September 2, 1999
Highlights: Have a picnic and learn from six informative signs. Enjoy great views of La Madera Canyon. Location: 7 miles west of N.M. 14 on Crest Highway 536. Parking fee: $3/per car. Round-trip distance: Less than 1 mile Difficulty: Easy Elevation: 8,750 feet Maps: USDA Sandia Wilderness Map Printable map
Balsam Glade Picnic Area
It's only a few-minute hike to La Madera Overlook which gives you ample time to study the new interpretive signs highlighting the short trail.
You'll learn why the name is a misnomer, what animals and trees live in this diverse area, and what raptors you might see hovering over the 1,000-year-old trade route that passed through La Madera Canyon.
From 1935 to 1941, YMCA operated a summer camp for boys there.
Early settlers from the Northeast thought the white fir in the area was balsam fir, hence the name Balsam Glade, which adds rather than detracts from the pleasant surroundings. White fir, ponderosa pine and Gambel oak shade the picnic tables and benches along the path, and locust, raspberry and snowberry bushes fill in spaces.
La Madera Overlook affords views of the eastern Sandias and beyond. Hawks and turkey vultures fly through the canyon in graceful circles scouting for food. A fault line reveals precambrian rocks intermixed with ancient Sandia granite. Mountain mahagony grows near the overlook on the sunny and drier slopes. Yucca, piñon and juniper trees grow here also, above their normal vegetation levels creating a diversified ecosystem.
Sue B. Mann