July 4th: Appreciating the Unspoiled Beauty of Our Country

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August 28, 2013

Last year on July 4th, Terry and I were living half a country apart. I had made the move to New Mexico in May; he had moved me out, then returned to Wisconsin to finish up a few weeks of work and time up loose ends before jointing me in Taos on July 7th.  Neither of us did much over that holiday.

Yerba Canyon, NMThis year on July 4th we wanted to celebrate the birth of our country by enjoying some of its unspoiled beauty. We were headed up toward the Taos Ski Valley to catch the 4th of July Parade in Arroyo Seco, NM, an event not to be missed which is the subject of another post. We decided to hike for an hour on the Yerba Canyon Trail, then turn around and head back to give ourselves time to get to the parade. As Arroyo Seco is a very small town, we knew we would be required to park along the side of the highway outside of town; the only unknown was how far away we would have to stop and hike in as this unique event draws thousands of spectators. We ultimately changed our hike-in time to 45 minutes to make sure we had enough time to make it back for the parade, not knowing how long that would take.

Yerba Canyon Rock WallReaching the canyon, we parked, walked up a rocky hill to a majestic wall of rock that led to the trailhead. We were delighted to discover that, similar to Italianos Canyon, this trail also meandered along a mountain stream, which afforded us a multitude of views of the stream and waterfalls during the 15 crossings that we accomplished before turning around at 45 minutes. When you think of the southwest, the words  “lush” and “green” do not generally come to mind. However, given that this canyon was nearly in the Taos Ski Valley at an elevation of over 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, which is generally afforded ample rainfall, this hike resembled a walk through a rainforest more than a hike in a desert state, including the humidity. We were both sweating by fifteen minutes out.

Yerba Canyon StreamWith all of the moisture in this canyon, there was no shortage of vegetation to be enjoyed. There were sunny meadows interspersed with lovely stands of aspen amid towering ponderosa pines.  The best part was, in spite of the humidity, as it was at a higher elevation, it was cooler than temperatures would be back in town. A delightful hike! We vowed to come back when we had time to hike to the top of the Canyon, and maybe to summit Lobo Peak from this trail.

Yerba Canyon Waterfall

Yerba Canyon Waterfall

If you are planning a trip to the southwest and would like to camp in the vicinity of this trail, note that there are many Forest Service campgrounds on Ski Valley Road that would provide a delightful place to camp and easy access to the trailhead. Cuchilla Campgroud would probably be closest, but there are several that are close. Additionally, most of the towns nearby offer one or more RV parks to choose from. To reserve a spot for your visit, browse Woodall’s listings of New Mexico Campgrounds.

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