Friday, February 18, 2011

Area Hot Springs Provide Winter Relief for Weary New Mexicans

By Karl Moffatt
It’s near noon on a delightfully warm and sunny, midwinter’s day and the steaming waters and impressive view at the Spence Hot Spring are soothing one man’s worries away.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Bob of Albuquerque, who had called in sick, grabbed his bike and jumped aboard the train to Bernalillo where he caught the bus to Jemez Springs.

The hot spring is just one of several in the Jemez Springs area where visitors can enjoy a brisk hike in the woods and cap it off with a soothing soak in a natural hot spring.

Bob, who politely declined to provide his last name, said his midweek, mental health day, was made all that much better by the fact that he could use public transportation to get out of town.

“It’s a little known fact that you can take the train out to Bernalillo first thing in the morning and the bus to Jemez Springs is waiting there for you,” he says. “And it’s free with your train ticket.”

Unfortunately the morning train from Santa Fe arrives about 20 minutes too late at the 550 station in Bernalillo for riders to take advantage of the outbound Jemez Springs bus.

But being from Albuquerque Bob was able to take advantage of a great break in the weather and call dibs on the steaming pool located high on a hillside with a great southerly view of the Jemez Valley.
A bridge across the Jemez River provides access to Spence Hot Springs.
Spence Hot Spring is located about seven miles north of Jemez Springs off State Road 4 between mile markers 24 and 25 where the parking lot is currently under renovation along with trail improvements to the spring. 

The spring’s close proximity to the roadway makes it one of the area’s more heavily used but on this Tuesday morning it sees just a few visitors.

Just down the road at the Battleship Rock parking area one can find trail #137 and a two mile hike to McCauley Warm Springs where the clear pools of warm water are bigger and feature tiny minnows that tickle as they nibble at your skin.

These pools see less traffic during the week due to their remote location and can usually be enjoyed with little or no other company. 
Battleship Rocks looms large and beckons hikers to McCauley Warm Springs.
But those who are seeking a real workout in getting to a hot spring should consider hiking in to the San Antonio hot springs located alongside the creek bearing its name.

This hillside hot spring is a cult favorite among winter hikers due to its remoteness, steady supply of good hot water and the fabulous view.

One can follow Forest Road 376 north off State Road 126 to reach it and expect to hike in about 12 miles, round trip. The forest road is closed to vehicles in the winter.

Another hiking route follows San Antonio creek along an old logging road found just across State Road 126 from the San Antonio Campground. This roundtrip hike covers about 10 miles, crosses some private land and ends at the intersection of Forest Road 376 just below the springs.

Others seeking an even shorter route to the San Antonio Hot Springs have dropped down to the river trail through Ice Cave Canyon from Thompson Ridge Estates. This shaves several miles off the hike but is naturally a more difficult and adventurous hike. 
A snake and lizard  are formed by nails hammered into an embedded timber at Soda Dam near Jemez Springs. 
Either way, the trip is usually worth it and may be all that much easier this winter due to a lack of snow fall. 

Consult the Santa Fe National Forest map for more detailed directions to these sites or visit the Jemez Ranger District office on State Road 4 outside of Jemez Springs for more information.
Visitors to these hot springs should pack swimsuits as it is technically illegal to skinny dip in the pools.

Bathers should also be aware that the warm waters may contain bacteria that can cause serious illnesses such as meningitis and should avoid getting water in the nostrils or other body entrances.

Those seeking a hot mineral bath without the hike will find a public bath house within the village as well as the Giggling Springs bath house, both located in downtown Jemez Springs.

And after a full day of soaking visitors may want to drop in to the Los Ojos Bar in downtown Jemez Springs and experience one of the last of a dying breed of real, rustic, New Mexico roadhouses. 

If You Go:
From Santa Fe take US 84/285 north to Pojoaque and take State Road 502 to State Road 4 through White Rock and then up the mountain past the Valles Caldera and down to Jemez Springs. For an alternate route home continue on State Road 4 through Jemez Pueblo to San Ysidro and follow U.S. 550 to I-25 at Bernalillo.

Enjoy a beer or two but party responsibly and arrive alive.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lonely BLM Backcountry Byway Beckon's those Bored by the Highway

By Karl Moffatt
If you’ve ever wondered what was up in those hills to the east of I-25 as you traveled south near Socorro, New Mexico then the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a backcountry byway for you to explore.

Twenty-four miles of good, dirt, road that rambles up through those hills featuring interesting rock formations, curiously colorful peaks and plenty of lonely open space, to wander through.

It’s the kind of road and backcountry landscape that few may see if they stick to the pavement during their travels throughout the state.

Which is exactly why the BLM has designated the road as one of five back country byways here in New Mexico that motorists can follow to find distinctive scenery found only off the beaten path.
Looking west towards Socorro.
Those who intend to visit the byway should download a copy of the Quebradas byway’s brochure which includes a map and the highly informative field guide “A Geological Guide to the Quebradas Backcountry Byway”.

The field guide’s chapters and information correspond to numbered stops found along the byway and is a richly detailed document written by Peter Scholle, State Geologist and Executive Director of the state Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.

Both documents can be found on the BLM’s website at Just navigate to the New Mexico section, click on Outdoor Recreation, then on Outdoor Activities where you’ll find the back country byways icon which leads to more detailed information about this and the state’s other back country’s byways.
Tombstone topography.
During a recent early winter visit to the Quebradas byway, the road proved to be in good condition and passable to even careful drivers of a passenger car, however, such an attempt when wet would be inadvisable.

Upon venturing up into the barren hills one may experience an uneasy sense of remoteness before the exhilaration of discovery sets in. Having some water, a cell phone and a spare tire on hand should help alleviate any hesitancy to follow this road.

During the trip one might find themselves stopping frequently to check things out, in addition to consulting the field guide.

One particular hillside featured great sheets of loose shale rock cascading down from above and exposed bands of colorful rock strata. This hill begged to be climbed and rewarded those who did with a stunning view back across the valley to the opposing mountains.
Shale rock like that used on patios can be found here.
At another stop one can see rows of rock jutting from the hillside like tombstones while just around the corner, a couple of cows stood by the road, staring incredulously at the passing vehicle.

And over the course of an afternoon of cruising the back country not a single other vehicle was seen.

It was the kind of road that went well with a cold beer and second gear and invoked memories of the days when casual, drinking and driving in much of our rural, remote state was a harmless pastime, not a horrendous crime.

Outdoors New Mexico's original road warrior.
The rambling 24-mile drive starts on the outskirts of Socorro for those southbound on I-25.

Jump off the highway at the first exit by the State Police headquarters, number 152, and then head towards the river and Escondia Lake. Cross the river just past the lake and then head south a little ways on Bosquecito Road to the intersection of County Road A-152 and follow into the hills.

Just follow the signs, if they’re still there.

From this direction the byway ends at US 380 about 11 miles east of San Antonio, gateway to the Bosque Del Apache bird sanctuary and home of some of the best green chile cheeseburgers in the state at the legendary Owl Bar and CafĂ© and now famous, Manny’s Buckhorn Tavern.
Cook, Richard Beltran, serves up one of the legendary chile cheese burgers at the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico.
The back country byways are part of a nationwide BLM effort to promote visitation to scenic areas by motor vehicle in part because studies show a vast majority of Americans drive for pleasure.

New Mexico boasts five scenic byways including the Quebradas which means “breaks” in Spanish, the Guadalupe outside of Carlsbad, the Wild Rivers near Taos, the Chain of Craters through Malpais and the Lake Valley byway near Hillsboro.
Hills off US 380 upon emerging from the Quebradas.
For more information about these and other scenic byways check the National Scenic Byways Program website at

If You Go: From Santa Fe take I-25 south to the Escondia exit, number 152, head east towards the river, past Escondida lake, across the river to Pueblitos, take Bosquecito Rd. south to County Rd. A-152 and follow into the hills. Emerge at US 380 and head west back to I-25.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Annual Hunting and Fishing Show This Weekend - Don't Miss It !

Roger Alink of Wildlife West Nature Park of Edgewood, NM.
By Karl Moffatt
The annual hunting and fishing show is back to blow away those winter blues and this year’s visitors can take a shot at computer-simulated steelhead salmon fishing and check out the latest in super quiet, electric, ATVs.

“It’s a sure fired cure for cabin fever,” says Bob Gerding, 72, who celebrates his 13th year hosting the show that brings guides, outfitters, lodges, retailers and outdoor enthusiasts together at the Manuel Lujan building on the State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque this weekend.

The show kicks off on Friday at noon and will run through Sunday evening with admission $8, free for kids under 12 years old. Parking at the fairgrounds is an additional $4.

Guests will find plenty to do at the show and get to meet many interesting people in the outdoor industry like Roger Alink, 63, of the Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, who likes to engage guests of the show with a raptor on hand.

“They’re a big hit with people,” Alink, a falconer, says of the American Kestrel he typically has on display. “And this is a great place to network and meet all sorts of people interested in wildlife.”

This year Alink will unveil a new addition to his stable of raptors, a big Harris hawk.

Alink is the founder of the nature park in Edgewood where many species of animals native to New Mexico have found a home because they can no longer survive on their own in the wild.

The park is open to the public and has been constructed entirely with youth labor under grants from the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps, Alink says.

Other features at this year’s hunting and fishing show include informational seminars by many vendors including fly fishing in northern New Mexico by long-time guide and author Van Beacham.
Van Beacham of Solitary Angler guide service of Taos.
There’ll be seminars about fly fishing for bass, white tail deer hunts, African safaris and other subjects.

Among the more than 100 vendors will be one featuring a selection of remote control helicopters and cars with demonstrations that the kids are sure to enjoy, Gerding says.

There’ll be cast iron skillet cooking demonstrations, taxidermists with mounts of bears, mountain lions and other wildlife on display.

Representatives from San Juan River fishing lodges will be on hand to entice anglers with videos, pictures and firsthand accounts of the excellent trout fishing to be found on one of the west’s top ten trout streams.

Visitors will find many of New Mexico’s sporting, wildlife and other special interest groups on hand to educate and inform them about outdoor related issues and how they can get involved.

And through it all there’ll raffles and door prizes given away including a guided fly-fishing trip and taxidermy gift certificates, Gerding says.

Outdoor gear-heads will also find displays of the latest in recreational vehicles, campers and other equipment.

And Bob Turner’s Ford Country in Albuquerque is giving away four free tickets to the show to potential customers who take a test drive in any new or used car on the lot, Gerding says.

If You Go: Take I-25 south to Central Ave. in Albuquerque and head east towards the mountains, turn left at San Pedro and follow to the entrance. Upon returning home take an alternative route by proceeding east on Central Ave. to the frontage road alongside I-40 and follow to State Road 114 and a drive through the scenic towns of Cedar Crest and Madrid to Santa Fe. 

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