December 8, 2018
Authors Note: This report, photos, and map are free for re-use or publication without permission. Publication requires acknowledgment to the author.
This trip goes into the badlands bracketed by Highways 503 and 520 near Chimayo and Nambe. The trailhead is not official but presents a place along Highway 520 that is not fenced and goes into public land managed by the BLM. It can be difficult to find. As you are heading for Chimayo, look for the cross on the hill and your turn will be left just before you pass that cross.
We used Arroyo Seco as the Southwestern boundary of our exploration and a major portion of our route back. One could use it as access into all of the badlands in this area if you don’t mind walking in deep sand. Our goal was an unnamed mesa whose high point is 6353 feet in elevation. It looked like it had good views so we went for it through and around narrow arroyos and up and down steep hills. The soil here is comprised of soft sand which makes for ironically easy climbing and forgiving falls as verified by the tumbles and slides some of us experienced. There is a lot of deep cryptobiotic soil that is hard to keep off of. Its depth and color indicate great age and an indicator that not a lot of folks or cows have walked in this area. One can avoid the crypto by staying out of the North sides of trees and staying in the drainages.
By the time we reached the lunch spot near the mesa, the sky changed from grey to partly cloudy. This presented a rapidly shifting tableau of colors ideal for photography. By the time we reached the summit of this small mesa up a narrow ramp and a very skinny traverse, we knew we had scored one of the best hikes ever presented by Santa Fe Outdoors. This for the last minute replacement for something else. Serendipity got us here. Never discount luck and serendipity in Northern New Mexico. CK, Gustaaf, Nancy King, SK Lund. 7.70 miles, 1209 feet cumulative ascent, 4 hours and 41 minutes.