January 21, 1999
Highlights: Outstanding panoramic views of the Santa Fe Ski Basin and higher peaks of the Santa Fe National Forest, the city of Santa Fe, plus the Sandia and Jemez mountains. Location: From Santa Fe, turn right on N.M. 475 from Washington Avenue and drive 7.4 miles to the information center at Cottam's Ski Rental (summertime Visitor's Center). Trailhead across the road. Round-trip distance: About 4 miles Difficulty: Short but strenuous Elevation: From 8,500 feet to 9,500 feet Cautions: Brochure with map available at main office above Cottam's Ski Rental. Employees on duty to answer questions about conditions. For information on weather, call (505) 983-7175.
Hyde Memorial State Park, named for Benjamin Talbot Babbit Hyde, is New Mexico's highest park in elevation. Views of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the trail's high point are worth the climb.
Short but steep with a 1,000-foot ascent up multiple switchbacks, the trail demands frequent stops. You also need them to take in emerging panoramic vistas.
The trailhead starts the upward two-mile climb. The satisfying crunch through a 1-inch base of new snow contrasts snow levels between this winter and last, when the trail lay under more than 2 feet of snow.
Picnic tables at the high point offer a rewarding spot for lunch before the steep and rocky downhill descent. Coming past the Girl Scout Nature Trail, it's important to watch for traffic as you walk back alongside N.M. 475 for the last three-quarters of a mile.
Small waterfalls drain the nearby snow-capped peaks and feed the Little Tesuque River running through the park. With no hunting allowed, it's a natural refuge for wildlife. Magpies, Stellar jays and other birds can be seen and heard along the trail.
Benjamin Talbot Hyde, affectionately known as "Uncle Bennie," was a well-known educator and naturalist, born in New York City in 1872. His early work as a pioneering archaeologist and anthropologist brought him to the Southwest. However, he is better remembered as an educator who was "forever serving the youth of America in stimulating love of outdoor life and nature lore."
In addition to his work with the Boy Scouts of America, he established the Children's Nature Foundation. Since then, the foundation has purchased and set aside hundreds of mountainside acres for public use.
Sue B. Mann