Time in the Bisti Badlands

I haven’t posted in a while, but its not been due to getting stuck on my couch. In addition to revisiting some favorite hikes that have already been posted here, I’ve been visiting the Bisti Badlands as often as possible and exploring a type of terrain that is new to me far underground.

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin is a 41,000 acre wilderness area south of Farmington, NM. I haven’t written about the hikes in this area because there really aren’t any established trails and frankly, I like it that way. This stunning ancient river delta holds seemingly unending areas to explore and photograph, but isn’t the best place for those with a bad sense of direction or no experience in navigation. The hills and formations are also not to be underestimated and the ease with which an unwary hiker could become stuck or injured is significant. On the other hand,┬ámany of the formations themselves are extremely fragile and could be easily injured by the careless.

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If you know your basic navigation skills and can keep one eye on where you put your boots while taking in the sights, this area is well worth the visit. When planning a trip, be sure to visit the BLM website and familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations. There are no restroom facilities at either parking lot and no water is available. The area is most popular in the Spring and Fall, but I’ve enjoyed hiking there during both the summer and winter months as well. The lack of vegetation and light colored soil makes the area feel like a reflector oven, which is nice in the winter, but not so pleasant in the summer. If you do venture out during the winter months, be sure to pack extra layers as the temperature tends to plummet after the sun goes down.

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There are some well known formations such as “The Alien Hatchery” that can easily be found on the internet, but maps for these places are scarce to non-existant. Many people who visit this area regularly are secretive about the best locations and delicate formations in order to protect them. I put myself in this category…thus I’m not even including directions in this post. If you do choose to visit this area, please help keep it wild!

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Grasshopper Canyon: A Great Place to Cool Off

What can I say, I’m not a fan of hiking in soaking wet pants, even if its raining. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like hiking in the rain, I just use rain gear! Grasshopper Canyon is one of my favorite easy, short hikes near Santa Fe. This time of year especially, the canyon has the added bonus of having several “swimming holes” farther up.

This is the first pool that blocks the trail and as you can see, you can either turn around and go home, or take off your boots and at the very least roll up your pants! Deer Creek runs through Grasshopper Canyon and I believe it is primarily fed by snow melt, so the water is pretty brisk. No easy alternative route around this pool presented itself, or at least none that I felt wouldn’t ┬áhave needed a rope to navigate safely. Crossing this pool was made easier by wading out to the log and then up it to the top. Just as a word of caution, its always a good idea to regard set ups like this with a great deal of suspicion. Logs like this have often been in the water for a long time and may not be able to bear a persons weight. If you are in doubt about being able to safely traverse something like this, don’t try it. Hanging out in a pool you can only wade in is vastly more fun than trying to hike out on a broken leg or gashed foot. Water sandals for foot protection aren’t a bad idea either! There are two more pools beyond this one for sure. I forgot to take pictures of them, probably due to the cold shock I got from trying to wade through the last one. The water came up to my chest and it was mighty cold. The walls of that pool were also significantly higher than the ones in this picture and there was no ready log to help me climb up, so rather than risk it, I turned back. I’ll note that my hiking companions for the day didn’t attempt the last pool, but that may be due to the child like gasp and near hyperventilation they heard coming from me for a moment after the water hit my chest!

Grasshopper Canyon isn’t just sketchy climbs to secluded swimming spots, its a fantastic, easy spring hike that can often feature some flowing water. Speaking of flowing water, be sure to read the flash flooding portion of my Diablo Canyon post. If its raining in the mountains, Grasshopper Canyon might not be the wisest place to hang out! The basic hike to the first pool is about a two hour round trip at a somewhat leisurely pace…granted I have been accused of walking too fast on flat terrain, and Grasshopper Canyon certainly qualifies. The hike boasts some beautiful rock formations and dense foliage. In the morning its a nice, cool hike but can warm up in the afternoon as the sun bounces off of the steep, sometimes nearly slot canyon walls. The first part of the hike is great for kids (I see a lot of families on short nature hikes here) and there are a few bouldering spots that seem to be pretty popular as well. When I’m feeling really tired but still want to hike and get out of town, Grasshopper Canyon is one of my favorite places to go.