Poecile gambeli Letterbox  LbNA # 50369

Placed DateSep 13 2009
LocationTijeras, NM
Found By (hidden)
Hike Distance?

Poecile gambeli inhabits the Sandia mountains year round. It's well known "chick-adee, adee, adee" is often heard at high elevations in the coniferous and mixed woodlands. Though not often heard during the warmer months in the south-facing, low elevation PJ forest, we have planted our Poecile gambeli Letterbox along the South Crest Trail near Tijeras, so that its contents may be accessed year round.

The South Crest trail, #130, begins in the Canyon Estates subdivision just north of Tijeras, (I-40 exit 175, bear right towards 337 but then take immediate left under interstate, followed by a right into Canyon Estates. Drive the paved road 1/4 mile north to USFS trailhead.) and traverses the entire mountain crest, 28 miles, to Placitas. Have no fear, our letterbox is only 1/4 mile up this trail!

As you hike you will pass by tempting sandstone cliffs, a gorgeous old Ponderosa pine, and a section fairly thick with poison ivy. Luckily the trail is very wide. At about 1/4 mile the trail splits left and right. The right trail is the main Crest Trail, while the left trail takes you to the base of a large deposit of travertine over which a small stream flows and falls. Catherpes mexicanus make nests in the travertine lattice during the early summer and their descending tones ring beautifully through the forest. From the base of the waterfall a small trail (brushy but with no poison ivy) to the left joins up with the main trail above. Follow either the left or main right trail up above the travertine waterfall. Note the amazing fossil hash in the limestone cliffs lining the trail; lots of bryozoans, a few crinoids, and brachiopods. This limestone is the Pennsylvanian Madera Limestone. Look across the freeway and see/hear a limestone mine and cement plant. Back to the letterbox: from the point where the stream crosses the trail (above the travertine waterfall) head upstream into the bushes and find a trio of juniper trees on the right bank. Follow a line of broken limestone up to the base of the top juniper. Where its base joins the limey conglomerate of rip-up clasts, look behind the puzzle pieces of rock. Poecile gambeli waits inside.

After stamping and rehiding keep trekking up trail a few more steps to the spring which feeds the waterfall. This is a lovely place to bring children in the summer. There are also endless hiking possibilities as the Faulty trail #95 branches off and does a loop with #195A, and the South Crest trail loops with Bart's trail. See the ranger station in Tijeras along NM 337 for hiking details. Enjoy!

PS: This is the only trail in the Sandias where I have come across rattlers; two species in one day!