Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

The fast, and the feast

November 24, 2022

Top o’ the world, ma!

“When out of sorts, walk a hundred miles,” wrote Jim Harrison.

I only managed a hair over six miles, but then I’m not a lionized poet, author, and screenwriter describing the perambulations of Doug Peacock in “The Fast,” written for Smart magazine and collected in “Just Before Dark.” I’m just a retired free-range rumormonger who felt a tad frazzled after a week of backwash from the abrupt departure of Herself the Elder.

She was not my mother, and I am spastic in financial matters weightier than a crisp Jackson in the wallet, so with sister-in-law Beth in town to backstop Herself I felt my place was in the kitchen, feeding the women to keep their strength up as they rassled various fiscal and familial alligators. I think Jimbo would’ve approved.

I baked, sliced, toasted, and buttered bread; scrambled eggs and cooked oatmeal; sliced apples and assembled sandwiches; and made turkey chili with red kidney beans, a more substantial chicken posole verde, pasta with a mildly spicy sauce of tomatoes, garlic, onion, chile, and black olives, and spread the leftover sauce onto prefab shells for pizza.

Not exactly the labors of Heracles. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. I’d have done most of this cookery anyway, just over a longer period of time. But with Herself fetching a head cold home from her visit to Maryland, and Beth occupying the spare room we use to confine Miss Mia Sopaipilla at night, what sleep I’ve been able to scrape together between cookery, cleanup, coughs, and meows has been less than restful.

When yesterday proved to be a beautiful day, I decided to get outdoors for a while. But with the brain firing erratically trail running seemed iffy and cycling positively suicidal.

Looking west from the corner of trails 365 and 365A.

So instead I grabbed my hickory stick and took a two-and-a-half-hour skull-flushing stroll along the hem of the Sandias to the edge of the Cibola wilderness and back again.

The universe mostly accommodated my desire for relaxation, solitude, peace, and quiet, perhaps with an assist from the Albuquerque Police Department.

The APD is disbanding its Open Space Unit, dispersing its four officers and one sergeant to the mean streets of The Duck! City, and giving police service aides the responsibility for locking and unlocking trailhead gates.

This changing of the guard isn’t supposed to happen until February 2023. But maybe someone missed the memo, because the three parking lots I passed on my hike were locked up tight and as a consequence the foothills trails were mostly empty. I took a small water bottle and my own sweet time and thought not at all about food.

This afternoon the sisters are taking a break from estate management and eBaying to whip up a raspberry cobbler. Once that’s squared away Beth will prepare lobster tails, I’ll tackle the salmon, spuds, and asparagus, and Herself may or may not do a small green salad. It’s been a long week, and she’s still not 100 percent. We’re all tired. So it goes.

If you observe the holiday, or even if you don’t, give your loved ones a little more gravy on their taters, maybe a bigger slice of pie. A little sugar, don’t you know. Don’t forget to raise a glass to any empty seats around the table.

“Salmon? Did someone mention salmon?”

Why the long shadow?

December 21, 2021

Gandalf the Grey? Nah. Gradaigh the Groady.

No, it’s not some dark twist on the old “a horse walks into a bar” joke.

It’s solstice! Short day, low sun, long shadows. Huzzah, etc.

Don’t forget your cap, squire.

I start carrying a cycling cap on rides this time of year. Generally I get a late start, because it’s not exactly toasty out there in the mornings, even in the Upper Chihuahuan Desert. And if I’m headed home into that low sun come midafternoon, I want some sort of eyeshade so I can see who’s trying to kill me.

Likewise on hikes I favor a broad-brimmed hat, either a Carhartt crushable boonie or a Broner fedora if I’m feeling stylish.

For runs I go back to the cycling cap — not the Rivendell, but a beat-up Campagnolo model that is so old I can’t recall where or how I acquired it, since I’ve never been a Campy man. I usually fetch a light Sugoi watch cap along too, and wear one while tucking the other into my waistband. Got to keep the brain-box warm since I don’t drink the antifreeze no mo’.

Here comes the sun, doo doo doo doo. …

Just remember to keep moving, like the Earth around the sun, and the Milky Way around the amazing and expanding universe. Don’t crouch indoors like a gargoyle, puzzling out that goddamn WordPress block editor or how long it’s been since your last shot and whether you dare have your great-aunt Fannie over for tea and biscuits. Get out there and chase yourself around.

I know, it’s dark out there. It’s dark when you get up, dark when you go to bed, and in between it’s just dark.

But keep a smile on your lips and a song in your heart. While you’re at it, you might pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ’cause there’s bugger-all down here on Earth. And keep one hand on your liver.

Good night, moon.

No. 9 … No. 9 … No. 9. …

December 3, 2021

I haven’t been up there since breaking the ankle.

Got my booster this morning. Easy peasy roll up your sleevesie. I’ve burned more daylight waiting on a No. 9 breakfast burrito at the Golden Pride drive-through.

Of course, a No. 9 might be more effective against the newest variant — some Irish bug called the O’Micron — so I’ll try a couple of those too, just to be on the safe side.

In the meantime, after getting stuck I filled the bird feeders and went for a stroll through the foothills to collect a little free vitamin D. I’m a senior citizen on a fixed income, goddamn it, I’ll take all the free shit I can get.

To be honest, a nap sounded pretty good. But it was 64° in the ol’ cul-de-sac, and my rule is “Sun’s out, guns out.” The weather can’t stay like this forever, unless it does. It’ll make the chile real mean.

 

March in October

October 25, 2021

“Hup, hoop, hreep, horp … hey, where’d that senile old fool get off to now?”

I’ve been neglecting my footwork lately, so I left the bikes on their hooks yesterday and took a hike.

Herself thought this a fine idea and joined me, setting a brutal pace as per usual. I had to take a picture just so I could remember what she looked like in case some good Samaritan happened upon me as I lay collapsed in a weepy heap at trailside.

“Have you wandered away from the Home, old timer? Mind if I rummage through your pockets? You won’t need the wallet; the coyotes don’t take Visa, and they sure as shit won’t honor this UnitedHealthcare card. Say, you don’t have a keeper somewhere nearby, do you?”

“Yes (sob) … she looks like this.”

“Oooh, iPhone, cool, I’ll take that too.”

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.