Hiking Santa Fe’s Winsor Trail to Raven Ridge

Last week we enjoyed our first proper hike of the summer—Winsor Trail to Raven Ridge.

Lake Peak in the Santa Fe National Forest in early June.

The view from Raven Ridge. Spectacular! The snowcapped mountain is Lake Peak. That cirque below the mountain is the location of Nambe Lake. Deception Peak is on the right, hidden behind the ridge and other mountains.

Every time we’ve started this trail, the weather has turned and forced us to go back at Raven Ridge. Summer wildflowers were already starting to bloom along the lower part of the trail, so we really wanted to try make it up to Deception Peak.

Big snowbanks covered the trail a few minutes after we turned onto the fenceline trail leading to Raven Ridge. Conditions remained easily hikable, so we remained hopeful.

Once we got to Raven Ridge, however, the snow got much deeper, obscuring the trail. We climbed a couple of hundred yards before turning back. The snow was just too deep. Trying to pick our way through the snowbanks caused us to move further and further to our left, off of the ridge, and towards the steep cliffs. So we went back to the lookout point and enjoyed an early peanut butter sandwich, while the dogs went crazy over a hamburger and brown rice snack I had made for them. A little sunshine sketching, and then we headed back downhill to the car.

New Mexico native wildflower white marsh-marigold seen on Winsor Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest.

White marsh-marigold (Caltha leptosepala) lined the banks of the creek near the trailhead.

That afternoon, the mountains got rain and thundershowers, so turning around when we did was a good idea!

Summer hiking advice: dangerous trail conditions

Keep going or head back down? Always be ready to turn around if the conditions are wrong!

Some weather safety tips for summer hiking in the mountains:

  • Check the weather forecast the night before and morning of your hike.
  • Check the notice board at the trail head (if there is one) for any special weather conditions and warnings—wind advisories, flood watches, etc.
  • Use the weather forecast and advisories to shape your plans for the hike. Be ready for wind, rain, even snow, depending on the location.
  • Bring extra clothing layers, including a raincoat and fleece.
  • Take food and water, for yourself and your dogs, if they come along.
  • Bring a good map, or a GPS device (NOT your phone!) and look at it in difficult trail conditions to make sure you’re still on the trail and not drifting away.
  • Be aware while hiking through snow or other ground conditions that could force you off the trail and onto dangerous terrain.
  • Keep an eye on the sky! Are those clouds getting darker?
  • If rain is starting to move in, get down off that mountain fast! Thunderstorms are often more violent in the mountains, get to shelter.
  • Be flexible! Just because you didn’t get to the mountain top because of bad weather doesn’t mean you failed. Enjoy the hike and the trail along the way. Being stubborn about “goals” in the mountains can result in injury or death.

What outdoor excursions have you got planned for June?

Intrepid Women: Annie E. Hoyle

Pen and ink drawing by USDA Forest Service artist Annie E Hoyle 1851-1931

Annie E. Hoyle created this rendering of Balsamorhiza sagittate for the USDA Forest Service, one of over 500 pen and ink botanical illustrations she produced for the agency between 1908 and 1930. The variety of stipple and line textures in this wildflower image are very subtle and delicate. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Native Tree Portfolio project for the RBGE diploma is the opportunity to learn all kinds of interesting and unexpected things. While researching images of the piñon pine for the art history paper component of the portfolio, I discovered the work of a US Forest Service artist, Annie Elizabeth Hoyle.

Photo of the USDA Forest Service Engineering Staff in 1924.

The Engineering staff of the Washington Office, US Forest Service, March 1924. Photo from US Forest Service Headquarters History Collection at the Forest History Society. Botanical illustrator Annie Elizabeth Hoyle is the woman in the bottom left hand corner of the photo. Formidable!

Annie E. Hoyle was a remarkable woman. Born in West Virginia in 1851, she studied under George H. Story at the National Academy of Design in New York, followed by studies in human anatomy and anatomical drawing at London’s Royal Academy of Art, then studied two more years in Paris and Luxembourg. She also studied plant morphology and botany under Joseph Painter at the US National Museum (now Smithsonian) and Ivar Tidestrom at the Bureau of Plant Industry. She began working for the USDA Forest Service in 1908, when she was in her late 50s, and continued working until 1930, requesting and receiving five deferments to her final retirement. During her tenure at the Forest Service, “Mrs. Hoyle”, as she was known, was the preferred staff artist of scientists such as George B. Sudworth. She died in 1931.

Amorpha occidentalis, a North American wildflower, rendered in pen and ink by USDA Forest Service botanical illustrator, Annie E Hoyle

Notice the variety of textures and “colors” made by the linear ink hatching. Amorpha occidentalis, by Annie E. Hoyle. Photo credit:  USDA Forest Service Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Such a minimal outline for a life serves only to whet the imagination! Allow me to speculate wildly about this most intrepid woman.

How does a 19th-century girl get from West Virgina to studying at the National Academy of Design in New York? Very few women in that era were able to pursue higher studies in art, and certainly not at the most elite schools in American and Europe. One such woman was the formidable Impressionist Mary Cassatt, but she was born into an extremely wealthy and socially prominent Main Line Philadelphia family. Wealthy and socially progressive families were rather thin on the ground in Charleston, WV, Hoyle’s home town.

Unlike Mary Cassatt or Berthe Morisot, both of whom painted warm domestic subject matter of women and children, or Rosa Bonheur, who specialized in Romantic portraits of animals, Annie E Hoyle studied anatomical art and advanced botany, balancing science and art.

And what about her name? There is only one family name recorded for Annie E. Hoyle. She was known as “Mrs. Hoyle” at the US Forest Service offices, but there is no record of a maiden name. Did she assume the honorific “Mrs.” while studying in Europe in order to avoid the harassment that single women traveling and living alone almost certainly faced at that time? Did she use the title after a divorce?

North American wildflower Amelanchier alnifolia. Botanical illustration for the USDA Forest Service by Annie E Hoyle and James M Shull

Amelanchier alnifolia, pen and ink botanical illustration by Annie E Hoyle with James M Shull. The illustrations in the USDA Forest Service Collection are pen and ink working drawings. Here you can see the adhesive tape, editorial corrections, printer’s instructions and other records of the publishing process. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

The fact that she worked until she was nearly 80 indicates that she had no family to care for her in her old age. Did she have children and a husband at some point, but outlived them all? That’s a definite possibility in that era. Perhaps she was the spinster daughter and sister of her family, estranged due to her eccentric and stubborn choice of an artistic career?

I hope you enjoyed learning about Annie E. Hoyle, a most intrepid and strong-minded woman! What do you think about her work and life story? Leave your thoughts in the comments! 🙂



It’s National Wildflower Week!

Three yellow cactus flowers in New Mexico to celebrate National Wildflower Week

Wildflower season is in full swing, so be sure to get out there and enjoy the colors and scents!

May 2-8 is National Wildflower Week! I only found out yesterday, thanks to a scan of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Instagram feed. (blush). It does make for a nice kick-off to the 2016 Wildflower Wednesday season, 😉 .

Here are some great botanical gardens, arboretums, and nature centers offering events and programs to celebrate:

The dates for National Wildflower Week vary by geographic climate band, so you may want to check with some of your local arboretums and gardens to see what’s going on in your area.

How will you enjoy your local wildflowers this week?

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