The Jemez Mountains and Valle Calderas

I drove northwest of Santa Fe once again but took a slightly different route up NM Rt. 4.  This took me just to the south of Los Alamos National Laboratory and just north of Bandelier National Monument and on through the Jemez Mountains.  I circled south through Jemez Springs and Jemez Pueblo and on to Bernalillo before heading north back to Santa Fe.  On the way I stopped at Valle Calderas National Preserve which was formed 50,000 by a volcano.  The verdant valley was alive with prairie dogs and I was escorted into the gift shop and tour area by a flock of Rocky Mountain Bluebirds.

My primary motivation for this trip was to witness the effects of the giant Los Conchas wildfire which consumed much of the area last spring.  Entire areas and canyons were black and strewn with charred trees.  This is the Santa Fe national Forest and beautiful country.  It opens to the vast vista of Valle Calderas (elevation 8520 feet according to my gps) from which you could look just across the road and see burned trees.  More evidence of the fire was visible to the east.  Bandelier has been closed for the summer due to the fire and some sections are now re-opening.

More pictures are below the fold:

Los Conchas Fire damage


Valle Calderas National Preserve

Some of the scenery along the route

Bandelier National Monument

I spent Tuesday hiking along trail at the Bandelier National Monument which is just south of the Los Alamos Nuclear Labs.  This is an ancient site where Anasazi Native Americans lived peacefully and communally.  Do you recall those high school history classes about the cave dwellers of the Southwest?  That was Bandelier.  Archeologists continue excavating the kivas where the people lived and various caves where they dwelled.  The site is in a narrow canyon filled with vegetation and wildlife.  It is an ecotone which means several disparate ecosystems join at one place providing a rich variety of plants and animals.  I took over 65 pictures and obviously can’t post them all here.  I will upload all of them to Flickr when I get a chance.  Today will be one spent getting some rest, catching up on email and processing pictures and video.  Tomorrow I go to Taos on the High Road and that will enable many gorgeous pictures of the mountains.  For more information about Bandelier go here, Wikipedia, or here.

For more pictures click below;

In this picture I’m looking down on the central plaza.  Archeological tents are on the left.  These were four story adobe kivas which were homes.  Each family unit had three small rooms.  All that’s left are these foundations.

If you look closely there’s a bee in this flower;

The walls of the cliff are covered with petroglyphs.

On my way to Bandelier I stopped in White Rock which has an overlook to a canyon where the Rio Grande sneaks along.  The river begins in southern Colorado and snakes south through New Mexico before becoming the border.