Trip Number: 13078A
Staff: Susan Estes
- Participate in a hands-on wildlife catch-and-release field project for
wild trout and other species
- Work with field biologists in a remarkable location in rural
upland New Mexico
- Contribute accurate information to a study that helps land managers
assess wildfire ecology and recovery
- All equipment and training for our project, and transportation to all
- Comfortable, dual-occupancy lodging along the banks of the Jemez River,
and nearby hot spring bathhouses
Surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest and Bandelier National Monument,
the Valles Caldera National Preserve is the giant crater of a massive super
volcano that erupted 1.25 million years ago. The Caldera was born of fire --
riotous, exhaustive, smoldering, pulsing, and finally cascading molten rock.
Not extinct, but only dormant, it still dreams of the ghosts of that past, still
boils from within, pouring forth ubiquitous hot springs. Deep below, a significant
fault line shrugs and wrenches itself along the Great Rift of the Rio Grande
Valley, thrusting the shoulders of the Jemez Mountains westward and the Sangre
de Cristos eastward.
But this is not stark and ravaged ground -- this is a montaine upland draped
in ponderosa pine, fir, spruce and aspen, gleaming with the golden stems of
tall grass meadows, and shimmering with the glitter of woodland streams. Creatures
and wildlife roam at will, in their seasons, up the mountains in spring, down
in fall -- a parade of solitary and herd species passing within our ken if we
have the patience to be still and watch...
The ambitious nature of the project, the spectacular location, and the well-appointed
accommodations assure that this will be a popular trip. If you have ever wondered,
'What do biologists and environmental professionals really do?' or if you have
always wanted to do a service trip but hesitated at the last minute, this may
be the trip for you.
Photo: Susan Estes
Following the Las Conchas wildfire in the summer of 2011, the Valles Caldera’s
science program began a long-term study on the ecological recovery of the Preserve's
ecosystems and their wildlife.
The studies include vegetation recovery in grasslands, forests and mountain
meadows, as well as wildlife population recolonization and expansion.
As part of this large-scale effort, the Sierra Club volunteers will participate
in both stream and terrestrial ecosystem measurements: catch/release studies
of the fish communities in the post-snowmelt environment, and biodiversity surveys
of springtime terrestrial arthropods (beneficial and pest insects and other
invertebrates) in forests and grassland valles.
Four field days will be devoted to the project, with some laboratory work involved
to process the samples and prepare them for analyses.
This is a lodge-based trip at a single location. Once we are settled in, we
will stay put for the duration of the trip.
Participants should plan to arrive on the afternoon of the first day. A specific
meeting time and location will be sent in separate communications to the group.
No work is scheduled for the day of arrival.
The work week will consist of two work days, then a day off, and then two more
work days. The group will depart on the morning of the last day.
Photo: Susan Estes
You are responsible for getting yourself to the meeting point at the Valles
Caldera Science and Education Center, in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Jemez Springs
is an easy drive from Albuquerque -- approximately two hours or less if starting
from Sunport International Airport. The Science and Education Center is clearly
marked on State Route 4, toward the northern end of the village of Jemez Springs.
Accommodations and Food
The Science and Education Center, stretching for a quarter-mile along the Jemez
River, is quite large. Laboratories and lounges, kitchen, dining room, and dormitory-style
bedrooms are all under one roof.
Each bedroom is double occupancy, fully furnished, with all linens, including
towels for your private bath. Please bring your own toiletries and indoor footwear.
Paved parking is suitable for vehicles of all sizes and is not visible from
the highway. No pets, please. Wi-fi is available, but cell phone service can
be erratic or non-existent.
Each participant will be expected to assist with meal preparation for at least
one day. Typically, breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. We will pack lunches
to eat wherever we happen to be at noon. Please bring hard plastic containers
to hold your lunch and snacks. Dinner will be at 6 p.m. in most cases. Reasonable
dietary requests (especially concerning food allergies) should be carefully
noted on your trip questionnaire. (See: General Notes/ Participant Approval
at the end of this brochure).
This will be a moderately strenuous trip. Be in good shape and prepared for
lots of work and fun. Anyone who doesn't live in mountain/high desert environs
must have a healthy respect for the altitude. Many concerns about having an
enjoyable trip are tied to the altitude. At 8,000 to 11,000 feet, lungs must
work harder to get needed oxygen. This accelerates water loss, even before you
add a little healthy perspiration. A current up-to-date tetanus shot is required
for this trip.
Photo: Susan Estes
NOTE: All participants must be approved by the trip leader to be included on
the trip. Please follow the instructions for "Participant Approval,"
found in the General Notes section at the conclusion of this brochure.
Equipment and Clothing
The Valles Caldera National Preserve will provide work tools and transportation
to the work sites.
Trip members are expected to furnish their own day pack. Please bring at least
two one-liter/one-quart containers for carrying water, your own supply of moleskin
and Band-Aids, sunscreen, insect repellent, and lip balm.
Bring comfortable clothes and boots. Remember, this is not a fashion show --
bring clothes that are broken-in but not worn out, and that can be easily layered
for warmth. In the late spring average temperatures can fluctuate between 40
and 70 degrees.
- State of the Preserve (2002-2007): vallescaldera.gov/about/trust/docs/trust_LandUse-History.pdf
- VCNP Land Use History: vallescaldera.gov/about/trust/docs/trust_SOPDecember2007.pdf
- VCNP website: vallescaldera.gov
The West is a desert, or wants to be one, and it likes to burn on a regular
Wildland ecology, now more than ever before, must answer questions for today
and for decades to come.
Research work, and building reliable data, makes these crucial decisions more
factual, more informed, less theoretical, less apocryphal, and augment the tools
that land managers need to continue the delicate balance between human usage
and wildlands needs.
Combining the lessons of the past and the knowledge of the present, it is still
possible to protect and conserve the biological and ecological heritage of our
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
When a Sierra Club leader accepted the last person waitlisted for a Chaco Canyon service trip in 1988, Susan Estes participated in her first service trip to the Four Corners. Since then, her service trip odyssey has drawn her to Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and, following a close scrutiny of the globe, to Hawaii (which is, in fact, "southwest" too). Enduring friendships, a wicked sense of humor, and the high energy of a committed group doing selfless service top the list of reasons Susan does service trips. And, yes, she still makes a special effort on behalf of any of her waitlisted participants.
For two decades Phyllis Singleton's Dutch ovens and ranch-style cooking have fed volunteers on service trips in the National Parks and Monuments of Utah, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. Phyllis has seen a lot of the same country from the back of her horse. As a breeder and member of the American Paint Horse Association, there is very little she does not know about bloodlines and horseflesh. Living on a ranch means that as often as possible eggs from her chickens and grass-fed, free range beef will be part of our menus.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips