Monday, December 31, 2012
“There is just something so magical about the sound of the bells as the horse-drawn sleigh transports you across our winter landscape,” says Kim DeVall, Recreation and Education Specialist at the 90,000-acre public preserve in the Jemez Mountains. “It’s a unique experience most people will never forget.”
The preserve, off NM 4 between Los Alamos and Jemez Springs, sits in the bowl of an ancient collapsed volcano that once held a massive lake.
But today, vast meadows and stands of towering ponderosa pines dominate the landscape.
Great herds of elk make the preserve their home and trout streams sluice their way through its expansive pastures.
But in winter, when the snow arrives, the landscape is blanketed in a sea of blinding white snow and outdoor recreationists flock to its fields.
While offering snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and other activities during the winter months, it’s the sleigh rides that many visitors seem to find so appealing.
Reservations to ride the sleighs between Dec. 21 and Feb. 18 can fill quickly due to the rides popularity.
See the preserve’s website at www.vallescaldera.gov for reservations and more information about available dates.
Costs are $30 for adults, $24 for those 62 and older. Kids under 15 years old pay $15 while children under four ride free.
It should be noted that in the event that the winter produces little or no snow a wagon will be substituted for a sleigh.
Riders will want to dress warmly in layers and bring sunscreen and sunglasses to deal with the brightness of the winter landscape.
Gathered together in a gently swaying, open sleigh about a dozen riders per trip will enjoy an estimated one hour ride during which an guide will offer information about the preserve’s history, wildlife and other details.
In 2000 the federal government bought the spectacular ranch from the Dunigan family of Texas for a little over a $100 million.
As part of the deal the ranch continues to operate under a unique management plan which includes public use through a variety of recreational programs.
Riding along in a sleigh amid the crisp, clean mountain air with sleigh bells tinkling and horses huffing is just one of the many public recreational programs offered at the preserve during the holidays.
The preserve also offers during the year, hiking, elk and turkey hunting, fishing and horseback riding and many special events including mountain biking and photography clinics.
For more information, visit the preserve’s website or call their recreation and reservation hotline at (866) 382-5537.
If You Go: From Santa Fe head north on US84/285 to Pojoaque and turn off onto NM 502, the road to Los Alamos. Follow to the White Rock turnoff and then stay on NM 4 through the mountains to the preserve. About 65 miles one-way.
Matt Pelletier of New Mexico Muskie's Inc at Quemado Lake, Fall 2010.Photo courtesy of Pelletier. By Karl Moffatt It’s New Mexico’s...
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Conservation Officer, Travis Nygren, shows off one of the giant tiger muskies found at Blue...
By Wren Propp Finding Otter The snow was deep and unstable on the road into Lower Lagunitas Campground as Ian Crombie...
Wild hogs are invading New Mexico and are threatening to destroy the environment, spread disease and run off wildlife, according to authorit...
Steve Chase, 28, of Laguna, NM shows off a fat salmon he snagged at Navajo Lake last year. Salmon snagging season has begun across much ...
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 ...
A native of New Mexico, the Gila trout can be found in clear running streams deep within the Gila National Forest. Photo courtesy of Jerry ...
When the summer heat comes down on Santa Fe, there’s a great little spot this side of the Pecos where one can fish, picnic and play in the...
Photo Courtesy of Diane Gilmore It wasn’t the kind of story you might expect to hear upon walking into a biker bar like Silva’s in downto...
Tim Davidson, 57, of Shiprock shows off a nice rainbow trout he caught at Acomita Lake this spring. It’s a Saturday morning and the sound...