This blog does a some time travelling.
In Post #1, I wrote about Alburquerque, the “place” (much of which needs to be updated having spent a few more days there and gaining additional insight into this town’s diversity). This post will revisit some of the actual trip details and impressions from the first few days.
I stayed in a hotel or motel every night. Camping options were limited with the closure of much of the backcountry due to ongoing dry conditions throughout the state. That’s honestly not a complete reason. There are campgrounds all over the place, but spots in the National Parks, Forests, Recreational Areas, etc, have to be reserved in advance. More truthfully, the package I purchased had a hotel in ABQ as part of the deal, and the idea of exploring northwest New Mexico as if spokes on a wheel, where the hub had a hot shower and pillows was better than private campgrounds and shipping or renting a tent, etc.
I brought the most basic gear for long day hiking: small backpack, boots, platypus, first aid kit, lamps, lifestraw, emergency blanket, light rope/twine, knife, bug spray. I did not bring backpacking essentials: my pack, sleeping bag, tent, stove, etc.
Turns out, I really only needed a way to carry water (bottles/platypus), the day pack, a first aid kit, and sunscreen. Throw in a couple bags of store bought peanuts and trail mix, granola bars, jerky, and I was set. Circle-K was my outfitter.
In preparation for this adventure, I had mapped out an area to explore each day.
Airline issues put me off-script early, and so did the development of a rare rainy day after I arrived. On the first full day, I explored the Petroglyph National Monument just west of Alburquerque. This was actually 5 separate stops, and literally right on the edge of or in between neighborhoods: the small canyon, the volcanoes, the long canyon, the welcome center, and the ridge next to the neighborhood where people walk their dogs.
It was raining during the morning, with a deep grey cloud cover. Across the city to the east, clouds clustered on the Sandia peaks.
Petroglyphs are ancient drawings on the volcanic rock that covers the hill sides (scree). Some glyphs date back 500 years or more. The exact purpose for specific glyphs is a matter of speculation, but they are thought to mark places, routes, as well as possess a spiritual and ritual use.
The rain gave the stones a dark sheen, which made the glyphs difficult to see. As the rain began to yield to sunshine, it became much easier to spot the glyphs.
The small canyon (Boca Negra, or Black Mouth) was a nice little climb to start off the day. There are not many glyphs in this part of the PNM, but they are easy to spot. The hike to the rim of the canyon is very short, but provides a nice view of the city.
The Volcanoes area is a longer hike, but easy to do. Some of the volcanoes are off limits, but the trail winds in and around them. They present as protrusions in the otherwise flat plateau west of ABQ. Cacti and other desert foliage can be seen throughout, as well as jackrabbits with their long ears and black tails. A couple I met out walking their dog had spotted a coyote earlier.
The long canyon, Rinconada, provided the most natural view of the petroglyphs, and I could imagine myself walking along, hundreds of years ago, reading the canyon. The trail is sandy, and the rocky slope is beyond a rope that keeps people from climbing and disturbing the glyphs. Here, I spotted a road runner and numerous small grey lizards. By this time the rain had passed, and the desert became fragrant, almost savory, like spicy soil.
The Welcome center was helpful, and probably should have been the first stop. Examples of native plants, with placards, met me on my way in.
Finally, the last trail (Piedras Marcadas) initially runs directly behind a neighborhood. The trail is poorly marked, but following the ubiquitous piles of dog poop, and I knew I was close. The rocks are accessible from close range and there is no barrier, which is why some of the glyphs are suspect (“Mark + Nora” may have been a prehistoric romance, but I doubt it.) In my opinion, this part of the Monument is the least maintained, but had the most potential.
I took half of the day to explore these places. It was getting late, so I switched gears and went to Old Town, ABQ. The green central square in the old town contains a beautiful church, San Felipe de Neri. Thery were holding Saturday night mass, so I simply looked in the doorway.
The rest of the town square is art galleries, souvenirs, eats, and the like. The side streets were similar. I spent some moments in one particular gallery dedicated to the Mexican Day of the Dead art. It was actually more diverse than that, and as I spoke with the owner, he told me about the artists (his friends) and about the juried art festival in ABQ every year.
I spent a half-hour in the Rattlesnake Museum, which was a collection of snake related curios, a legitimate museum, plus maybe 20 snakes in aquariums. The museum is well done and family friendly.
I finally found a small little corner restaurant in a back alley where I could sit outside and people watch. The service was slow paced, the server pleasant, and my quesidilla was delicious, perfect as I surveyed families, couples, and the occasional individuals walk past.
By 7:30, I headed back to rest up for the big climb on Sunday.
On Day 2, I was up with the sun, and heading into Cibola National Forest to take on the Sandias! This was Sunday. This forest only just closed on Friday, and I had not been aware. It had just rained hard overnight, but not enough. I made a short hike to the trail head only to find that the trail up the mountain was closed.
Nonetheless, the open trails through the foothills were already buzzing with dog walkers, mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. From a difficulty standpoint, this was easy hiking, beautiful and ran several miles from the trailhead to the tram.
I met several people on the trail. Every single biker was polite as they passed. A woman with two dogs stopped and talked for awhile.
I knew if I was going to get to the top, I was going to have to take the tram. Although we couldn’t leave the tram station once we got there, there was a nice indoor/outdoor facility at the top to get out of the 45 degree moist cloud camping out on the peak. The wind at the top was strong. The platform was frequented by boldly colored tanagers (who avoided my camera, as did many of the other animals Id eventually run across on my trip).
All told, it was a 45 minute round trip. Expensive, but worth it. The tram guides were engaging, funny, and warned us of every bump along the way.
At the bottom, I met the same woman with the dogs, who told me both of a group of deer on the trail ahead, and that my hands were cold as ice.
It didn’t take long to warm up on the hike back to my car. Bees were busy pollinating the cacti, and the ants and beetles were battling it out in the arid earth.
To be contined