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?

Working in the field: ASBA’s new code of ethics for botanical artists

My copy of The Botanical Artist, the American Society of Botanical Artists’ journal, arrived last week. There was a brief notice about the society’s new Code of Ethics for artists working in the field. Artists are encouraged to output and sign the document, then carry it with them in the field as a sort of diplomatic letter of passage for working in ecologically protected areas.

The 7 major principles for botanical artists working in the field are:

  • Follow all rules and regulations when working in a botanical garden or conservation area, and obey any instructions given by staff or officials while on working on site.
  • Do not dig up or disturb any plant on site, for any reason, unless given explicit permission by the land owner or staff/officials of the conservation area/garden in order to dissect or identify the plant.
  • Minimize disturbance to the habitat and ecosystem of the area. Walk carefully; place tripods, stools and other tools with care. Avoid damaging soils, other plants, seedlings.
  • Minimize disturbance in the vicinity of the plant. Create a minimal work footprint to avoid damaging any other species or specimens.
  • Inform the landowner or your contact for the site if you observe any disturbances to the natural environment while working.
  • Do not reveal the location of protected areas to other people. Refer them to the person or organization who granted you permission/guided you to the site.
  • These principles hold not only for working with native plants in their natural sites, but for all plant life in all locations.

All very common sense, right?

All of this is the kind of stuff you learn as a kid camping with the Scouts, or your first hikes with your family and friends. Why do these concepts require enunciation and publicizing to a group of people who ought to already be aware of the basics of conservation and outdoor activities?

Of course, we now live in a world where “nature deficit disorder” afflicts an increasing number of children, and where an increasing number of young adults are worried and concerned about “the environment,” yet very few of them have actually spent any time outdoors enjoying nature.

Perhaps it speaks to the number of people who are drawn to botanical art as urban and suburban garden and art lovers, but who have little background in outdoor pursuits.

This year I’d like to devote a few posts to minimizing your impact while hiking and painting in the outdoors. Unfortunately, there will also be examples of idiots who flagrantly destroy the natural environment in their pursuit of outdoor enjoyment. Look for the category “Leave No Trace” and tag, “Outdoor etiquette” to read more about how you can enjoy plein-air painting on public lands while treading lightly!

ASBA’s Core Values page and the society’s Code of Ethics for fieldwork can be found at the ASBA website.

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