Week 4, Day 5: Picnicking

Students on PEEC’s Weekend Horseback Outdoor Adventure program prepare peppers for fajitas. (Photo by Beth Cortright)

Get outside and have a picnic this weekend! A picnic with your family is a great way to celebrate spring and spend some time outdoors while maintaining a distance from others. Bring a frisbee or ball, books, some lawn games, or just yourselves on this outing!

Blog Post:

We asked PEEC’s staff members to share their favorite recipes for a picnic or camping. See what we came up with in today’s blog post!

We’d love to know your favorite foods to take picnicking and camping! Tell us your favorite recipes. If we get enough ideas, we might put together a mini cookbook from our community!

Whether you’re making them over a campfire or in a solar oven, we can agree that s’mores are delicious! (Photo by Sue Barns)


Make a solar oven to bring along with you on your picnic and experiment with cooking different foods. Make s’mores for dessert or experiment with melting cheese!

Find solar oven instructions here.

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Eat alfresco! It can be super-simple: just a snack in your backyard or on the trail, or you can go all out, with favorite dishes, a picnic blanket, some fresh-cut blossoms, the whole shebang. Share with us your favorite recipe, or a picture of your picnic set-up!

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Add a sprinkle of nature to your meal. While there isn’t as much variety as in the fall fruit season, there are several edible plants in Northern New Mexico in spring. As always, never eat anything in nature that you’re not sure of, make sure to collect them from areas that haven’t had chemicals applied, and wash them thoroughly. Some things to look for in spring:

  • Chimaja
  • Dandelion
  • Mustard greens
  • Sour dock leaves
  • Elm leaves
  • Mallow leaves

Tender greens are usually sweeter than older plants, and you can sprinkle them on a salad or braise them and add them to other dishes, like eggs and pasta sauces.

Other Resources:

  • Fresh Off the Grid has some great recipes specifically for camping and backpacking. They focus on healthy, easy-to-make meals that can be prepared and enjoyed outdoors!
  • Be sure to keep your picnic earth-friendly! Pack reusable water bottles and eating utensils and ensure that all waste gets thrown away, composted, or properly recycled. Check out a few tips for having a sustainable picnic here.

Share Your Experience:

Tell us how you like to enjoy nature! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

That’s a wrap for outdoor adventure week! Join us on Monday to learn all about water.

Week 4, Day 4: Trails

Craig Martin enjoys the view from the Blue Dot Trail. (Photo by Craig Martin)

In today’s Take It Outside post we are celebrating our wonderful local trails! New Mexico is home to incredible and diverse outdoor spaces and our state has many great trails you can use to explore them.

What are your favorite trails in New Mexico? Tell us about them today!

If you haven’t already, read PEEC’s recommendations on responsibly getting outside and using our trails during COVID-19.

Blog Post:

Craig Martin shares some of the behind-the-scenes planning and work that goes into building sustainable trails. Craig is a PEEC volunteer, former board member, and local author. He was Los Alamos County’s Open Space Specialist from 2003 – 2015. Read today’s blog post here.

Craig is also hosting a livestreamed talk for PEEC on Tuesday, April 21 on our forest’s vegetative recovery after the Cerro Grande Fire. Learn more and register for this virtual event here.


The Passport to the Pajarito Plateau is a great way to explore our local trails. (Photo by Heather Marancenbaum)

A good, strong, hiking stick is always a cherished treasure. Keep an eye out for big sticks when you go hiking! Please use deadfall for this project — don’t cut your hiking stick from a live tree unless you have permission to do so. Bring home your found hiking stick and personalize it with your story this spring. 

Use Sharpie or whittle to add pictures and decorations to represent your life. Then, save your stick for many hikes to come. You can also use paint, ribbon, or other materials to decorate your hiking stick! You can decorate it all at once or add to it gradually as you have more adventures to add.

For more ideas, read how one family personalized a “story stick” here.

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Erosion, a process where things like water or wind break down and carry away pieces of the landscape, is a major challenge in trail maintenance. You can see erosion in action if you make a pile of sand and dirt, and then spray or pour water onto it. What happens? If you use a little water, what sizes of rocks move? If you use a lot of water, what rocks move? Can you add anything to your pile (plants, sticks, etc.) to help protect it from erosion?

Go on a walk and look for signs of erosion. You might see:

  • Channels where water has run
  • Rocks worn smooth 
  • Exposed roots where soil has been washed away
  • Holes worn into the rocks by wind
  • Fallen rocks

What other signs of erosion do you see? Let us know!

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Volunteers work on Cabra Loop Trail during a trail workday. (Photo by Beth Cortright)

Read today’s blog post, and then look for some of the signs of active trail maintenance on your next hike. Can you find:

  • Cut treefall
  • Switchbacks
  • Trails descending gently, almost along contours
  • Grade dips: small trenches that carry water off the trail
  • Grade reversals: small uphill sections between downhill sections
  • Waterbars that conduct water off the trail
  • Wide, mountain bike-friendly turns
  • Steps down steep sections
  • Retaining walls holding the trail in place

There’s a lot of work that goes into trail design and maintenance! Thank a trail worker or volunteer the next time you run into one!

Other Resources:

  • Need some hiking inspiration? Check out Craig Martin’s blog post on his 20 favorite trails in and around Los Alamos.
  • Access maps and trailhead guides for the Los Alamos County Trail Network here.
  • Have you started your Passports to the Pajarito Plateau? If not, now is a great time to do so. This program helps you explore our local trails and earn some prizes along the way. If you don’t have a booklet, you can print these versions on PEEC’s website: Passport 1, Passport 2, and Passport 3. When we reopen the nature center, we’ll catch you up on prizes! No printer? No problem. Just use a piece of scrap paper or take pictures with the rubbings.
  • Unfortunately, the Los Alamos Trails App is still down. While we work on updating it, we recommend trying out AllTrails as a substitute. Not all of our local trails are on this app, but many are! PEEC also has an online trail guide linking to various resources.
  • If you were inspired by Craig’s post today and would like to dive deeper into sustainable trail design, check out this post from American Trails.

Share Your Experience:

Tell us how you like to enjoy nature! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share some ideas for picnics!