SANTA FE – With rain in recent days and lower temperatures, Santa Fe National Forest reopened to the public on Monday, and hikers were back in droves.
Carson National Forest, to the north, with headquarters in Taos, announced it would reopen all of its lands today.
Monday afternoon, a huge crowd showed up at the Aspen Vista Trail – the parking lot was full – to hike and check out the mountain views in the Santa Fe forest above town. Other forest trails on the road to the Santa Fe ski area also had plenty of hikers.
Jarrett Sasser, owner of High Desert Angler fly shop in Santa Fe, had mixed emotions about the reopening of the national forest, which had been announced last week.
“From a business standpoint, it’s great,” said Sasser. But he still has reservations about fire danger.
“We’re actually a little bit dumbfounded. We’ve only had two rainstorms,” he said, adding that the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Pecos National Historic Park were still closed to fishing. “We are still in extreme fire danger. We still need to be really careful.”
A short time after a reporter spoke with Sasser, Pecos National Historic Park east of Santa Fe announced that it will lift its closure order today and that its fishing season will resume July 19. A spokeswoman at Valles Caldera on Monday said the preserve’s superintendent is waiting for more moisture before opening the backcountry. The visitor’s center remains open and guided hikes are still being offered.
Sasser said opening the Santa Fe forest is a bit of a double-edged sword. While more people in the forest increases the fire danger, it also means there will be more responsible people around to be on the lookout for irresponsible people.
“Hopefully, we’ll have enough presence out there to make sure we’re all doing the right thing,” he said.
The Santa Fe forest, which had been closed since June 1, also lifted its Stage 2 fire restrictions, which barred charcoal or wood campfires. The Carson is maintaining the Stage 2 restrictions.
Sarah Baker, owner of Santa Fe’s Children’s Adventure Company, which offers age-appropriate outdoor field trips where kids are taught rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and survival skills, couldn’t be happier Santa Fe forest was re-opening.
“To be honest, I almost cried with joy when I heard,” she said. “Our program is based on environmental education and outdoor education. Without the forest, you can imagine, it gets pretty tricky.”
Children’s Adventure Company had to improvise. Rock climbing activities were moved to the YMCA in Los Alamos and the Santa Fe Climbing Center. Some of the field trips in the Carson National Forest, which didn’t close to public access until June 27, but that meant longer trips. They still took the kids hiking, but they had to be on trails around town, which at a lower elevation meant it was hotter.
On Monday, Baker was able to schedule trips for about 65 kids up to Borrego and Rio en Medio trails on national forest land the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Baker said her company tried to make the forest closure a teaching moment for the kids.
“Part of the reason the forest was shut down was because of a lack of understanding about fire,” she said. “So it was beneficial to our kids to teach them about fire safety. That’s part of it too.”
Also on Monday, New Mexico State Parks announced that Hyde Memorial State and Fenton Lake, which are located within the boundaries of the Santa Fe National Forest, will re-open effective at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday. However, Morphy Lake, Cimarron Canyon state parks and the Las Tusas side of Bluewater Lake State Park remain closed due to fire danger. The State Game Commission announced it would reopen some properties within the Santa Fe National Forest.