Pajarito Rambler: Canada Bonita Trail in June

Pajarito Rambler: Canada Bonita Trail in June
By NINA THAYER

Thursday morning this rambler came out of retirement to describe to you the bounty of wildflowers on the Canada Bonita Trail in the Jemez Mountains west of Los Alamos.

Drive out of town on West Jemez Road (N.M. 501) and take the right turn leading to Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. Pass the lodge and park at the end of the paving.

Follow the gravel road for about 150’ and then turn right to the trailhead signs. It is about  one mile to the beautiful meadow, Canada Bonita. A fast pace will get you there in 30 minutes, 40 minutes, if you stroll. 

Pass around or under the locked gate and soon you are walking in the 2011 Las Conchas Fire burn scar. There are only a few wildflowers here right now. You may spy lovely pink Wild Roses and some 1” white to pale pink blooms with dark purple veins. The latter are Richardson’s Wild Geraniums. The small deep purple, vine-like flowers are American Vetch.

The road will split several times, but all lead to Canada Bonita. Some of these trails were cut a few decades ago as cross-country ski trails and rise only a few hundred feet between the trailhead and the meadow.  At the first left option, veer left, but look to the right for a spectacular view of the Los Alamos town site. 

Just as you despair of finding many wildflowers, you pass from the burn scar into the unburned pine and aspen forest. The recent rains have been kind and white Wild Strawberry (3-5” tall), white Canada Violets (8-10” tall) and the tiny white flowers of the Starflower also called Starry Solomon Plume carpet the forest floor.  Mountain Parsley with typical parsley leaves and small yellow flowers in flat-topped clusters abound.

 

 

 

 

 

Several hundred yards before the meadow is the treasure we have been searching, the Wild Iris, also called Rocky Mountain Iris or Blue Flag.  It is ~ 12” high, beautiful, stately and a sure sign of June in the meadow.  The single stalk has two blue blooms.  Only as the first bloom dies, does the second open.

Wander through the meadow and see what awaits you.  I was able to identify

  • Western Wallflower (yellow four-petal blooms in single cluster about 15” high),
  • Golden Pea (yellow typical pea-shaped blooms, in clusters 12” high),
  • Mouse Ear Chickweed (small white flowers, 5 petals, deeply notched)
  • Yarrow (small white flowers in umbrella-shaped cluster with finely dissected leaves) and
  • Blue-eyed Grass  (single star-like, tiny dark blue flower with yellow center).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic of Canada Bonita is that as the season progresses, so will the parade of wildflowers as every week brings new beauties.

Return the way you came and enjoy the amazing ravens-eye view of the lush green ski trails in front of you. This rambler will hike to the Canada again in mid-summer to alert you to the newcomers.

LOS ALAMOS

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