For a lot of Americans, Fourth of July weekend means beer and barbecues and fireworks. Not that there's anything wrong with these traditions, but I prefer using my time off a bit differently. For me, this past holiday weekend meant a spontaneous road trip starting with El Morro National Monument. My boyfriend and I try to use pretty much any free time we can get for exploring New Mexico's hiking trails, and we were excited to go somewhere we hadn't seen before. After a little research I was completely captivated by the talk of water and multiple trails waiting just a couple short hours from Albuquerque. The idea of turning the day into a camping trip quickly surfaced and even more quickly turned into a reality. With our tent, sleeping bags and hastily packed cooler in tow we left early in the morning for what we thought would be a hiking/camping trip but were a little thrown off once we got into the park. We circled the single tiny campground expecting to see some tents or any sign of life, only to find it completely deserted except for one lonely and battered RV with an expressionless man sitting eerily in the back looking out a window. It gave me the creeps. So instead of setting up camp we drove towards the main visitor's center to learn more about the trails.
There's basically just one trail which can be cut down to shorter loops if need be. With a loaner copy of a park map and a couple water bottles we began the journey through sandstone walls. The first half was entirely paved which is great for wheelchair accessibility, if that's a factor. The views at the beginning of the trail were really quite stunning. An enormous cliff face loomed above as we walked in a loop toward a small pool of water. Along the path were inscriptions carved into the soft walls, dating back hundreds of years. Signs reading, “It is unlawful to mark or deface El Morro rock,” were dispersed on parts of the trail near carvings that really looked more like calligraphy. It was interesting to notice that what was once graffiti is now preserved, and to add more graffiti to the already existing inscriptions would be defacing a National Monument. Funny how time gets to decide what is important enough to preserve and study, and what is simply vandalism.
An easy half mile walk brought us to a pool of water surrounded by a dugout of tall grey rock--if you can resist making sounds into the echo-y concave pool I'd be impressed.
The second half of the trail was a bit more strenuous with a short series of steep switchbacks climbing up the mountain. The elevation change was sudden, as was the change in scenery. At the top, white rocks and staircases lead us to wide open areas of what looked like a lunar surface. Giant boulders obstructed the view; save for the looming blue sky, we sometimes appeared to be truly walking on the moon. The fun, ambiguous path encouraged us to choose our own adventure while pools of rainwater and random tiny stairs reminded us where to go.
I should note that this is much more of a day trip than a weekend excursion. El Morro is a fantastic place for a few hours of outdoor adventuring and learning a little history, but I wouldn't recommend camping.
This week’s ABQ Journal fishing report sez you can catch catfish in the Rio Grande between here and Socorro using night crawlers, liver or stink bait; the tiger muskies at Bluewater Lake fancy hotdogs, though.
Jim Goodman at the Mountain View Telegraph likes to hike Embudito Canyon.
Last night, an Isotope homered in the PCL All-Star game.
Carlito Springs, a hidden oasis in the southern part of the Sandia Mountains – and a favorite resting spot for my old dog Arnold – will be open to the public beginning in August.
The Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary is visiting Albuquerque today on official business.
On Wednesday evening, it rained and rained some more.
Postmodernism comes to Coyote Canyon.
An alleged probation violator in Albuquerque threatened authorities with a BB gun before he was gunned down by US Marshal.
Former NM governor Toney Anaya was recently investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission; he later settled the resulting lawsuit out of court.
UNM’s Meteorite Museum at Northrop Hall is undergoing a much-needed asbestos removal process.
I am sitting on a rocky cliff in a canyon between two streets with my boss, C, and some other guys. C wants to hike in the bigger mountains. As we leave, my other boss, E, tells me about the blood in his stool. I beg him to try psyllium.
On our way, we stop in a split-level Walgreens so I can show my friend, R, the protein powder. She tries a sample spoonful of cream-of-wheat from a green desert dish.
We then proceed east on a path up a hill near my childhood home. Two guys are practicing fly fishing in their yard. I am hooked in the back of my black fleece jacket.
"Give me back my fishing arm!" the guy says. I unhook. Now they both have their hooks in C.
"Are you going to club him too?" I ask.
I am on a guided nature hike with a small group. Nature has been enhanced with some colored lights under the stream. In flying mode, I hover above the stream and spiral up and down the banks, all the while watching as the lights swirl. Finally, tiny lights like fireflies flutter down creating a fake gentle rain.
G and I are hiking in the San Pedro Parks wilderness in early spring. There are piles of mud and snow all around. We encounter a young black girl, 9 or 10, playing in a pile of mud. She is very far from civilization. "Look at my car!" she says and shows us a 2-story mud arch. She's been living in a house without water or electricity for over a year. A man in his 30's lives with her and beats her. We want to take her back with us but we forget.
Everybody knows it’s cooler in the mountains, so get out and explore them already. You don't need climbing gear or a Sherpa to scale tall peaks—just a thirst for adventure and, perhaps, a beer or two. Here are a few of my picks for an elevated summer.
I am hiking with friends on a trail that borders on national forest. We climb two named peaks and drop down into a enormous canyon. I can see a large waterfall misting on the other side. We arrive at the falls and enter a cave behind them. Inside, 20 desks have been arranged in a U. A polished brass bird statue sits on the lead desk. There is a small placard that reads 'Bird Bones'. I complain that we have encountered one of these shrines at every stop. My boss arrives with some children. He informs us that this is the work of Mitchell, one of the rangers, and no one dares to complain, lest he take umbrage and leave.