Pajarito Rambler: First Flowers On The High Perimeter Trail

The Pajarito Rambler
By NINA THAYER
Los Alamos
 
First Flowers On The High Perimeter Trail

Last weekend’s rain and snow have provided the much-needed moisture for the first of the wildflowers on the high Perimeter Trail (northern section). 

This loop trail is one of this rambler’s very favorites with spectacular views of the entire Rio Grande valley. It provides a field trip on wildfire ecology and regrowth.

The Perimeter Trail was built by many volunteers immediately after the Cerro Grande Fire fifteen years ago this month and this hike covers only a 2-mile segment.

The loop that this rambler prefers can be traversed either way but we will start at the cul-de-sac at the end of Solana, which is on the far western edge of the Quemazon development (follow North Road to Quemason, to Brisa del Bosque to Sereno to Solana) and has ample parking. This is a moderate, 75-minute hike, very rocky and almost completely in the sun.

The trail begins as a dirt road from the south end of the cul-de sac and climbs to a natural gas distribution center. Skirt around the fenced area and continue south until two trails cross. There are no signs. Do not take the steep descent into South Pueblo Canyon, but rather turn right going through two cairns (man-made stacks of rocks). 

In a hundred feet you will begin a long and steady climb over mostly flat rock and the first discovery is several Perky Sue, the small 6” tall, yellow flower, which is one of the first composites to bloom each spring.

 

Perky Sue and emerging gable oak leaves. Photo by Nina Thayer

Very shortly the trail will traverse patches of Golden Pea with its trifoliate leaf and distinctive pea-shaped yellow bloom. It will reappear in yellow clusters all along the first half of this trail and then again near the end.

Golden Pea. Photo by Nina Thayer

You will soon spot the third yellow wildflower of this hike, Wooten’s Senecio. It is 8-10” tall with a circle of basal leaves and up to a dozen stems each toped with several yellow blooms. It is the first of many Senecios to bloom this season.

 

Wooten’s Senico. Photo by Nina Thayer
 
About now the trail flattens and the spectacular vista to the east dominates.

Along this mile stretch this rambler’s fire-weary soul is soothed by the sight of many hundreds of new dark green Ponderosa, from 1-15 feet tall and visible all 360 degrees.

Notice only the tallest and most mature display pinecones. 

Aspen and Ponderosa regrowth. Photo by Nina Thayer

 

A lizard flashes across the trail and hummingbirds zoom overhead.

Continuing north, the trail dips through a large copse of aspen with their new summer-green color leaves making a striking contrast with the dark green ponderosa. Next the trail crosses a dirt road leading to a county water tower and soon after crosses the old Pipeline Road, now gated at the bottom. 

The trail approaches North Pueblo Canyon, which is a deep narrow gash in the mesa and provides a close up view of the south side of LA Mountain with a microenvironment that supports no new ponderosa at all.

Small bright yellow blooms sit on the reddish holly-shaped leaves of Oregon Grape, which blanket the side of the canyon.

 

Oregon Grape. Photo by Nina Thayer
 
And sharp eyes will find several of the pale pink-purple flowered Clematis vines. The four long petals enclose a lovely yellow center, which is mostly hidden by the drooping head. 
 
Clematis Vine. Photo by Nina Thayer
 
Soon the trail again approaches Pipeline Road. As the trail takes a sharp left switchback, veer right onto Pipeline Road. Within 50‘ it is asphalt-paved and descends between houses to Quemazon road.
 
At this point turn right and it is just a 10-minute walk to your car via Quemazon, Corona, Brisa del Bosque, and Serano to Solana.

This old rambler hopes this walk has restored your soul and lightened your burden.

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