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Springtime in the Rockies

Newly-leafed aspen among the conifers

It seems like I was just writing about icy trails and late winter snowshoeing, but suddenly there’s been a change of scene and the mountains are stirring with new life and issuing invitations to have a walk. The snow has vanished from the middle elevations of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and many of our most popular trails are free of ice and spangled with the first wildflowers of the season.

One of the most popular walks among visitors to Santa Fe is the Borrego-Bear Wallow loop, whose trailhead sits at an elevation of 8880 feet, squarely in the middle of the lovely mixed-conifer forest, immediately north of Hyde Memorial State Park. There’s free parking just off the the Ski Basin Road – NM 475 – and it’s only an eight mile drive from downtown Santa Fe. The loop itself is about a 3.2 mile ramble through a shady woods, with a 640 elevation loss/gain, and a sunny meadow at the bottom alongside Tesuque Creek perfect for a snack break or a picnic.

The sign at the intersection of Borrego and Bear Wallow Trails

The Borrego Trail drops down through a forest of Ponderosa, White Fir, Douglas Fir, and Aspen on its way to the Winsor Trail along Tesuque Creek, which you will take downstream until its intersection with the Bear Wallow Trail, which will take you back up to the trailhead.

The aspen are leafing out now, in a fresh yellow-green that contrasts vividly with the much darker evergreens:

Aspen along the Borrego Trail

Is there any tree more delightful than the aspen? It’s handsome in summer and winter, and it is exceptionally beautiful in the spring and fall. Would that we all passed through the seasons of our lives so gracefully.

White fir with grizzled grey bark grow along each of the trails, calling for your attention:

The mixed-conifer forest

These trees frame views of the higher ridges to the northwest:

The Sangre de Cristo

Meanwhile the forest floor is dotted with color and new life:

Red columbine are blooming all along the trails. Hummingbirds rejoice!

The exceptionally tough Creeping Mahonia

And the delicately-flowered Rocky Mountain clematis

One of my favorites peeks out this time of year:

The cheerful Canada violet

Meanwhile a variety of small deciduous trees send forth their first leaves and flowers:

Tiny flowers on the twigs of the lovely Rocky Mountain Maple

Tesuque Creek is singing with snowmelt:

Tesuque Creek at the midpoint of your walk.

It wasn’t too challenging this time, but you have to cross this stream twice to make the loop, and sometimes you have to be inventive. Here’s a picture of the Borrego crossing:

Kids LOVE this spot

On your ascent back up along the Bear Wallow Trail, you’ll pass one of my favorite trees, a Limber pine perched on a rugged outcropping of gneiss above Tesuque Creek:

Limber pine and Tesuque Canyon beyond

In that most delightful of nature books, “A Natural History of Western Trees“, Donald Culross Peattie writes “. . . and Limber Pines have a way of growing in dramatic places, taking picturesque attitudes, and getting themselves photographed, written about, and cared for. . . ” This specimen is no exception. It grows in a dramatic place, and I’ve enjoyed my tea in its shade many times.

So plan for a springtime walk in the mountains when you make your visit with us in Santa Fe. We can help you with lots of suggestions, and our neighbor, the Travel Bug, can supply you with maps and guidebooks of every kind.

New life

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