Not a bad spot to give something back, WV 2011 Pecos Wilderness, Photo by Katy Giorgio

Now we turn our attention to the vast and beautiful Pecos Wilderness within Northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe National Forest. The Santa Fe National Forest was originally protected in 1915 and the Pecos Wilderness was among the earliest designated wilderness areas gaining protection in 1933 and again with added protection as a result of 1964’s Wilderness Act. The elevations vary greatly from the 5,000′ valleys to the peaks of the Sangre de Christo Mountains that are the end of the great Rocky Mountain chain that stretches all the way from Alaska, with the peaks of Santa Fe Baldy and Truchas towering over 13,000′. The steep and narrow canyons of the west, provide drainage into the meandering Rio Grande, while to the east lies the serene broad meadows of the Upper Pecos River Valley, with wide mesas and peaceful grasslands that offer abundant wildflowers in the summer months.

Columbine wildflower in Pecos, Photo by Dave Pacheco
Unique among Wilderness Volunteers service projects in 2013, District Volunteer Coordinator, Jennifer Sublett has offered to lead participants on guided trips to learn of the striking wildflowers of the region which should be in great supply during our service project, as well as an astronomy program coupled with a night hike. This is a wonderful backcountry opportunity presented specially for our volunteers.

These beautiful, rugged mountains abound with forests of fir, pine and aspen and many gorgeous southwestern lakes and streams, home to the threatened native Cutthroat trout. Indeed, Pecos comes from a Native American term meaning, “a place where there is water.” Along with a wealth of wildlife (including black bear, big horn sheep, elk, mule deer and many more), the area supported an array of native tribes for hundreds of years. The Pueblo of Pecos served as a key stop on the trading route from tribes that hunted buffalo on the Great Plains to the east and the farming communities in the Rio Grande river valley to the west.

The beautiful Lake Katherine, which will be very close to our campsite in 2013, Photo by Jennifer Sublett
Given how close Pecos Wilderness is to the city of Santa Fe, this striking area sees much use and requires significant attention to maintain these trails that provide access to some of the most popular areas in the whole of the Santa Fe National Forest, such as Lake Katherine above and the popular peak of Santa Fe Baldy.