Looking NNW from the Candelaria Bench Trail after ascending from the southern end.

Since I didn’t seem to be suffering overmuch from Tuesday’s eight-mile hike, I decided I’d do ’er again Wednesday.

Not the same exact hike, of course. This time I paid a call on the Candelaria Bench Loop, which is right here in the ’hood.

I thought I’d get right down to business by tackling the steep and sketchy middle route up, which starts pretty much right from the northern trailhead, where Comanche dead-ends.

That’s the big city down there.

And then I thought again. Nossir, let’s have ourselves a little warmup first. Break loose a few of those old adhesions, see if the sludge will soften enough to lube the moving parts. The southern ascent will do.

It’s amazing how much a little weather will change the character of a trail, particularly one that wobbles upward like an errant bottle rocket. It was crisscrossed with ruts from runoff, grasses and cacti had closed in, and at one point about halfway up I wondered whether I had managed to wander off the trail entirely.

Nope. I arrived without incident and the Bench was as you see it. Pretty green still, especially for September, and I was the only two-legged beast in evidence, though if you linger near the Tramway side of things Albuquerque’s car culture manages to make its presence known (zoom, honk, roar, beep, crash, bang, boom, whoop whoop whoop, etc).

Up top some of the dirt was still dark with moisture, and so was I, because it was 80-something and practically windless. I cooled down by wandering around for a bit, appreciating the dearth of retail and rooftops, and then descended cautiously through the stair-stepped Valley of Boulders to Hidden Valley Road and headed for the barn.

The loss of flexibility that accompanies advancing age, buttressed by a pigheaded indifference to stretching, yoga, and resistance training, makes the descents interesting, especially when they’ve been rearranged by cascading water. At intervals I used my hickory stick like the safety rails found in certain toilet stalls, the ones with a wheelchair emblem.

Despite myself I made it down hat side up and celebrated with a delicious batch of chipotle-honey chicken tacos in the old Crock-Pot. If you ever find yourself both fatigued and famished after a hike in the hills this sumbitch is a culinary walk in the park.

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17 Responses to “Benched”

  1. Dale Says:

    I wish I could take inventory all of those various parts of my body that just don’t work as expected anymore, but I would forget some of them.
    I look on my list and see various bits and pieces lost over time and usage and abusage and just worn out, but tommorrow is another day.

  2. Pat O’Brien Says:

    I do some stretches every morning, and I made them a habit. I have mentioned them here before, especially the Thompson maneuver and cat/cow stretches. And, I can’t understand how people hike without a staff or hiking stick. It helps you, and you can use it to help others, especially going up. What a joy to have this beauty literally a minute from your front door. Good on ya!

  3. Charley Says:

    Yoga and stretching now help you continue this level of effort much better when you eventually get old!

  4. Charley Says:

    Clearly too young to learn.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I take comfort in the words of the Good Doktor Hunter S. Thompson, who showed me The Way, until I could no longer keep up:

      I tend to sweat heavily in warm climates. My clothes are soaking wet from dawn to dusk. This worried me at first, but when I went to a doctor and described my normal daily intake of booze, drugs and poison he told me to come back when the sweating stopped. That would be the danger point, he said — a sign that my body’s desperately overworked flushing mechanism had broken down completely. “I have great faith in the natural processes,” he said. “But in your case … well … I find no precedent. We’ll just have to wait and see, then work with what’s left.”

      Of course, the Herr Doktor ran out his string at age 67, and I am 67, so maybe he’s not the best spirit animal. …

  5. SAO' Says:

    Making that slow cooker chicken tonight. The kids have hockey all afternoon, so all we have to do when we get home is chop veggies and shred cheese.

    Canned chipotles are the bomb. No idea how farmers make money when they’re a buck a can and last forever.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      For reals. One of the easiest, tastiest meals I know. You gotta love one-pot pantry cooking.

      • SAO' Says:

        Don’t tell the kids, but I’ve been slowly upping the chiles, like the Man in Black building up his iocaine powder immunity. Started with one chile, no seeds, then two, then a couple or three seeds, and hopefully by this winter we can make everything full strength. Of course, as a Gaelic haole gringo, my “full strength” is maybe a 2 out of 10 on everyone else’s scale.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I tend to keep it light myself. Herself gets the hiccups if I overdo the chile, and I get the head-sweats.

        The worst thing about making it too hot? You can’t stop eating it. “Oh, Lord, this is killing me, but ain’t it goooood?”

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