A SEA­SON OF CHANGE

The start of fall can be felt while tak­ing a hike along the Cor­rales bosque

Albuquerque Journal - - GO! - BY OL­LIE REED JR.

COR­RALES — Mas­sive, gnarly cot­ton­woods and long, lean­ing elms pose in grotesque tableau here in the Cor­rales Bosque Pre­serve just east of where Romero Road ends and just west of where the Rio Grande drifts on as best it can in this dry year.

The San­dia Moun­tains, blue-gray in the dis­tance, can be seen through a tan­gle of tree limbs and a mesh of leaves that are mostly still green but flirt with yel­low, gold and rusty orange in clumps here and there.

A lop­sided “V” of 25 honk­ing Canada geese fly over, and an in­sis­tent breeze, just crisp enough to sug­gest a change in the air, rat­tles the for­est canopy.

Au­tumn, which ac­cord­ing to the cal­en­dar got here two days ago, is still more a whis­per than shout in the Cor­rales bosque, but you can see it if you look close, hear it if you stand still, feel it if you walk through it. You could prob­a­bly smell it if it weren’t for that mask.

The sweetest sea­son

Look­ing for au­tumn. That was the idea for the Cor­rales hike out­lined in this ar­ti­cle.

Af­ter a sum­mer sav­age with its heat, a pushy win­ter that showed up like un­ex­pected and un­wel­come house­guests for a few days ear­lier this month and a pan­demic that’s made a joke of plans and sched­ules, it was time for a shot of the sweet sea­son, that gen­tle and col­or­ful part of the year.

A hike along the ditch banks and bosque of Cor­rales would, it seemed likely, be just the ticket for find­ing au­tumn, for meet­ing it more than half way.

“Au­tumn is def­i­nitely the best time for hik­ing in New Mex­ico,” said Al­bu­querque’s David Ryan, co-au­thor, with Stephen Aush­er­man, of the third edi­tion of “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Al­bu­querque.”

“Win­ter is a per­fect time for the lower el­e­va­tion hikes along the river or the back coun­try, for vis­it­ing the hikes down south. With the hot weather of sum­mer you’ll have to do your hik­ing in the morn­ing or at higher el­e­va­tions.

“Spring is still cool enough to do most hikes. But in au­tumn, the tem­per­a­tures have cooled down enough to let you do any hike any­time of day.”

As a bonus, Ryan said, au­tumn gives us the blaz­ing color of leaves mak­ing their last hur­rah and, a lit­tle later in the sea­son, the fine-feath­ered fel­low­ship of birds come to stay through the cold months. Ex­pect sand­hill cranes to be here by late Oc­to­ber or early Novem­ber.

“And when the leaves start to fall, you can see por­cu­pines up in the trees of the bosque,” Ryan said.

Easy-go­ing

This Cor­rales hike, in­spired by num­ber 4 in the “60 Hikes” book, fol­lows the Cor­rales Ace­quia which runs north and south through the vil­lage west of Cor­rales Road; and the high road, which runs north and south be­tween Cor­rales Road and the Rio Grande.

The for­mer por­tion gives hik­ers a more in­ti­mate view of vil­lage do­mes­tic life — gar­dens, horses, goats, etc. — and the lat­ter, which cour­ses through the Cor­rales Bosque Pre­serve, gets you closer to the wild side — with Rus­sian olive, wa­ter­fowl, muskrats and coy­otes.

The best places to start the hike are the Cor­rales Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, 2 miles north of the in­ter­sec­tion of Alameda and Cor­rales roads; or the Bosque Pre­serve en­try point on Romero Road, 5 miles north of the in­ter­sec­tion, be­cause those lo­ca­tions have park­ing.

The en­tire hike is more than 7 miles long. The hik­ing is easy-go­ing along mostly level dirt trails, but you are look­ing at a min­i­mum of four to five hours if you do the full route.

A flicker start

It’s about 8:30 a.m. on a pleas­ant week­day morn­ing at the Bosque Pre­serve park­ing area on Romero Road. The sound of a train whis­tle rides a light wind from tracks east of the Rio Grande.

To get to the high road, you go through the pedes­trian-ac­ces­si­ble gate, cross over the River­side Drain, known as the clear ditch, and walk up an in­cline to the el­e­vated road.

It’s worth noth­ing that an al­ter­nate route south is the San­doval Lat­eral, ir­ri­ga­tion ditch, just west of the high road. That route is shadier, and thus cooler on hot days, but it is com­pletely screened off from the bosque.

On this day, a north­ern flicker, fetch­ingly at­tired in red cap and spot­ted vest, sig­nals the hike’s start with its shrill, sin­gle-note call.

Heron sanc­tu­ary

Mile mark­ers, in the form of gal­va­nized steel pipes, are spaced ev­ery tenth of a mile. This por­tion of the hike starts at about mile marker 5.3 and ends at a wooden bridge north of marker 2.6.

There are a few places along the high road that go west over the River­side Drain to the San­doval Lat­eral, but there are more op­por­tu­ni­ties to take trails east into the bosque and even­tu­ally to the river.

Re­cently, a walk to the Rio Grande on a trail near the wooden bridge ter­mi­nus re­vealed na­ture at work as a coy­ote on the east side of the river stalked a great blue heron that calmly strolled on its long legs into the refuge of the flow­ing waters.

The wooden bridge will get you over to the San­doval Lat­eral. Cross that at a point just to the north and then turn south and walk to an exit gate that leads to East La En­trada Road.

East La En­trada goes to Cor­rales Road, which is busy. Be care­ful when cross­ing over to the west side. Turn left, or south, and walk to Jones Road, which leads west to the Cor­rales Re­cre­ation Cen­ter.

Cross the soc­cer field be­hind the cen­ter to ac­cess onto the Cor­rales Ace­quia, which takes you three miles north back to Cor­rales Road. Use cau­tion and the cross­walk here to get you back on Romero Road and the Bosque Pre­serve park­ing area.

Good at any speed

There’s a pri­vately posted speed limit sign on the Cor­rales Ace­quia that reads “Walk, Trot, Jog.” It might have added pedal. These ditch-side trails are pop­u­lar with run­ners, horse­back rid­ers and cy­clists.

There’s plenty to see along the ace­quia; hawks perched in trees, the twin spires of the his­toric Old San Ysidro Church, fields of daz­zling yel­low sun­flow­ers and ap­ple or­chards.

And, right now, you can find the start of au­tumn. What more could you want?

ABOVE: A hiker, masked in com­pli­ance with coro­n­avirus man­dates, walks north along the Cor­rales high road. From this high road, hik­ers have good views into the Rio Grande bosque to the east and over the river­side drain and ir­ri­ga­tion ditch to agri­cul­tural fields, horse pas­tures and res­i­dences to the west.

ROBERTO E. ROS­ALES/JOUR­NAL

Stun­ning views, such as this one look­ing east from the Cor­rales Ace­quia to the San­dia Moun­tains, await those who hike through the vil­lage as sum­mer flows into fall.

AT LEFT: Hik­ers cross a wooden bridge that goes west from the Cor­rales high road and marks the south­ern-most point in a walk through the Cor­rales Bosque Pre­serve.

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