Rocky road

As you can see from the Candelaria Bench Trail, there are already too many people driving around and about in Albuquerque.

I’ve never liked driving to a workout. Just point me to the nearest door that doesn’t have four wheels underneath and I’ll go right on through, have me a bit of fun.

Looking northwest, toward the Sandia Crest.

One of the selling points of El Rancho Pendejo was its proximity to dirt. Eastbound Comanche Road plows straight into Foothills Trail 365 just past Camino de la Sierra. And the Linear Trail is just a couple blocks to the west.

The LT, your basic manicured suburban crushed-granite path, is a better warmup for off-road cycling, as 365 includes a challenging rockpile I can’t ride just a few minutes down the trail, above Candelaria Road. That’s a good spot for a digger even while afoot, being sprinkled liberally with pea gravel.

But if I am afoot, 365 gives more bang for the buck. All manner of unmarked trails snake upward into the Sandias, where I can get a good long look at what a mess we’ve made of the Albuquerque Basin.

Glance north or east from the Candelaria Bench Trail and it’s easier on the eyes. But you can still see the houses creeping up the hills like very slow and expensive locusts.

There’s a trail. Right there. No, there. I’ve been up and down it.
Up is easier.

The trail starts off stupid-steep where Comanche meets the mountain, and it finishes in the same way, down by Candelaria. But in between there’s this pleasant grassy bench to explore.

Today Herself and I spent about 90 minutes bushwhacking around just below the bench, trying to find an easier route up the north side. No luck.

We did manage to startle a trio of fawns, who looked a lot more confident than we did navigating the cactus-studded hillside. For my part I was making liberal use of my Brazos walking stick, which I’m starting to think of as a portable ADA handrail.

You want something like that, maybe some stout gloves, and some heavy-duty canvas shorts for the southwest descent to 365. Earlier in the week I talked to another hiker who confessed to sliding down the steep bits on her butt.

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13 Responses to “Rocky road”

  1. JD Says:

    “Sliding down the steep parts on her butt”: I believe for the hardcore hikers/climbers/mountaineers that’s called “glissading”. It comes from the French word that means sliding down the hlll/snow on your derriere. Mon dieu, c’est tres romantique, n’est-ce pas???

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      George Washington Hayduke referred to the practice as a “friction descent” in “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” Whatever you call it, it sounds iffy to me. Also owie.

    • Shawn Says:

      I did some glissading down a Northwest peak a few years back. The snow had been heated by the morning to midday sun and it was relatively soft. All was well until near the bottom of my descent when I prepared for another glissade section and went from soft snow to shaded hard snow. Uh oh. I sure accelerated when I hit the hard stuff. Arresting was the primary thought on my mind and the pick got a workout. I came out of the incident battered and much wiser. But the rock field runout was saved from a sacrificial victim. All can go wrong pretty fast when you’re having fun.

      As for George, it sure was funny when that bulldozer went over the edge. There wasn’t any friction in that descent.

      Driving to ride? I sure try not to do that. If the trail is less than 10 miles away from me I try to ride out and back. Every time I’ve been to Moab, I always rode up out of town to the Slickrock trail or any of the other rides around the area. It seemed odd to see folks driving the 2 or 3 miles up the hill to the parking lot. I did the Downieville Downhill Trail once and made it into a loop by riding back up to the trailhead. Rides are always more satisfying when you know you’ve ridden the whole enchilada.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    I’ve slid down some steep descents on my ass while shitting my pants, given my aversion to descending steep slopes and heights. Going up is easy as long as I don’t look down. I recall nearly causing an end to a field geology field trip because I froze up descending into a granite quarry and had to be helped down by the teaching assistants. Was quite embarrassing, but we all survived and prospered.

    We have always tried to score a home where we were not stuck in a four wheeled cage in order to get to trails or roads where we could hike or bike. Whether it was East Oahu, Los Alamos, or Fanta Se. I consider it an obscenity to be forced to drive to a place to bike or hike. Sure, one sometimes drives elsewhere to have a good time, but one should be able to roll out the front door and get some quality time in on shoe leather or pedals without belching gasoline.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I got real cautious about descents after a couple youthful miscues while climbing and caving.

      In the first, I managed to bugger up my carabiners going into a free rappel in the Garden of the Gods and discovered that the rope was opening the ’biner that kept me connected to same. Ooopsie. Couldn’t go back up and so had to go down, very, very spastically.

      In the second, I was trotting along through Huckey’s Cove, an off-limits adjunct to the Cave of the Winds, when I remembered belatedly that The Bottomless Pit was just ahead of me. I abruptly sat down and skidded to a stop before going over the edge. There was all manner of hairy shit in there, including a corkscrew tube crawl between larger chambers that always gave me The Fear.

      The entrance was forever being sealed by the Cave of the Winds people or the city, and the cavers were always opening it back up. I don’t know if it’s possible to get back in there today, and I hope I never find out.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I’ve never done technical stuff. Always seemed fun in theory but never did it. I think being roped properly by someone who knew what they were doing would be reassuring. My former post doc Floyd Stanley, now at Livermore, was an avid rock climber when he was studying at the Univ. of Bombs at Los Alamos.

        Speaking of getting one’s carabiners in a knot, my younger brother Steve once had to be rescued by the fire department after buggering up his ropey-rope getup and getting stuck in the bottom of a retired missile silo. We never let him live that down. Told him that if he had just done that goof while the missile was there, he could have ridden it back up Slim Pickens style.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Mine was the typical problem: I was in a hurry for no good reason and my mind was wandering, as it will. I decided then and there that I didn’t need to be doing any technical rock climbing, thanks all the same. Too many ways for the inattentive to meet an early end.

        Nearly every time I’ve gotten hurt it was due to me not being in the moment. My mind goes all like, “Ooo, shiny object, let’s have a looksee,” and then we’re off to the races.

        Once while riding on autopilot in Palmer Park, along a trail I hadn’t visited for a while, I came back to the moment just in time to realize that the trail was no longer there. There’d been a lot of rain, and the trail fairies had rerouted the trail to higher ground up and to the left of where I was headed, which was into a rocky ravine.

        My mad cyclocross skillz saved me. As the front wheel dipped down I stepped off and let the bike find its own way to the bottom. Neither of us got hurt. That time.

        Retired missile silo, hey? Never tried that one myself. I hear those make attractive real estate these days. The Major “King” Kong Memorial Retirement Village.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Same here. I’ve gotten hurt when my mind went on autopilot. The broken collarbone in 1990 was when I chased down a rabbit during a training ride, looked at my speedometer as I caught my teammate, and overlapped wheels. Several riders behind me rode over or around me as I snapped my clavicle. Did the A/C separation while riding from my office at the U of Hawaii and still thinking about work as I rode into a curb face.

          Almost did a Wile E. Coyote up in Los Almost once. Was looking down and fiddling with cable tensioners while headed downhill on the Bayo Canyon ledge trail and looked back up just in time to see I was about a second from the end of the mesa, where it goes straight down a hundred feet. Had to go change bike shorts after that one.

          Yeah. Shiny object. Oot-Greet-Crash.

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    The one that sold last December is right off I-10 on the old Sonoita Hightway. It is visible from SR 83 that runs from I-10 to Sonoita, AZ, just East of Tucson. Sandy and I scouted the parcel for possible javelina hunting back when we bow hunted. The silo complex was locked up, so we could not look around. Not sure we would have anyway. It was probably home to many buzzworms just like abandoned mines around here. I had one experience with that and do not want another. Abandoned mines around Arizona have kilIed many curious people who have not trained or equipped to go in one. I have lived here for 40 years and have never been to the Titan Missile Museum off of I-19 South of Tucson. Patrick, did you go during your time in the Old Pueblo?

    I only descended a trail on my ass when it was the only option to avoid a face plant.

  4. B Lester Says:

    I used to be a mountain biker exclusively until about 22 years ago when I became a Dad. Riding to the trailhead was 20 miles round trip. I thought about it, got a road bike, and haven’t been back in the woods much.

    When time gets short cuz most free time is family time, one becomes more creative. My road rides start as soon as the wheel leaves the driveway apron.


    Hike up the “Z Trail” off the end of Casa Bonita to the top, cross the bench and hike down Hidden Valley. Or reverse the course. Enjoyable either way.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s the way I went last time, Peter. I like going up the Z Trail a whole lot better than I do coming down, especially that sketchy bit just below the actual bench. It’s like a bobsled run through there.

      If I start at Comanche I have to navigate a long, steep section of scree to reach the first saddle and then the trail to the bench. I’ve been hoping to find some other route that doesn’t involve looping around on the paved climb to Hidden Valley. But that’s the fun part, exploring, amirite?

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