Thursday, March 22, 2001
HIGHLIGHTS: Great views of Bosque del Apache refuge and beyond. Blooming cactus and wildflowers in early spring. Raptors flying in the canyon updrafts.
LOCATION: On the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The access road to trailhead turns west off N.M. 1, one mile north of the Visitor Center and a half-mile south of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crossing.
ROUND-TRIP DISTANCE: 9 1/2 miles.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate, but the steep part of the trail will take extra effort and time.
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,700 feet.
BEST SEASONS: Spring, fall, winter.
HAZARDS: The trail is rocky and steep in places. Watch out for rattlesnakes in late spring and early fall. Bring plenty of water, especially in warmer months.
MAPS: Trail map is available at refuge Visitors Center.
Chupadera Peak Trail
Some of the first spring wildflowers are blooming in profusion at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and the best place to view them is on the trail to 6,195-foot Chupadera Peak.
The flowers, which are blooming in protected areas on the sides of Red Canyon and on the slopes leading to the peak, were noticed last week by refuge volunteer John Bertrand, who hikes all of the trails in the area on a regular basis.
"There aren't many flowers on the valley floor," says Bertrand, "but get up on the hillsides above the valley and, wow, they are there in profusion. I guess that the moisture this winter and spring helped."
The 9 1/2-mile round-trip trail to Chupadera Peak winds through the Chihuahuan desert up a steep volcanic canyon. Along the way, hikers will pass several kinds of cactus, fourwing salt brush, yucca and creosote bush all native plants in addition to the seasonal wildflowers.
If you go
WHAT: Guided wildflower walk
WHERE: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
WHEN: Sunday, 10 a.m. (Meet at Visitors Center)
CONTACT: Bosque del Apache NWR Visitors Center, (505) 835-1828
Flowers currently blooming include primrose, wall flowers, golden smoke, verbena and mustard. Several cactus species, including claret cup and Chihuahuan barrel, are also ready to bloom.
There are a number of desert birds to be seen along the trail, as well as rabbits, rodents, lizards and an occasional coyote. You might also see bobcat or javelina tracks.
Javelinas, or mountain pigs, are one of the few mammals that eat prickly pear cactus, so if you see a prickly pear with bites taken out of its leaves, one of these hardy critters may be nearby.
The trail to Chupadera Peak is well marked, but you will still want to keep your eyes peeled for cairns that indicate sharp turns. This is a moderate hike, but it may take time because the elevation gain is more than 1,700 feet.
The trail is best used in the fall, winter and spring, when the temperatures are below 100 degrees.
The trailhead is reached via a dirt road about one mile north of the Visitors Center. The road turns west off N.M. 1 and climbs an arroyo under the railroad. The trailhead marker is visible only to northbound traffic. Driving south, the turnoff is about a half-mile south of where N.M. 1 crosses the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
Make sure you have plenty of water and sufficient snacks to keep you going on the steep trail, and wear adequate footwear. In the late spring and early fall, watch out for rattlesnakes.
There are still birds to be seen at the refuge, even though the migration has started, so bring your bird books. Many northbound species from as far away as Central America will use Bosque as a place to stop and feed on their way north.
Bertrand, 75, will soon head north as well. He will be migrating to Alaska to help with the annual moose count on the Selawich National Wildlife Refuge north of the Arctic Circle.
But hiking among the wildflowers one last time a week ago prompted an idea to bloom in his head: He thought a guided wildflower walk was in order. So he called Judith Phillips, a member of the New Mexico Native Plant Society, and asked her if she would lead one.
Phillips agreed, and the walk will be held Sunday at the refuge. If you're interested, Bertrand says, meet at the Visitors Center at 10 a.m., and bring a flower identification book and camera.
Additional information about the Bosque del Apache may be obtained by writing P.O. Box 1246, Socorro, NM 87801, or by calling (505) 835-1828. You can also visit the Web at southwest.fws.gov.
David G. Jackson