quiet spot on a hill in the woods and retreated.

Debi kickin’ up dust

Santa Fe National Forest

We started the next morning with frozen water bottles and cold fingers. We decided the night before that we were going to cut our Forest Rd adventure a bit shorted for fear of sandy conditions through the San Pedro Mountains. We stayed on Route 126 and had a REALLY long descent into the town of Cuba, New Mexico.

Going down to Cuba

Next up: Cuba to Abiquiu Lake

See you soon!

Debi and Bryan

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