Summer Hiking in the Sandias

I’ve been hiking a lot lately trying to get in better shape before winter starts.  And also for an upcoming trip in September for my 20th anniversary.  So I’ve been putting in lots of miles over the past several weeks.  Scarlett loves it of course.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to go hiking.  But Scarlett all but pulled me out of my chair, handed me my keys and shoved me  into the car! I’m glad I went though because it was perfect hiking weather.

As you can imagine, summers in New Mexico can be very hot.  So I do a lot of hiking way up high in the mountains where the temperature is much cooler.  The trails are very pretty this summer with lush grasses and wildflowers.

One of the hikes I really enjoy is a series of trails that take you to the top of the Sandias where there’s a huge meadow and a stone building called the Kiwanis Cabin.  I visited the cabin last summer with Scarlett but hadn’t been back until the last few weeks.


Panorama of the views from Kiwanis cabin


Panorama of the Kiwanis meadow


Mule Deer with antlers in velvet

Of course, I had to make Scarlett pose at the cabin 🙂


Miss Scarlett posing for me at the cabin

There’s a sign at the cabin with an official letter from the forest service telling you not to climb on the cabin’s roof or you could be fined and/or jailed.  I love the comment someone wrote on this notice.


The views from the Kiwanis Cabin are beautiful.  You can see for miles and miles.  This summer has been very humid for us so the views have been limited some.  But still great nonetheless.


View looking south from Kiwanis meadow


Panorama of southern view from Kiwanis meadow

One of the days I was hiking, the clouds were hanging right at the top of the mountain.  It made for a pretty photo.  And really cooled things off!


Hiking in the clouds

Scarlett loves hiking. She loves to explore, run, sniff everything! She’s a great hiking companion.


Sweet Scarlett posing for me again.  🙂


I love this photo of Scarlett.  The ground was wet so she left footprints on the rocks.

As you know by now, Scarlett loves water.  There’s not much water to be had in the Sandias this time of year.  But Scarlett still managed to have some fun in a water puddle left by the summer monsoons.


Scarlett loves water!

The birds have been very quiet this late summer.  The raising of their young is just about finished and molting is starting.  Sightings are much more difficult this time of year.  But I still managed to see several variety of birds over the last few weeks.


Baby Western Bluebird


Lesser Goldfinch


Plumbeous Vireo


Western Tanager – female


Western Bluebird


I believe this is a Nashville Warbler


A very scrappy looking Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

One day I hiked over to the tram for a little change of scenery.  Scarlett and I met up with some sweet girls visiting here with their church group.  They loved Scarlett.


Tram leaving the station


Scarlett’s newest fan club members (Hanna, Karli and Lexi)

From the tram, you can see the Kiwanis cabin in the distance at the top of the peak.


Kiwanis Cabin as seen from the tram (zoomed in of course!)

This year was a really good year for the House Wrens.  I’ve seen lots of babies while hiking.  They are just adorable.  And they haven’t learned to fear people yet, letting me get close for some nice photos.


A pair of baby House Wrens.  They were waiting at the top of a bush for a parent to come by and feed them.


This baby House Wren let me get really close.

Not very many butterflies were out on my hikes.  But I did manage to get a few.  There were lots of bees visiting the wildflowers.  I found one bee that was wet and cold and just sitting on a flower trying to warm up.  I took advantage of this to get a really close up pic.


California Sister


Field Crescent


Painted Lady


Cold, wet bee

Some of the days I hiked over to the travertine falls.  The falls are only a trickle this time of year, but still nice.


Travertine Falls with wild mint and grapes growing at the base.

I’ve noticed a lot of trail maintenance this summer.  It’s nice that people volunteer their time to keep the trails cleared of fallen trees and overgrown brush.  Someone got really creative on the South Crest Trail near the falls.


Natural art on the South Crest Trail

Scarlett posed for me at the falls.  Such a good girl!


Miss Scarlett

Around this time of year is when you are more likely to see baby horned toads.  I love these little guys.  I usually can’t resist picking them up.  This also shows you how tiny they are!


Adult horned toad


Baby horned toad


This is the same baby.  You can see it’s tiny!

Lots of lizards on the trails too!


Of course, no visit to the Sandia Mountains in the summer would be complete without a trip to Capulin Spring.  But I have to say, I’m very disappointed in the recent work done at the spring.  I had been told they were going to clean up the area around the spring.  What happened in realty was way worse.  It was almost complete devastation of the surrounding area.  I met up with a woman there that had come upon the workers as they were “cleaning up” and she managed to stop the complete devastation of the area.  What is more disturbing, is that this was organized by the local Audubon chapter.

There were a couple small trees that people sat under for shade and concealment that have been completely removed.  Now when you sit to watch the birds you are completely exposed to the sun and to the birds.

There were two bushy trees to the right of the log that the birds loved.  They would land there to be sure it was safe to visit the spring and also to sit in and groom after they bathed.  One of the trees is a maple.  We have very few maples in this state.  The woman I spoke to stopped them from completely taking out these trees.  But they are half gone  now.

They had completely taken out the bushes on the way to the spring.  This woman asked the workers if they had checked the bushes for nesting House Wrens before they chopped them down.  They said no.  The college students helping the workers were horrified when they realized they had chopped down a bush with baby wrens in a nest.

They took out several big trees too.  The wood hasn’t been hauled off.  The debris from chopping down the beautiful bushes is still piled up.   The place is a disaster.  And the birds are very skittish now.  They are very hesitant to come to the spring when you are sitting there plain as day.  Even the common Dark-Eyed Juncos are spooked.

I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if that woman hadn’t gotten there when she did.  She said she had a big fight with them and made them stop.  One of the guys said about one of the workers…

“He just loves to clean up stuff.”  The woman replied that this wasn’t a back yard but a wild forest.  Go clean up somewhere else!

I know there’s more work planned for next summer.  I can only hope that future work there is considered and supervised much more carefully.  Ultimately this spring is for the birds and wildlife of the area.  We are just visitors there.

OK, I will get off my soapbox for now.  Here are some photos of the birds I saw at the spring.  It’s always a treat to see warblers!


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Virginia’s Warbler


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird


Band-Tailed Pigeons


Orange-Crowned Warbler


Yell0w-Rumped Warblers having fun!


Dark-Eyed Junco – this one had a white tail.


Mountain Chickadee


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


MacGillivray’s Warbler

I can never resist photographing the little chipmunks at the spring.  They are always so adorable!


While driving to the trail head the other day, I saw a Yellow Warbler fly by and land in a juniper tree.  I immediately turned around and parked for some photos.  He was busy hunting for insects but I managed to get a couple of pics.  I also saw a flock of Bushtits feeding in the same tree.  Bonus!


Yellow Warbler


Yellow Warbler



Until next time!!!


Scarlett says “See you again soon!”









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