My errand in Albuquerque took longer than I anticipated so we got off to a late start. The landscape, however, had not changed during our delay. Outside the Jemez Visitor Center, the earth was iron-red.
The trail began at Battleship Rock, so the campground was easy to find. The trail wasn’t terribly difficult to find either. I simply looked for the post marked “TRAIL.” It seems other people followed ribbons to campsites. Or perhaps there were more confusing offshoots a couple miles into the trail itself.
Tucker took a quick dip into the stream that ran through the campground, rated the taste and texture of the water, and then we were off.
The young blond woman wearing sunglasses said, slightly out of breath, “Have you been up to the springs?”
Her tone made me respond with, ‘No, why? Is it terrible?”
She laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. We didn’t get up there. Just wondering how long of a hike it is.”
I told them it should be 2 miles each way with a 900 foot elevation gain. A man with a child on his shoulders attempted a shrug. “That’s not too bad.”
“How far did you get?” I asked.
“Not far,” the woman said. “We have ten kids with us.”
Understood. Four adults, ten children… probably not up for a steep, hot hike. I commended her attempt.
“We’re just going to play around in the stream instead.”
I told her of Spence Springs which is much shorter and easier and she said they might give that one a try later.
The family really hadn’t gotten far at all. Shortly after parting ways, I came upon a sign, that although on the ground, clearly stated “MCCAULEY SPRINGS 2 MILES —>”
Tucker and I climbed up the path and at the first intersection, I checked alltrails, and correctly chose the right way.
The views gave us the illusion that we were miles from civilization.
“On your way up or down?” I asked.
“Up,” one replied in a breath.
I didn’t think it was all that bad. But the lack of shade was worrying me. Tucker’s tongue hung long out of his mouth and he hurried ahead as if trying to seek cooler earth to walk on. I finally stopped him, only a short distance from the girls.
“Okay, let’s go back. It’s only going to get hotter.”
Tucker is stubborn. He will never turn around on a trail until we have reached our pre-determined destination (although I've never sorted out how he knows what that is.)
But not this time.
“Okay,” he seemed to say with a quick turn and headed downhill. He stopped at the first unoccupied patch of shade and sat down.
On our descent, we took the other half of the loop to get closer to Battleship Rock and in the hopes of finding more tree cover.
Still, by the time we reached the stream, it was, according to Tucker, too late.
Tucker walked right into the river without a missing a step and lied down, almost dragging me down with him.
It’s amazing what a little bit of elevation and difference in landscape can make in the weather.
Spence Spring was only a couple miles uphill. There was a small parking lot right at the trailhead.
Having never been to a natural springs before, I was thrown off by the posted warnings of not getting water in your nose because it could contain protozoa and bacteria dangerous to humans.
But don’t people sit in it? They lounge around in it, right? How safe is this?
Tucker and I walked by the sign as I contemplated whether or not to let Tucker into the waters at all. He’d be sure to want to taste it, and if it’s dangerous in your nose, I don’t imagine having it in your mouth and digestive system is all that good of an idea.
The trail was much more manicured than McCauley Springs.
The upper springs was occupied by a family so Tucker and I stayed down below, where only one person sat on the opposite side, taking in the sunshine and views.
Dragonflies danced in the air--so large and at ease, they could even be captured on film.