Thank you from the West Side

As residents of Albuquerque’s West Side, December 15, 2014, was a big day for us. After more than a year of living with the inconveniences of a major road construction project on one of our most frequently traveled routes across town, the project was finally finished. Despite the inconvenience, we were very much in favor of the project because we knew that the end result would provide a much-needed improvement to traffic conditions. Not that traffic in Albuquerque is anything compared to what we used to live with in Northern Virginia, but, nevertheless, we like our automobile conveniences as much as the next person.

Thank you to our city for a job well done from the viewpoint of commuters. In December we couldn’t wait to try the new “flyover” on the interchange project and thrilled to the ease of our drive through that area. But another aspect of our city that we appreciate is the consideration that is given to bicyclists.

Thank you, Albuquerque, for the many good trails.
Thank you, Albuquerque, for the many good trails.

Today was a break in winter weather and we took the opportunity to ride our bikes over the section of the rebuilt interchange that was specifically constructed to allow bicyclists a safe way to cross Interstate 25. There had been no way to do this before in that part of town and, for us, it provides a new connection to some of the bike trails we like to ride on the east side of town.

Approaching the new interchange.
Approaching the new interchange.
The bridge across I-25 on the bike path.
The bridge across I-25 on the bike path.
Love the flyover convenience when we are driving.
Love the flyover convenience when we are driving.

One of the trails that we can now connect to on the east side.
One of the trails that we can now connect to on the east side.

There’s more winter weather ahead and it has to be quite warm before I’m brave enough to ride my bike. But I did catch the excitement today after seeing this new possibility that will be there when it’s once again bike riding weather. Thank you, Albuquerque.

Possibly a New Hobby?

I’ve often thought that geocaching might be an interesting activity, since I like being outdoors and enjoy studying maps and mapping data. But since it’s a popular activity with a plethora of websites urging you to get involved, I’ve been overwhelmed by information overload whenever I’ve started researching it. The experience that I had on today’s hike would more likely be the type of inspiration that would motivate me to get involved.

At one of the hilltop viewpoints on the trail we paused briefly to catch a breath. I happened to glance down at my feet and next to the trail, nestled in a pile of rocks, I noticed a strange looking object. I hesitated at first to pick it up because it was a small, cylindrical plastic container wrapped in camouflage tape and all my mind could think of was “explosive device!” On other hikes in this area, I had seen teams of rescue workers doing practice maneuvers on these trails and thought it might be something left behind during one of their exercises.

When Sue looked over my shoulder to see what I had spotted, she laughed at my hesitancy, so I felt brave enough to reach over and pick it up. I was surprised to find that a piece of fishing line was attached to it, holding it in place on a nearby branch. That’s when Sue clued me in that what I had found was probably a geocache.

Closer inspection revealed that it was a pill bottle. We opened it and there was a wrapped up piece of paper and miniature pencil to be used by the geocachers to log their find. It was interesting to note that the last time that it had been found was April of 2014. In the geocaching world this probably means it’s not that popular. It wasn’t one that had any other “treasures” to be exchanged but I went ahead and added a penny to it for the next person. I know, that’s not really much of a treasure, but when you’ve just brought your water and lunch for a short day hike you’re not carrying much interesting stuff that you can use to add to a geocache.

I was curious enough about the whole thing that after I got home I looked up the geocaching.com website that was referenced on the log paper. I thought I might add my “find” to the website, but got discouraged when it said I had to log in by creating an account or using my Facebook account. Not wanting to create a new account on the site, I went for the Facebook option. But then after I logged in with my Facebook account it stopped me with a message that said “account email domain is banned.” It wasn’t worth pursuing after that point.

But I did manage to find the place on the site where this particular cache is described and logged. For some unknown reason it has the name ‘Cooper’ and has 21 visits logged. It was interesting to read the comments left by others who found it.

For now, I don’t think geocaching will be a new hobby for me. It would be too distracting on a hike to purposely be looking for a geocache instead of what we were doing today–enjoying the beautiful weather and scenic views in the Sandia foothills near Placitas.

View west towards Rio Rancho and Mt Taylor on far horizon.
View west towards Rio Rancho and Mt Taylor on far horizon.

View north towards Santa Fe and Sangre de Cristo Mts on far horizon.
View north towards Santa Fe and Sangre de Cristo Mts on far horizon.
Steep hill climb behind us.
Steep hill climb behind us.
Steep hill climb in front of us.
Steep hill climb in front of us.
View of north crest of Sandias.
View of north crest of Sandias.
Sue and Ken looking towards Placitas on the way down.
Sue and Ken looking towards Placitas on the way down.
The "pill bottle" geocache.
The “pill bottle” geocache.
The red icon on the map shows the location of the geocache.
The red icon on the map shows the location of the geocache.

Winter Break

It only takes one day of warmer-than-normal temperatures for me to forgot all my complaints about winter weather in Albuquerque. The hike that we picked yesterday was a good one for making the most out of the break from the cold. Three Gun Spring Trail is on a south-facing slope of the Sandias, capturing the sun’s warmth, which is then held in by the surrounding canyon walls. The leftover snow on the trail at the higher elevations was no hindrance for walking and the snow that we could see on the northern slopes in the distance added extra beauty to the scenery.

Promise of a good hiking trail and the return of New Mexico blue skies.
Promise of a good hiking trail and the return of New Mexico blue skies.

Looking south at snow on northern slopes of Manzanitos.
Looking south at snow on northern slopes of Manzanitos.
Some leftover snow on Three Gun Spring Trail at higher elevations.
Some leftover snow on Three Gun Spring Trail at higher elevations.
Intersection with Embudo Trail.  A short trip down this trail brought us to our lunch spot.
Intersection with Embudo Trail. A short trip down this trail brought us to our lunch spot.
Nothing like a rocky outcrop overlooking the city for a good lunch spot.
Nothing like a rocky outcrop overlooking the city for a good lunch spot.
Looking west at Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor in the distance.
Looking west at Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor in the distance.

Looking south at Interstate 40 where it passes through Tijeras Canyon.
Looking south at Interstate 40 where it passes through Tijeras Canyon.

Three Gun Spring is not a new trail for us. In fact, it’s one of the very first trails we ever hiked in the Albuquerque area, during our 2-week stay here in 2012 when we were traveling the US, trying to decide where we wanted to live. As we hiked it once again yesterday, it was a reminder of all that drew us to this area in the first place and a promise of the good things yet to come as we continue to wander and wonder our way through New Mexico’s beauty and enchantment.