As the copy-editor reviewed our completed manuscript for Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos and Northern New Mexico, she made the following footnote: “Do you need to refer your readers back to Chapter 2 in each Special Considerations and Hazards section? Can you just do in the introduction to each chapter?”
“People often skip the introduction, and almost certainly will skip Chapter 2, unless we remind them in each site description,” we replied. When visiting a new location, people have a tendency to highlight only the specific information they are looking for when perusing travel information, ignoring the rest.
As co-author Barbara Hussey, our friend Ann Ellen and I were descending the service road that forms the beginning of the Williams Lake Trail at the Taos Ski Valley in the late morning last week, the clouds hung low over the mountains and according to the weather app on my phone, rain was due by 1 pm. I photographed the clouds after visiting the Ski area and had left my camera in the car.
Yet, groups of hikers were just beginning their trek, including families with children.
“Clearly they haven’t read any of the hiking advisories that suggest getting an early start during summer months to avoid the almost-daily thunderstorms that build during the afternoon,” I commented.
At around 12:30 as we were eating lunch in Village of Taos Ski Valley, it started sprinkling, quickly turning to a downpour. We thought about the hikers on the trail. When an almost simultaneous clap of thunder and bolt of lightning toppled a stack of dishes in the restaurant, we were even more concerned.
That evening as we gave our talk at the Taos Public Library and shared some of the features of our book, I used the ill-fated hikers as an example of why we include hazards and special considerations in each site’s description.
Last Friday I led a bird walk for OASIS in Sulphur Spring Picnic Area. The trail leading up out of the picnic area has poison ivy growing alongside the trail.
“If you don’t know what poison ivy looks like in New Mexico, gather around,” I suggested to the 16 participants. Nearly everyone hovered close as I showed them the plant. “It looks very different from poison ivy in the east,” I continued. “It is bushy and doesn’t vine.”
“I didn’t know we had poison ivy,” a woman commented. Most people don’t.
I try and educate hikers with children or dogs when I encounter them along this and similar trails.
Earlier in the spring I encountered a woman with a small dog off leash. “Do you know what poison ivy looks like in New Mexico when it is just leaving out?” I inquired. She didn’t and was eager to learn.
“I would hate for your dog to get it on its fur and affect you,” I suggested. She decided to put the leash on her dog.
Other dog owners have politely hooked up the leash on their dog, and then taken it off further off the trail. They will have to learn the hard way.
Last spring I was leading a small group of local residents on a bird walk in Cienega Canyon Picnic Area. While I was in the restroom, they unloaded and laid out the picnic supplies – ‘to save the table.’
“We’ll have to eat now,” I told them. “There are bears in this area and we can’t leave food out.” Unfortunately, the signs warning people about bear behavior are next to and in the restrooms and not near the picnic tables.
Chapter 2 of each of our Birding Hot Spots books provides in depth explanations of the following types of hazards and special considerations: Black Bears and Cougars,
Hunting Seasons, Poison Ivy, Stinging Nettle,
Plague, Harvester Ants, Flash Flooding,
Debris Flow, Drought and Wildfire, Monsoon Season, Winter Driving, Altitude Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness, Sun Protection, Clothing and Shoes, and Etiquette on Pueblos and Other Tribal Lands.
Stay safe and be well informed, and then have an enjoyable visit to the many natural wonders in the Land of Enchantment.