Hiking in some other Pines


Mar 24, 2017
Haddon Township
Recently, my wife and I spent a good part of a week in Taos, New Mexico. We were home for just one week and then spent another week in Georgia visiting my youngest Son and Family.

While in NM, I hiked one of the more popular trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains located in the most southern part of the Rockies. In this area is the Taos Ski Valley. The trail was 2.2 miles long, climbing to a lake high in the mountains at an elevation of 11,040 feet. The trailhead was at 10,200 feet, making it a fairly easy climb.

Once at the lake there was an large open meadow where I found another species of Gentian other then the one found in NJ Pines, Gentiana parryi (Parry's gentian). Its habitat is in montane to subalpine zones. It can be identified from the Pine Barren gentian from its 5 fused sepals between 5 pointed petals. The top of the flower is blue, whitish lower down. Beneath the flower head are several 'leaf-like large green bracts (Pic 3).

Pine Barren gentian (Gentiana autumnalis) for comparison
Pine Barren Gentian (2).jpg

Parry's gentian (Gentiana parryi)
Parry's Gentian (1).JPG

Parry's gentian showing 'leaf-like' bracts
Parry's Gentian (6).JPG

The meadow and Williams Lake.

As you approach the lake, there is a side trail that you can take to the summit of Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in NM at an elevation of 13,156. The trail s 2 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,100 feet, making it a much tougher climb. I was able to see the peak from where I was standing at the lake.

As I was descending back down the trail, 4 game birds passed in front of me as I got to an old mountain road. At this point, the elevation was about 10,500 feet. With a little research, I determined it was a dusty grouse. They are a high elevation game bird generally found at elevations above 8,500 feet, and primarily found in the northern Rockies. It is a rare resident in NM, and I saw 4.


Lastly, while in Georgia, my grandson spotted a coyote (I think). We took him to a science museum in a rural setting. While we were at their picnic area the coyote passed by within 50-70 yards. I haven't seen one in the Pines, but have heard them.