Lightning of Sangre de Cristo

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Between hostile Indians on the plains and the ambitions of people in Washington, St. Louis, Kentucky, and Texas, there were potential intruders aplenty to be watching for in Time ran out.

Thunderheads overwhelm the Sangre de Cristo mountains

By Mexico was independent, Spanish soldiers had left, and fur trappers and frontiersmen were on their way into the new Republic of Mexico. Crossing the steep Sangre de Cristo Pass with wagons became challenging, to say the least.

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With the fur trade, American trading posts quickly appeared, and so did alcoholic beverages. The takeover of New Mexico by the U. Army brought major changes, two of which were settlement on land grants and a military post in the San Luis Valley. The period also attracted interest in locating railroad routes by Fremont and Beale-Gunnison, and then the Pikes Peak Gold Rush brought waves of prospectors, new enterprises, a new town called Denver, and a new territorial government.

Routes of travel and modes of transportation changed rapidly after , and with them Sangre de Cristo Pass.

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The maps and pamphlet by Glenn R. Scott provide an outstanding source of information about all the historic trails in this area. If you wish view the full all article, watch this short video or subscribe now for full access. Rabbitbrush Rambler: Sangre de Cristo Pass. We see you are enjoying our articles! Many of the higher peaks are veritable gardens of alpine wildflowers once the snow has melted.

Black bear and deer are common throughout the mountains. The Sangres also contain bighorn sheep, some of which have become so used to human presence as to constitute a camp pest. Mountain lions live in the forest but are rarely encountered. Birds are plentiful and diverse, including eagles, wild turkeys, and several species of hummingbirds. Most of the terrain is too high for snakes to be abundant, although rattlesnakes are occasionally seen as high as elevations of ' m. Watercourses tend to be small and seasonal, so there are few large fish, although some lakes and streams are able to sustain a population of trout.

The large elevation variations in the forest preclude universal, concise statements about climate. Snow and freezing temperatures at least at night are possible year-round on the high summits; shirtsleeve weather is common in the winter at the lower elevations. About the only common denominator is that springtime is windy and relatively dry. Broadly, the higher elevations say above feet, or meters have conditions typical of continental mountain ranges, generally somewhat warmer and drier than the similar ranges of Colorado.

Snowfall during winter is wildly variable, but normally covers the high peaks above timberline and persists through spring, commonly closing many campgrounds until May or so. Many hiking trails in the high country still have snow on them in June. Spring is warm and dry, with a gradual onset of thunderstorms starting in June and building to a "monsoon" condition in August. The high peaks are notoriously prone to lightning strikes; if you're hiking, make sure you're off the summits by 1PM during the summer.

Fall is clear, crisp and delightful, with the first significant snow usually in October and the first snow that "sticks" frequently occurring around Thanksgiving. The lower elevations are semi-arid, and winter snowfall is even more variable than at higher elevations. Some winters have seen individual storms that deposit over 40 inches 1 meter of snow, while in other years, winter passes without this much snow falling in the entire season.

Lightning of Sangre De Cristo (Unabridged)

Low temperatures can drop below zero Fahrenheit. The monsoonal thunderstorms begin to drift off the mountains in July to cool and soak the lower elevations, until the warm, dry fall conditions begin soon after Labor Day. English really is the usual language in this area, despite rumors to the contrary.

However, it's not necessarily an inhabitant's first language. Many residents speak Spanish not just at home but in public, in a dialect that has significant ties to seventeenth-century Spain as well as a number of distinctive regional quirks. The Spanish-speaking visitor may find it interesting to listen and learn, but no knowledge of Spanish is required to get around. For access information covering the west side of the range, see the guides on Taos and Santa Fe.

Road access to towns and locations on the eastern slopes is via highways leading from Interstate 25 south of Raton. The east-side roads can be difficult or impassable during winter storms. Most numbered state and US highways in and near the mountains are on good paved road, although a few on the east side are gravel. Few passes cross the range that support highways. All of these can be closed for periods during the winter following snowstorms. Snow tires and either chains have them available but don't use them routinely or 4 wheel drive are a good idea when driving in the mountains between Thanksgiving and mid-March, and on occasion can be needed earlier or later.

There are a number of roadless areas in the mountains that are accessible to hikers, mountain bikers, etc, particularly the Pecos Wilderness north of Cowles. The many trails in the forest are generally accessible to hikers, horses, and mountain bikes. Motorized travel is forbidden in the Pecos Wilderness, but there are a number of abandoned logging roads outside the wildernesses that are suitable for ORVs and dirt bikes.

Please operate responsibly; damage in this terrain and climate takes a long time to heal. Trails and, to a lesser extent, logging roads in the high country tend to be soggy until June or even July due to snowmelt. In addition to the wilderness areas that are parts of the national forests, Taos Pueblo occupies considerable territory between the town of Taos and the ridge line. In contrast to most roadless areas in the range, the Taos Pueblo lands are closed to visitors without a permit from the tribe which can be difficult to get.

There are other private in-holdings at the northern end of the range that may also be closed; check locally.

West Slopes Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Most areas that are suitable for hiking in the summer are also suitable for cross-country skiing in the winter, but be careful: although most of the mountains have relatively gentle slopes, the ridges are steep enough to pose serious avalanche hazard.

In much of the area, snowshoes are more satisfactory for winter travel than skis or snowmobiles, because of the steepness and narrowness of the trails. Sparse snow makes all of these means of travel marginal at elevations below ' or so. There are several possible explanations for the name of this range, which translates as "Blood of Christ," but the most commonly heard one although possibly apocryphal pertains to a Spanish priest who was thought to have been martyred during the Pueblo Revolt of the 17th century.

The dying priest saw alpenglow on the high peaks above timberline at sunset, and exclaimed "Sangre de Cristo! In today's secular world, you can still see the alpenglow from some locations, miracle or no miracle; good viewpoints for sunset viewing at a distance are across the valley near Los Alamos , while the intrepid backpacker who hikes the Winsor Trail trailhead near the Santa Fe Ski Basin to a campsite at Puerto Nambe can get a fine, up-close-and-personal look at the phenomenon on 12,foot Santa Fe Baldy. The Sangres are more of a "Do" place than a "See" place. More details on this route can be found on the North Central New Mexico page.

Autumn color in the forest mainly takes the form of a band of gold at elevations above about feet meters , where the leaves in the aspen groves turn en masse. Peak period varies from year to year and locale to locale, but is commonly during the last week in September. The Pecos Wilderness offers excellent hiking once the snow has melted.


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Both can be crowded during mid-summer. Trailheads near the town of Truchas on the northwest side are somewhat less crowded, but there have been problems with vandalism of vehicles parked there. Trails lead not only to good campsites but also to most of the high peaks, which are generally hands-in-the-pockets walk-ups under good conditions. Lake Peak, just outside the wilderness, requires a little scrambling near the summit, with some exposure.

If peak-bagging, make sure you're off the summits by 1PM during summer months, as the Pecos is notoriously lightning-prone.

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Play It Safe Around Lightning – Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, Inc.

Most of the mountain lakes in the Pecos Wilderness, as well as the Beatty's Cabin area of the Pecos, are off limits to camping owing to environmental stresses. Most lakes and streams in the mountains are too small and cold to support many fish, but fishing along the Pecos River, which has its headwaters in the range, can be OK. Try various locations between Pecos and Cowles, but be careful of private property restrictions.


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