No, this wasn’t a sign I saw someone holding by a Santa Fe freeway on-ramp. It’s the reward earned for a hike well done!
Often times we bring our lunch when we are out hiking as it is just so peaceful to dine alfresco with a view. Not to mention we aren’t the earliest birds out on the trail so it always seems our hikes run into the lunch hour. Today was no exception, we hit the Eldorado Ramble Trail around 10:30 but the food coffers were light – a granola bar and some nuts.
The 4.2 mile loop in the Eldorado Community Preserve is of diverse terrain and geography with only 624 feet of elevation gain – it is a relatively easy hike. This wonderful preserve is only 20 minutes from downtown Santa Fe.
I am a big fan of the All Trails app and one of the reviews mentioned starting the loop to the right so that you do not have to hike the steep 1 mile section uphill at the end of the hike – good advice as it was steep, rocky and the clay mud just stuck to our boot soles. Starting the trail this direction wound us down through scrub trees, mostly juniper, where birds could be heard singing but elusive to see.
At first it felt like hiking in the PNW except the paddle cactus and cholla’s were a reminder that we were indeed in the Southwest.
While the wildlife was elusive, we saw a lot of scat, hoof and paw prints and even this partial deer leg. I must admit, it gets your mind going when you find something like this. I always like it be the last hiker on the trail and Wally is often quite a bit ahead of me as his stride is just that much longer. He thoughtful reminded me today that the mountain lions often take the last hiker. That’s a lovely thought, right? Too bad for him, I canceled all our life insurance when we retired!
We traversed through some really interesting rock striations that constantly changed over the course of the hike. Granite boulders, red clay rock, white limestone, slate and beautiful stair step areas, which were often stream beds.
After passing through a lovely meadow, we had to start the gradual climb up and back around to where the loop started.
With views back over the valley, this seemed like a perfect place to take a break and nosh on our meager snacks. Careful to check for snakes, I was hopeful it was still too cold for them to be out sunning themselves.
As we continued on this uphill portion of the trail, we hiked along a rocky canyon edge where we could see down to a small stream. While the air was still cool, the warm sun on our backs felt great and the 624 ft elevation gain seemed so much easier than the hike we did two days earlier which had a 1254 ft gain over 1 mile.
It’s damn hard adjusting to the altitude here in New Mexico and we are often starting our hikes at 7100 feet. I was hopeful that meant I am burning more calories but an internet search on that subject was a big let down. Turns out, I am not burning any more calories but just sucking wind!
The final part of the loop took us through an area where the rock stream beds were just beautiful and some were like stair steps that disappeared mysteriously into the trees.
Back at the trailhead around 1:15 pm and now thinking of the lunch we did not pack, we headed back to the Roadhouse. Our route back to the freeway took us past Cafe Fina which seemed like it was in the middle of no where…but the packed parking lot suggested this might be a place to try.
A quick google search and the 4.6 rating had us turning into the parking lot. Wow, did we hit the payload! This old gas station is now a sprawling structure with several dining rooms and an expansive patio which welcomes four-legged children of the canine persuasion. Large picture windows let in plenty of light and offer views of the pinon-studded foothills. This is a casual eatery that has a big emphasis on farm fresh and organic. Pick up a menu when you come in and order at the counter. We were lucky that there wasn’t much of a line but we still had time to take a gander at the bakery case and a counter with a bounty of baked goods, including quiche. The bakery case flaunts a wide choice of homemade pies, pastries, cookies and cakes.
I opted for the organic chicken enchiladas, christmas style, meaning I had both red and green chile sauce – OMG, so good. The owner, Murphy O’Brien stopped by to see if we were enjoying our lunch and it was fun to chat with him about the Eldorado area. If you enjoy Southwestern cuisine and the history behind the food, you might want to buy this great cookbook – The Maverick Cookbook: Iconic Recipes & Tales from New Mexico.
Yes, I ate every bite and felt no guilt after logging over 13,000 steps and 5.4 miles for the day. Love the Eldorado area even more now, great hiking and Café Fino, what more can a gal ask for?