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Upper Tesuque Creek

The view down the Tesuque Creek watershed, toward Santa Fe

It’s been wonderful being able to hike again in the mountains above Santa Fe, and maybe even more wonderful that the summer rains have finally come through for us. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains east and north of town have gotten soaking rains most afternoons, lately, some of them jazzed up with spectacular pyrotechnics. The grateful forests are swollen and vibrantly green with the showers, and grateful hikers are enjoying the newly opened trails.

The last couple of weekends I’ve made some hikes in the Rio Tesuque watershed. Many of the Forest Service Trails near town traverse this drainage, or depart from it: the Chamisa Trail, much of the lower Winsor Trail, Borrego, Bear Wallow, Big Tesuque, and all of Aspen Vista. I’ve been parking at the Big Tesuque Campground lately, and walking up that part of the trail that heads east to join Aspen Vista, and beyond, up to the “Butterfly Meadow” and, yesterday, all the way up to Tesuque Peak.

Even a short walk will bring you intimate rewards. Late summer flowers are in bloom along the creek:

Asters in a meadow along Tesuque Creek

Butterflies abound.

A Variegated Fritillary enjoying a thistle

There are places to sit and listen to the falling water that have all the serenity of a Japanese garden:

Sprays of grass along Tesuque Creek

More strenuous efforts to climb higher will bring the usual rewards:

A rustic bench thoughtfully constructed on Tesuque Ridge

Views from these elevations often show intriguing meadows that you rarely see from the lower trails, even if they happen to pass nearby. Here’s a little Shangri La of a meadow on the flank of Aspen Peak that is isolated from any path:

A meadow on the flank of Aspen Peak, above Ski Santa Fe

You might have noticed that the atmosphere in these photos is completely sodden with moisture, very typical of August in the Southern Rockies. Although I was spared any rain, much later in the afternoon this humidity discharged itself in a stupendous cloudburst over Santa Fe, flooding the streets and washing away the lingering remnants of this year’s Indian Market.

At the very crest of Tesuque Peak the land drops abruptly away into a cirque that cradles Santa Fe Lake and the headwaters of the Santa Fe River. Look at the spectacular view:

In the clouds on Tesuque Peak

Trust me. For a few amazing moments the clouds parted and this scene took on a Technicolor clarity that had to be seen to be believed. And then it was gone, back into the void. ┬áThe Donovan lyrics sprang to mind: “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”. I realize these lines refer to a deeper spiritual reality – consult the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra for details – but it was nice to see things manifest in sunlight and stone.

So come see us. The mountains may not be eternal, but they’ll be here for you.

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