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?

Monday Morning Inspiration: Starting the slow season of slog

Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. Don't give up on your creative goals for 2015!

Just get back in the saddle and ride, cowgirl.

It’s easy to work on your creative goals in January. You’re all fired up with energy from the holiday break and enthusiastic about all the great ideas you have for painting or writing projects in the coming year.

But by the end of the month, you’re running out of steam. It’s a lot harder to make one idea become reality than to keep dreaming up new ideas!

Or at least, I know I always have a problem keeping the zest alive once February begins! The Indian corn project I’m working on is a lot of insanely tiny rendering details. It’s so easy to allow myself to get distracted with other projects around the house or scroll through all the exciting things other people are doing online.

One thing that helped me get back on track was watching the film Tim’s Vermeer. (Thanks for the tip, ArtL8dy! 🙂 ) One of the notable things about the project Tim took on was just how much time painting all those little details required, and how much his energy ebbed and flowed throughout the process. It really helped re-energize me on my own detailed piece.

Here are some other ideas for regaining that creative mojo and making those exciting New Year’s plans come true.

  • Have your work area set up and ready to go all the time. This one deserves its own post! Seriously, if you have your current project and tools all laid out on the desk all the time, it’s so much easier to take advantage of any free time that comes your way.
  • Cut down on the number of things you have to do before you can do what you want to do. This is a toughie, especially if your creative work time is scheduled at the end of the day. You have to get home, change clothes, walk the dog, make supper, clean up supper, supervise homework, put the kids and dogs to bed, and only then can you start working on that novel. Whew! That to-do list is enough to exhaust anyone! The nice thing about working early in the morning is that you only need to roll out of bed and make a cup of coffee before you sit down at the drawing table. Other ways to cut your pre-studio to-do list are enlisting other family members to handle some of those chores or re-scheduling them to a more convenient time.
  • Get the electronics out of your studio. Just like sleep experts tell you to get the tv and computer out of the bedroom to get a good night’s sleep, so you should keep the digital toys out of your studio so you can focus on creating ideas instead of consuming other people’s. If you really *must* listen to music on your smartphone, dump the social media apps off it so they don’t distract you. If your work is digital, whether on a word processor or a graphics program, use an app like Self-Control to block the internet and email while you’re working.
  • Give yourself little rewards before, during and after your studio time. Make a cup of hot cocoa for that early morning session, or play your favorite music while you paint. Take the dog out for a brisk walk after you’ve hunched over your drawing table for a couple of hours.
  • Remember you’re in it for the long haul. When I lived in Norway, there was a newspaper article one Christmas season where the reporter asked a famous nutritionist about how to eat and stay slim during the holidays. He answered, “It’s not how you eat between December 1 and January 1 that matters as much as how you eat between January 1 and December 1.” Creative work is not like starting to jog on New Year’s Day and training for a 10-k race in 6 months. It’s like staying fit and enjoying exercise throughout your life. If you skip too many training runs, you might miss the race. But if you want to stay healthy, it’s more important to just get active on most days, even if you can’t manage a “perfect” workout every day. Achieving your creative goals is about doing a little something most days, and not beating yourself up about the weeks that go wrong.

What helps you get back in the saddle when you’ve had a creative dry spell?

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend!

Join the Audubon Society Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend, Feb. 13-16, 2015!

Your backyard bird feeder is an easy spot for counting the birds in your neighborhood. Photo courtesy of the Wrenaissance Man.

This weekend, February 13–16, is the American Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count, and you are invited to join in the fun! You don’t need to be a professional ornithologist or even a geeky, hard-core birder to participate. Simply spend 15 minutes this weekend counting and identifying the birds in your backyard, local park, or other favorite outdoor spot and upload the results to the project website.

Last year, 19,363 lists were submitted, with more than 2 million birds of 2,754 species counted during the big weekend. The GBBC website provides instructions on how to make a count list, a dynamic map of submissions made during the weekend, more maps showing the birds seen by region and species, and a very helpful “tricky ID” page to help tell the difference between species that look almost the same (like red finches).

You don’t even have to be a big outdoorsman to participate! If you have a bird feeder set up outside your window, simply take 15 minutes at feeding time to count the birds showing up to eat. This is an easy and accessible way to take part if the weather isn’t cooperating, or if you’re a shut-in.

This weekend is a great opportunity to introduce your children or grandchildren to the nature that surrounds us all every day. I hope you’ll join me!

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