Two days before Thanksgiving we went for a nice long hike with our fellow holiday-makers down the side of a mountain to the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Red River and the Rio Grande. Fifteen years ago Julie and I hiked these same northern New Mexico mountains with Douglas and Caroline and here we were back again--but with a few changes:
1. We were hiking in a new area.
2. We now had two kids in each family
3. We all felt a bit older.
The hiking path we chose was in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, a nice chunk of Bureau of Land Management land not too far from Taos, NM. The wildlife list includes elk, mountain lions, bobcats, and lots of other interesting critters.
We decided to hike the La Junta Campground Trail down to the confluence--a distance of about 1.2 miles and 800 feet in elevation. But those 1.2 miles were on a narrow rocky trail at an angle that made us lily-white woodland dwellers from the East huff and puff. Our mountain goat-like companions live in Boulder, CO, so they had less difficulty with the hike.
The upper part of the La Junta trail was well managed with handrails and stairs or ladders for the more challenging bits of descent. We all carried packs with food, water, and extra coats for the kids. Up top, the wind howled around us, giving us a high-desert chill. The more we hiked and the lower we got there was less wind and our exertions warmed us quite thoroughly.
Once we got to the bottom, we crossed over a small bridge across the Red River. I scanned for dippers, the walked over to the Rio Grande side of the peninsula to scan there. Nada. When I came back, Julie had located the dipper, and we confirmed the call was indeed coming from this feathered swimmer. We both took lots of pix--Julie with her special Shila camera and me with my digiscoping rig.
We found it easiest to spot the dippers by their pink legs, which stood out nicely against the gray rocks they perched upon in mid-stream. You can locate the spots favored by the dippers by looking for their white poop on the well-used rocks.
We made the ascent in record time and then enjoyed a nice tailgate picnic with flatmeat sandwiches, salty snacks, and a few beers. Quite an adventure, quite a few memories made. Would love to do this every year. I am still a little sore from the hike!