Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rim Trail Reconnaissance: Peralta-Las Conchas by Dorothy Hoard

On November 1, 2013, Yvonne Delamater and I went to the Peralta Ridge/Las Conchas section of the rim of the Valles Caldera. Before the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, there had been a trail traversing this rim from del Norte Pass to Los Griegos. It was a well-maintained motorcycle trail. However, the Forest Service has completed a country-wide assessment of road use in the national forests and recently put out maps showing routes approved for motorized traffic.  This trail was not on the map. There is no sign of motorcyclists repairing the trail.

Part of the trail doubled as a cross-country ski trail. The skiers have come back, marking the trail with new blue diamonds and flagging it with orange tape.  We could not tell if the trail was in good repair because of a light snow fall two days earlier. We navigated by following the flagging and diamonds.

This section of trail starts at the head of Peralta Canyon at the pass on Forest Road 280 and contours west around the north slope of Las Conchas. On steep hillsides the trail is narrow and may have sloped outward. On level ground it is good. This hillside is located near where the Las Conchas Fire originated; it was a stand-replacement fire. The fire completely killed the thick forest here and on the surrounding ridges. However, the ground was covered, as much as we could see through the snow, with a good grass cover. Aspen was growing in small patches along the trail, some shoots exceeding 3 feet in height. The views through the stark tree skeletons were quite striking, with the Valle Grande off to the east, the east fork of the Jemez River below us and Redondo Peak literally in our face to the northwest.  In a few years, when the trees fall, it will be truly a scenic hike.

In about 0.7 mile, on the west side of the ridge, the orange flagging and blue diamonds ended. The slope was steep and with the snow we could not find where the original trail had been, so we abandoned the search. We presumed that the crew had not finished retracing the ski trail but would at some time.  On our drive down from the ridge, we could see blue diamonds going down Corral Canyon where the pre-fire trail had been.

Cross country ski trail markings

Valle Grande from trail around Las Conchas

Redondo Peak from trail around Las Conchas

Las Conchas

From 2005-2009, reconnaissance trips were taken around the Valles Caldera Rim.  These reports are linked to here.

We would appreciate hearing of other Valles Caldera Rim Trail trip reports, especially those in the sections of the rim burned by the Las Conchas wildfire.

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