Burnt Mesa is one of my favorite places in Bandelier. It’s free to visit, is right off of Highway 4, is a fairly easy hike at 5.68 miles, and is nearly (but not quite) flat. Add to this the 7 or 8 ancestral Pueblo ruins and native, ungrazed plant life and you have a great place to visit with relatively little effort.
We were snowshoeing not hiking today. Snow being plastic, it changes form rapidly and often, something I forgot about when I listed this trip and called it easy. Today was not going to be easy.
We started out in cool but not cold conditions, heading on a slight downslope all the way. About 2/3 of the way to the end of the mesa, we came upon 2 large herds of elk. Soon after the herd got clear of us and we reached the mesa’s end and had a snack and a view. On the return, things were much tougher. The Sun came out, the snow softened but with a crust on top to bust through, and we were going uphill. We were gassed by the time we reached the trailhead.