Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Benched

September 9, 2021

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.

Horsing around

September 7, 2021

A horse bypass leads to a saddle. Irony scratches her mosquito bites.

The day after a national holiday weekend is generally top notch for riding trail, if the weather permits. Everyone who hasn’t tripped the Bug-O-Meter® or gotten arrested for fleeing the fuzz is back to work, or school, and a fella has a little elbow room out there among the cacti and buzzworms.

But for some inexplicable reason I decided to take a hike instead. Go figure.

I got the traditional late start (O’Grady Standard Time), so with the sun up, the wind at my back, and a steady uphill trudge for most of the first hour or so, I was sweating like a sausage in a skillet, doffing my hat at intervals to mop the brain-case with a bandana.

Slouching up Trail 365 I turned for no good reason onto the Embudo Trail Horse Bypass, mainly because I’d never used it and was idly curious. Generally I loop around on 365A and head back down to El Rancho Pendejo.

The bypass wound upward to a ridge that overlooks Embudo Trail 193, and so did I. Thought briefly about following it down to where the two trails merge, but I didn’t know exactly where that was, or what the footing might be like after the monsoons. Plus I’d been out for 90 minutes already, probably sweated off all the sunscreen, and was down to about a half liter of water and a half tube of Clif Blox.

Hey, it was a trail for horses, not a horse’s ass. I turned around, whinnied, and hoofed it home.

For a minute there I was all aTwitter

September 4, 2021

This is not a buzzworm. It is, however, his office.

Touting this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio, Ken Layne notes:

Portents and signs, everywhere we look. But signs of what? Oh, the usual: plague, disaster, but at least we have social media to make it all worse.

On my hike this morning I saw two snakes, a buzzworm at the beginning and a bull at the turnaround point.

Surely this must have been a sign of something? Probably that I had seen two snakes in the actual grass instead of on Twitter.

Just deserts

June 12, 2021

Even the cacti are hunting shade.

“Just put a chair underneath the swamp cooler and deal with it all like a pro.”“When Everything Goes Wrong,” Ken Layne, Desert Oracle Radio

Gonna be a hot one — or two, or three, or four, or more — throughout the desert Southwest.

Especially out there in Desert Oracle country, where Ken Layne chats with author Claire Nelson about the time when her day hike suddenly got too hot to handle.

Here in the Duke City I’ve finally bowed to the elements and switched the Honeywells from “heat” to “cool,” because we’ve been having too much of the one and not nearly enough of the other.

And it will only get hotter. The National Weather Service predicts high temperatures of 5 to 15 degrees above normal for about a week (!) as a strong high-pressure system blisters New Mexico like a chile on the grill.

We didn’t need no steekeeng air conditioning back in Bibleburg. Nobody made us move to the upper edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. We knew it was wrong, but we did it anyway.

And whaddaya wanna bet one or both of us goes out onto the sunbaked trails to get the ol’ heart rate up for a while? No brain, no pain. If you don’t hear from me for a couple days call the Duke City trash collectors. I’ll be that bag of bones under the prickly pear somewhere in the Sandia Foothills Open Space.

Glide path

May 5, 2021

The second of two birdmen sails in for a landing.

Some days it’s not about the bike.

No, that’s not me up there, banking in for a landing at the Menaul trailhead yesterday afternoon. You won’t see see me leaping off the Sandia Crest until the cops have cornered me up against the ragged edge and all is lost.

I was just out for a brief hike that turned into a longer one because it was a preposterously gorgeous day in the foothills. Also, I wanted to keep an eye on these glider pilots stooging around over the Sandias.

At least one of them was up there for a couple of hours, because that’s how long I was on the deck watching them. The other was packing up trailside as I headed home.

“Flying today?” I asked.

“Yep,” he replied.

“How long were you up?”

“Not as long as I wanted to be.”

Weather or not

April 28, 2021

The turnaround is at the bottom of that arroyo.

I looked out various windows, considered clothing options, added and subtracted layers, clapped on a sun hat, stuffed a North Face rain jacket into a day pack, then dropped the pack onto a chair, muttered, “Aw, fuck it,” and went out for a walk.

A glance to the north of where Comanche Road NE meets Trail 365 told me I probably should’ve left the sun hat on the chair and taken the pack, maybe given the rain jacket some gloves and galoshes for backup. The sky was blacker than that shrunken chunk of boiled batshit Tucker Carlson uses for a heart.

Too bad, so sad, I thought. Onward.

The view north after my U-turn.

Wasn’t long before I heard an occasional “pok” from the brim of my superfluous sun hat. Pok. Pok, pok. Pok, pokpok, pok. Etc.

I decided to pull a U down by the bridge. And as I turned to face the north without my North Face, I said: “Holy hell. I am gonna get wet.”

Now, this isn’t a long walk. Just under an hour depending upon how I want to do ’er. But all walks are long when it’s pissing down rain out of the north and you don’t have a Gore-Tex shell with hood concealed somewhere about your person. Just a stupid fucking sun hat.

Happily, it wasn’t raining quite yet. So I double-timed it, or maybe time-and-a-halfed it, jogging the uphills and flats. Hup hup hup. Try not to break another ankle, shit-for-brains. This time you’ll have to swim home.

About 30 seconds after I hit the door, boom. It started raining. For maybe a minute.

Shit. I don’t know why I keep holding on to this stupid fucking rain jacket.

Bench press

April 9, 2021

The rocky wash leading to the bench between Comanche and Candelaria.

The old red flag was flying again today, so instead of cycling Herself and I scrambled into the neighboring Sandia foothills, working our way along bits and pieces of the Candelaria Bench Loop.

Herself bouldering upward. There’s a bit of singletrack off to her left but it’s a slippery sonofabitch.

It’s only a four-mile hike, but there’s a fair amount of vertical at the beginning and the end, much of it on crumbly gravel switchbacks lined with sharp rocks and cacti.

After the first steep, loose climb east of Comanche we stuck to a stair-stepped, boulder-studded wash that was a whole lot more fun than the narrow singletrack I took a digger on last year, slamming my left thigh into a big round rock.

Oddly, the winding descent to Trail 365 near Candelaria seemed less challenging than I remembered.

Once I met another hiker on that stretch who said she simply sat and slid down some of the steeper sections (glissading, for the aficionados among you). I’ve done this a time or two myself, but never on purpose, or without consequences.

Didn’t happen today, to either of us, so yay, etc.

And we didn’t see another single solitary soul, either. Unless you count the three circling crows who seemed to be tracking our cautious movements downward and providing an appropriate soundtrack. Haw … haw … haw.

Herself inspects the Greater Duke City Metropolitan Area
from the Candelaria bench.

Cold deck

March 16, 2021

This little canyon stair-steps up to the north off Foothills Trail 401.
A bit of bouldering is required in spots.

This is why I always shunned the casinos while in Sin City for Interbike.

I gambled on a nice long hike yesterday, betting that today would be better for the old bikey ridey.

Wrong.

Sure enough, something snuck in over the Sandias.

Yesterday was most enjoyable, two hours of up and down and all around, with a bit of light jogging thrown in here and there as the spirit moved. Rolled up the sleeves. Probably could’ve worn shorts.

Today I gnawed on a chilly wind from behind a handlebar for an hour and the nicest thing I can say about that is that I was not indoors. Long sleeves. The knickers and fingerless gloves proved unwise. Airborne allergens caressed my nostrils the way a peeler does a potato.

And now the weatherperson says snow is on the way? Snow? Who dealt this mess?

Git along, lil’ Dog-ie

March 13, 2021

Looks a little weatherish to the north
from just below the Candelaria Bench Trail.

In mid-March last year I had a hitch in my gitalong.

All I was good for was a short stroll with crutches, or a slightly longer spin on the stationary trainer. A Darth Gimp boot gripped the broken bone like an ankle monitor. Only the mind wandered freely.

Today, with the skies darkening, the wind thundering, and the pollen scattering, I almost — almost! — decided to stay indoors.

And then I remembered last March. So out I went.

I needed a thin watch cap, mask, hoodie, henley, pants, wool socks, and thin gloves, but still. Outside! On a trail! And a rocky one, too, even worse than the one that took me down last February.

Even jogged a few bits, just ’cause I could. What a difference a year makes.

Up near where the climb to the Candelaria Bench Trail steepens, I saw seven deer peering at me from across a ravine. They’ve been thick as rush-hour traffic around our place already this year, peppering The Compound with poop.

I’m not certain what they’re after down here in the ’burbs, before spring has actually sprung. But like most Americans deer will pretty much eat whatever is convenient. Free will is an illusion, at least for certain foods.

Speaking of airline travel, which we were not, do not expect to see me boarding a flight to anywhere anytime soon until (a) The Plague is over, and (2) the drunks have a clear idea where the toilet is.

The sky’s the limit

January 22, 2021

And the skies are not cloudy all day? Where’s the fun in that?

My man Hal Walter hasn’t been writing a ton lately. But when he settles down to it, he does a job of work.

His latest can be found over at Substack, a platform that helps free-range weirdos like Hal and me crank out whatever for a small fee. But you needn’t reach for your wallet quite yet — you can have a look around without signing up for a newsletter subscription.

I’m not certain that email newsletters are the way to go. Not for me, anyway. Unlike Hal, I’m fairly comfortable with the WordPress platform, and I’m not really interested in trying to make money off this little one-ring circus of mine.

Anyway, does anyone really need another newsletter cluttering up the in-box? That’s pretty much all I get anymore, or so it seems. I have to scroll a long way down the in-box to find an email from an actual human being.

Hal’s Substack presence is very much a work in progress — at the moment, it’s a blog without the email newsletter. But while you’re waiting on the mail, you might pop round to see what he’s nailed to the wall.