Posts Tagged ‘Cienga Trail’

It’s been blazing hot in Albuquerque since the 4th of July. No rain, 100°+ days, 75° at night. There’s been no break for anything to cool down. The grapevines were wilted yellow and the leaves on the oak and hackberry looked drooped and dejected.

Friday we decided to try the east side of the Sandias where the temperatures promised to be cooler. At the Sulphur Springs picnic ground off the Crest Highway it was a much more pleasant 75° and overcast. We ate at a table beside the spring-fed stream and read, with some interest, notices that we were in cougar as well as bear country. The cougar face on the poster looked more like a cartoon rendition but the warning that there was an injured bear in the area struck a rather more serious note.

We took a quick tour around the wet grassy meadow from which the trail takes its name. At one time, it was a shallow rainwater catchment which directed water into an acequia and down the mountain to the villages below.

White Fir, Cut and Stacked © SR Euston

As we made our way up the trail we passed through a huge dead zone, with white fir skeletons silhouetted against the canyon wall, stark reminders of the bark beetle rampage. The Forest Service has been busy taking down dead trees and scores of neatly cut 12” thick rounds, some 2 feet across, were piled along either side of the trail. It was a ghostly, almost surreal “forest.”

At the Wilderness boundary cutting stopped, and somewhat farther along the forest again showed signs of undisturbed life. Besides box elder and maples, ponderosa lined the stream bed. And there was a wildflower bonanza:  Red penstemon, giant dried dandelion-like milkweed, beebalm, yarrow, rosy purple wild geranium, blue asters, giant yellow Cutleaf Coneflower,  Purple Whipple’s Penstemon, and blue, white and purple Jacob’s Ladder.

Cutleaf Coneflowers ©SR Euston

We returned cool and refreshed but as we came through Tijeras Pass the heat again hit us hard.

Finally Saturday the weather shifted. A torrential downpour sent 0.75” down in about an hour. By this morning at our house we’ve had 1.3” of rain from the storm.

At last the monsoons have begun.

Five Hundred Years of Forest Growth, Downed by Insect Damage © SR Euston

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