Hiking classes back by popular demand

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By Gina Velasquez

The outdoor life is hopping throughout the year. Hikers are out and about in the fall on the various trails that Los Alamos has to offer, and the Pajarito Environmental Education Center is hosting Hiking 102. The first Hiking 101 was presented in June.


Classroom instruction begins with Craig Martin on Tuesday. Martin is the Open Space and Trails Specialist for Los Alamos County and author of the book “Los Alamos Trails.”

“I have either built or rebuilt many of the trails in the area,” Martin said. “I hike about 1,500 miles a year, ride a mountain bike and cross-country ski.”

Martin continues to maintain and/or build trails on county open space. He is also a coordinate volunteer for projects in Santa Fe National Forest.

Martin taught the introduction session of Hiking 101 in June. “My purpose is to convince people to take advantage of trail opportunities that living in Los Alamos provides. Hiking is such a simple, easy pleasure,” he said. “I also try to find ways to eliminate the fears that people have that keep them from getting outdoors. This class, I will include several ways to figure out which way is north.”

This session, Martin will talk about the new or rebuilt trails that were completed over the summer. “I will then talk about the most popular trails in the area and how to get to them and how to find your way on them,” he said.

The next class sessions will meet on Mondays through September and meet PEEC or at different trailheads to explore specific areas.

On Sept. 9, there is the cultural hike with Dorothy Hoard. She participates in many PEEC activities and most recently taught a “plein air” or outdoor class in drawing and painting at the Cerro Grande Trailhead. She also taught one session of Hiking 101 and PEEC asked her to be a part of Hiking 102. Hoard is a retired from analytical chemistry at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Hoard is familiar with the route, the history and the environment of each hike she leads.

The culture hike for the class will be on a homestead road. “I will give some background on homesteading on the plateau, point out historic features to look for while hiking, and point out nearby hikes of a similar nature,” Hoard said.

“I am interested in the effort people put into making life better for themselves under adverse conditions,” she said of the homesteading. The Pajarito Plateau was a hard place to make a living and all that is left of the homesteading era are old roads.  Hoard documented them, registered them with the state archaeological records department, put several on the National Register of Historic Places, wrote a book about Historic Roads of Los Alamos, and was on the committee for the Homestead Driving Tour and was one of three authors of a book on homesteading put out by LANL.

The plant hike with Chick Keller is on Sept. 16. Keller also played a part of Hiking 101 and is participating in Hiking 102. He co-founded PEEC in 2000, is a wildflower expert and he an avid bird watcher.

Keller is a retired scientist from LANL, who came to Los Alamos in the 1960s. He has had a lifelong interest in things natural starting as a teen, when he was director of the nature lodge at Hidden Valley Boy Scout Camp in Pennsylvania, according to the PEEC website.

“Los Alamos has 930 different species of plants,” he said.

Keller has served as member of the New Mexico Native Plant Society’s Santa Fe Chapter. Most recently he has begun the study of grasses concentrating on those growing in the recovering burn areas around town, both native and introduced.

The plant tour will consist of about a three-mile hike through an area around the corner from the Ski Hill. “We will go through the burn area that leads to Cañada Bonito, where because of the recent rains, there are flowers blooming,” Keller said.

The hike through the burned areas can show how the area is coming back and what it means to the vegetation in that area.

The final hike session will be on Sept. 23, the geology hike with Siobhan Niklasson. She is currently the education programs director at PEEC. This is her first time teaching the hiking program. She is a geologist and an environmental educator.

She got interested in participating in the class because she wanted to give people context to understand the things they see.

The geology hike Niklasson will lead will begin at the Overlook in White Rock and walk from there along the rim of White Rock Canyon. “This trail has some of the best views in Los Alamos County, and you can see evidence of a variety of volcanic, tectonic and erosional features,” she said. “We will stay on the canyon rim and not dip down into the canyon, so the going should be fairly easy.”

She works mostly with children and has taught many school programs and field trips at PEEC. She also is the teacher at the weekly Nature Playtime on Mondays for toddlers, preschoolers and parents. She said she enjoys spending outdoor time with her own kids and watching them explore.

Classes are 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at PEEC, 3540 Orange Street. Each session is $5, or $15 for all four classes.

For those who sign up for all four, they will receive a Sky Terrain Map, 50 Hikes booklet and set of trailhead guides.

For more information visit PajaritoEEC.org, email Programs@PajaritoEEC.org, or call 662-0460.