Written by Shannon McCoy-Hayes
My husband and I are traveling to Brazil and Argentina in August. Our destination is Iguazu Falls but we’ll also be staying at an eco-lodge in the rainforest in Misiones. Sounds idyllic, right? Well, I’m not going to lie. I’m terrified. I have been sedentary for many years. Sedentary lifestyle creeps up on you. Instead of running half marathons, one day you cannot run a block or climb 4 flights of stairs without feeling like you’re having a coronary. Last year, my husband and I went to Kona, Hawai’i. I was so sore the entire time, it impacted our ability to do many of the fabulous things Kona has to offer. I don’t want that to happen in Brazil. So I am getting back into some kind of functional shape by hiking New Mexico. This weekend we started out hiking Coyote Call Trail near the Valles Caldera.
The trail guides cannot agree on the length of this trail. My husband’s GPS reported that the we hiked 4.3 miles, but we meandered off trail a bit. The elevation gain is about 800 ft. All along the trail, which skirts the west side of the mountain, are sweeping views of the Valles Caldera below. Quite quickly, you are looking down (not up), on La Jara, the iconic hill in the middle of the Valles Caldera.
We first headed to the ranger station to check in. Clearly lactating healthy prairie-dog mamas were out in force. Vultures swept low over the prairie-dog towns. Although we didn’t see badger as we have on another occasion. As we were leaving the Caldera to get to Coyote Call Trail, my husband spotted a baby elk stashed away by its mom in the tall green grass.
Coyote Call is green and grassy. The trail takes you into the burn, which many hikers disdain, but is excellent for bird watching. We saw/heard Ruby-crowned kinglets, Cordilleran flycatchers, Yellow-rumped warblers. Rock wrens, Violet-green swallows, Juncos, Pine-siskins and broad-trailed hummingbirds. Aspens are recolonizing the burn, and there are still plenty of pines that made it, but the lush grass is the star of the show right now. Lovely, shady meadows just beckon you to picnic or nap in them.
The wildflowers are just starting to bloom in late May. We saw wild iris, golden pea, little red columbine, shelf fungi in the trees, wild violets, shooting stars, sumac, locust, red elderberry, and the entire lower path was carpeted with dandelions and wild strawberry. Temperatures were perfect, with a light breeze and intermittent (fluffy white, not dark and looming) cloud cover.
We started up the trail at 2:00 when the west side of the mountain is most exposed. Go early and you’ll avoid the sun and that heat. Young aspens provide some little spots of shade on the more exposed upper end of the trail. When the trail ends, there is a lovely grassy hill and beautiful meadow to take a load off and enjoy the beautiful Sierra de Los Valles!
Coyote Call Trailhead is directly across from the turn off to the Valles Caldera on highway 4 in the Jemez Mountains.
Link to a Trail map of the Valles Caldera
About our guest writer:
Twenty years ago, Shannon McCoy-Hayes traveled from San Diego to the Land of Enchantment with her husband and young daughter. She never looked back. These days her family has grown to include a son-in-law, two grandchildren, a cat, and a dog. It’s the unrivaled people, landscape and food of New Mexico that inspire and fuel this ‘Nani’s’ adventures.