Winter is New Mexico time for desert hiking!  We have had some great weather the past two months, sunny, cool and a little breezy.  Perfect.  And dry conditions are imperative due to the dirt roads required to get to these hikes.  All have been Northwest of Albuquerque in a region called the Rio Puerco Basin.  Of course, there is normally no water in the "Rio"!

First hike was in the official Ojito Wilderness.  We have been there many times but tried a mostly new route this time:  up and over Bernalillito Mesa, returning via the familiar Hoodoo Pines and colorful sandstone areas.

Our second hike was in the La Lena Wilderness Study Area.  We have done loop hikes in this northestern area of the WSA before, but today was an out and back walk partly along the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) to the best hoodoos areas (of course!).

Our third hike was a New Mexico Mountain Club outing to the Piedra Lumbre arroyo area.  Another place we have been to many times, but this was a new route that visited the tops of several mesas, along with the great scenery and hoodoos as usual.  There were also several old Navajo structures and the remains of log sweat lodges.  This was a rare Tuesday hike, thus nicknamed the "retirees" hike!

The fourth and last (so far) hike was back to the Piedra Lumbre arroyo, just the two of us.  It was an exploratory walk in the far west side of the area, new for us.  It turned out to be an abbreviated hike due to increasing clouds.  After two hours of meandering and exploring, we made a direct beeline back to the vehicle in just an hour, getting sprinkled on several times.  Not a problem for the hike itself, but a local downpour could turn the dirt roads into a muddy quagmire!  Luckily no real rain.

Two more Winter hikes (though it's now spring)!  Tohajiilee is the name of the Navajo clan that surrounds the BLM land that we hiked on.  Lots of dirt road to get there, but all was dry and the weather was great.  This area has a lot of colorful red rocks and formations, small arches, and a sandstone "beehive" area.  Great outing!

The hike was just yesterday (Tuesday March 24).  The Sandstone Bluffs are in the El Malpais National Monument south of Grants, New Mexico.  A beautiful sandstone area of formations and large arches that borders the old lava flow from Mount Taylor.  The mountain (11,301 feet; we of course have been to the top several times) made a great snowy backdrop to some of the images.  It was a 7+ miles loop going along the top of the bluffs, dropping down to the lava level, then back along the base of the bluffs, finally huffing back to the top at the end.  There were four large arches along the rim, native american ruins (nothing more than rock piles now) with lots of pottery shards, and old homestead ruins.  Not sure who would like to homestead out there!

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