I love this tree - the burning bush, one might call it. I first took a photograph of it - I should think around 12 or 13 years ago - and in subsequent years I've been too late, or it's been too damp and cloudy to go hiking, or I've just not been around. My favorite fall hike isn't one where there are aspens aspens aspens - though of course they are spectacular - but where one comes upon little groves of trees in all their fall splendor, or sees stripes of them in the distance, among the ponderosa pine, or, as here, sees the magical single tree. It flames out, even when the sun has sunk behind the mesa.
This hike is one off the Panchuela Creek campground, and heads into the Pecos Wilderness. It's just beyond Cowles, which in its turn is 20 miles above Pecos - and it was in Pecos that I saw this sign urging one to vote for "my grandma," Janice Varela. No doubt that she'll be elected - she won the Democratic nomination for County Commissioner for San Miguel County back in June, and there's no Republican standing against her (Pecos itself is gratifyingly full of Clinton/Kaine signs). Varela has done terrific work, locally, with water issues - she's the community organizer for the New Mexico Acequia Organisation (acequias, if you don't know, are community-operated water systems - ditches, like tiny canals, used for irrigation, and essential for local agriculture in very rural districts - a number of them around here go back over 400 years). But seeing this sign was also such a strong a reminder that politics is a matter of local issues, local involvement, non-elite families (San Miguel County isn't the poorest county in NM, because it has Las Vegas NM in it - all the same, in the 2010 census, its median household income was $32,213, and 24.8% of its population live below the poverty line).
Hiking through the woods, with the sound of the creek all the time, was, all the same, a wonderful respite from politics for an afternoon, where the most pressing questions on this under-hiked trail were things like "I hope there aren't any bears around who're going to want my emergency chocolate supply," and "Is that poison oak or poison ivy?" I saw an Albert's Squirrel - huge, magnificent, with dark tufted ears; a woodpecker; and on the road up to the trailhead, a deer - not sensible of it to be visible, since it's hunting season, which had determined my choice of a very, very bright pink backpack.