Stroll on the East Fork Trail
By the time we were looking to do our next hike it was the middle of November. Though the day we chose was warm the previous week had not been and there was snow in the upper elevations of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Eager to at least get into the trees however I suggested to Tom we hike a section of the East Fork Trail in the Jemez Mountains, which is relatively low in elevation.
We’d hiked this trail before in May 2016 and knew the section between the East Fork and Las Conchas Trailheads to be mellow in comparison to other trails is Santa Fe National Forest; the route would only rise to about 9,000-something feet and included just a thousand feet in total elevation gain in the 10 miles roundtrip, making it a perfect place for an undemanding stroll.
We started off from the East Fork Trailhead gradually rising through ponderosa forest into the aspen above the rushing water of the East Fork River in the gorge far below. Glimpses of Redondo Peak became more frequent as we neared the high point of the trail, but we spent most of the first 3 miles admiring the trees, enjoying the hushed silence of the forest, and watching Abby dart back and forth.
After the trail crests in a small meadow surrounded by aspen the hike suddenly shifted gears, descending quickly into the Las Conchas canyon via a series of steep switchbacks that deposited us in the midst of the grassy banks of the East Fork River. The vegetation was not nearly as green as when we’d visited in late spring, but the sheer amount of brush and plant life made it feel lush and out of character for the arid Jemez Mountain range.
We continued walking the canyon bottom for 2 miles to the Las Conchas Trailhead, past rocky cliff walls and through damp meadows, relishing having the trail to ourselves on a sunny day. Stopping near the trailhead we sat on the banks of the river listening to the water gurgle and trickle past while we ate our snack and Abby rolled in the grass. We then turned around and returned the way we came, marveling at the combination of perfect weather and lack of other people that contributed to such a quiet, relaxing hike.