June 13, 2013

Today’s ASCHG group hike was supposed to go up Windsor Trail in the Pecos Wilderness; however, due to high fire danger, the National Forest Service closed the Pecos Wilderness a week ago. Rather than cancel the hike altogether, the hike leader decided we would change course and hike up to Stable Mesa and visit the ruins.

The group met at 8 A.M. and, after piling in the van, headed north on I-25 from Albuquerque. At Bernalillo, headed northwest on Hwy. 550, and at San Ysidro, northeast on Hwy. 4. We weren’t on Hwy. 4 very long before we started to see and smell smoke from the Thompson Ridge Fire (see the first pic, below). If you read my Cebolla Canyon hike report, you may recall we saw the very beginnings of the Thompson Ridge Fire as we were returning from that hike. Although this fire eventually grew to 24,000 acres, it is now 75% contained. So a “round of applause” goes out to all the firefighters for a job well done!! 🙂

Click Here for the trail map… then click on the individual icons for the trail notes. If icon notes come up empty, try reloading the map.

A few miles past the Jemez Pueblo Visitor Center, we turned west on Hwy. 485 and immediately crossed the Jemez River, a short distance downstream from where the Gudalupe Rio merges. The asphalt road turned more to the north as it followed the Guadalupe Rio and we watched the landscape change from nondescript desert to impressive red sandstone buttes. At 5.4 miles we reached the Gilman Tunnels — two short tunnels, one right after the other, originally cut to haul timber out by rail — and marveled at what it must have taken to cut the tunnels through that hard, red rock (see beginning and end of images, below). Right after the second tunnel, there is a scenic turnout to the right where you can stop and view the Gudalupe Rio as it makes its way south to merge with the Jemez River. The Gudalupe is not a large river but, if it’s running strong, the stop and the views will be well worth your time. To see pics of the river at this scenic turnout, see my post on the Schoolhouse Canyon hike.

About 1/2 mile past the tunnels, the asphalt road ends and the gravel road begins. This change marks the end of Hwy. 485 and the beginning of Forest Road 376. Although passenger vehicles can easily handle this road, you will have to deal with some severe washboard effects. If you don’t drive slowly, be prepared to lose a few fillings! 😉

After 7.4 miles of gravel road and just shy of the bridge that crosses the Gudalupe Rio, we parked the van in the shade. I don’t recall seeing any sign that indicated this was a trailhead, but the bridge is a good landmark and served as our trailhead for this hike. The elevation here was 7,125 feet.

We all geared up and, after walking across the bridge, which is a stones throw downstream from where the Cebolla Rio merges, we took an immediate right turn through some trees and hiked a short 0.3 miles where we found the old logging road. We would follow this logging road all the way to the top of Stable Mesa.

For the first 0.3 miles, the old logging road followed close alongside the Gudalupe Rio. An old, stone chimney still stands, all that remains of the superintendent’s residence from the logging days. There is very little elevation gain for the next 0.5 miles, which takes us up to where the road forks. Someone has placed an arrow made out of branches pointing to the left fork, which is the direction we will go to reach the mesa.

About a 1/4 mile past the fork, we start the first of two climbs, this one covers 0.3 miles and is close to a 10% grade. As we hike through the woods, things are relatively flat for the next 0.5 mile. We then start the last of our two climbs, this one also covers 0.3 miles but at a 17% grade. We are now atop Stable Mesa and still on the old logging road. The elevation here is 7,792 feet.

We hike another 0.4 miles along the logging road, stopping to check out some rock formations on the way. I can remember shaking my head at the sight of modern-day graffiti carved into the rock right next to prehistoric petroglyphs (prehistoric graffiti?). This is what happens when an area is easily accessible by the masses. However, I did wonder whether the modern-day graffiti would somehow morph into petroglyphs when seen by hikers a thousand years in the future? Yes, I have strange thoughts like that! 😉

Using her GPS track and waypoints, our hike leader took us off the road and lead us through the woods for the 0.7 miles it took to get to the first of the ruins. This ruin was the remains of a rectangular, stone building, its original purpose unknown. And then another 1/4 mile to the remains of a large, round, ceremonial kiva where we stopped for our lunch break before heading back to the van. As you will see in the pics, a lot of the trees on this hike, especially atop the mesa, looked like they had been burned in a forest fire, but I was told that was their natural look.

Total round-trip for this hike was 7.7 miles, which took 4.5 hours to complete, including stops. Actual, round-trip hiking time was 3.25 hours. Total elevation gain was around 800 feet, but total climbing was 1,241 feet.

Click the first image to start the manual slideshow: