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Take a hike in cooler weather

The cooler weather and reduced daylight may tempt you to pack away your hiking boots for the winter.

But Kenneth Ingham has a better idea.

“Go down and south,” he says.

“In the summer we tend to hike the higher terrain and in the northern part of the state,” Ingham says. “In the winter, it’s all about those places that are too hot in the summer.”

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Ingham’s day job is in computer security consulting. And his wife, Diana Northup, is a biologist at the University of New Mexico.

As stress relief from his Ph.D. work in computer science at UNM, Ingham and Northup started hiking and camping in the state and chronicling their adventures on the website explorenm.com in the late 1990s.

One of Ingram’s goals is to camp at every public campground in the state – and hike the trails that are associated with them.

“Having said that, I have no idea where we are on that journey,” he said.

The site has “always been a labor of love – and is certainly a spare-time effort.” The site contains more than 50 hikes encompassing several areas of the state. It includes information on each hike, including directions, elevation, how much it’s used, facilities, fees and links to further information. Northup has provided a list of plant life the couple observed along the route when they hiked it.

Because the site has been in existence since 1997, much has changed on the Web, so Ingham says he’s rewriting the code that powers the data.

“It will be a lot more user-friendly with interactive maps and more ways to find what you’re looking for,” he said.

For now, he encourages those looking for a cooler-weather hike to consider the following:

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Around Albuquerque

Certainly the classics are Tres Pistolas (Three Gun Springs) and Rinconada Loop in Petroglyph National Monument.

“The Tres Pistolas trail is an excellent winter trail, because it faces south – snow melts quickly from it. You can get a good workout by doing the trail quickly (as some runners do), or you can take it more slowly, looking at the views south and the plant and animal life,” Ingham said.

Outside Albuquerque

Fort Bayard is not only a great place to visit if you are a war history buff, it has a nice network of trails, Ingham said.

One of its most remarkable features is that the area is home to The Big Juniper Tree, Ingram said. This is nationally ranked as the second largest alligator juniper tree, according to the U.S. Forest Service website. Its diameter is 70.2 inches, circumference is 18 feet 4 inches, crown spread is 62 feet, and height is 63 feet.

The Dog Canyon Trail (in Oliver Lee State Park) near Alamogordo is also a favorite of Ingram’s. This trail has great views of White Sands and the Tularosa basin along with the Organ and San Andreas mountains.

“The more local views are the spectacular wildflowers, especially in the spring,” the website description reads.

San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation Area north of Socorro is a great place to explore. “This hike is a less-structured hike than many we write about … one of the reasons to hike: interesting geology. Arches, shelter caves, a slot canyon and interesting rock formations are some of the geological features that you can find on this hike,” Ingham says.

Lava Falls near El Malpais National Monument near Grants. While this trail is short (about a mile), the geology is really worth taking the trail if you are in the area, Ingham says.

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