More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

It started with a plan to drive in 3 separate cars and meet at the Embudito trailhead. Then the 5 of us would pile into one car for the 20-mile drive around the mountain to the Three Gun Spring trailhead. The hike would end at Embudito and somebody would have to drive back to Three Gun Spring to get the other car. Then Lee came up with a better idea.

We met at Embudito but then Ken, Sue and Russ took our car and drove to Three Gun Spring. Meanwhile, Lee and I started hiking up the Embudito Trail. After a couple of hours on the trail we encountered our 3 friends as they were making their way up the mountain from the other side. We had lunch together, they handed us our car keys and the 2 groups parted ways to finish going back down the way the other group had come up.

After 8 miles of hiking it was good to find our car waiting for us, knowing we could just head home and nobody had to spend time doing a car shuttle. Embudito Trail and Three Gun Spring Trail are hikes that we have done before, but we’ve never had the opportunity to put them together in one nice day hike. We’ve done them separately and then it would be an up and back down hike because it would be too far to hike around the mountain to connect up with the car at the starting point.

No cats were harmed in the making of this enjoyable hike.

Interactive map of today’s hike.

Hike for me and Lee started at Embudito Trailhead.
Hike for me and Lee started at Embudito Trailhead.
About a mile up looking behind us at Albuquerque.
About a mile up looking behind us at Albuquerque.
Looking ahead to the high point somewhere to the left of the 2 green hills where we would meet the downhill trail.
Looking ahead to the high point somewhere to the left of the 2 green hills where we would meet the downhill trail.
Cloudy today but increased visibility across the valley to Mt. Taylor in the distance.
Cloudy today but increased visibility across the valley to Mt. Taylor in the distance.
Leaving desert behind on Embudito Trail and now in the woods.
Leaving desert behind on Embudito Trail and now in the woods.
Quite a few patches of leftover icy snow on the north slopes.
Quite a few patches of leftover icy snow on the north slopes.
Getting high enough to see section of Sandia Crest with the radio towers.
Getting high enough to see section of Sandia Crest with the radio towers.
Yeah! We reached the intersection and now will be descending the mountain.
Yeah! We reached the intersection and now will be descending the mountain.
Lots of interesting boulder piles on 3 Gun Springs Trail.
Lots of interesting boulder piles on 3 Gun Springs Trail.
Through those hills but we don't have to go quite as far as the dirt roads in the distance.
Through those hills but we don’t have to go quite as far as the dirt roads in the distance.
Looking south. Manzano Mountains in the distance.
Looking south. Manzano Mountains in the distance.
View of Albuquerque from this side of the mountain.
View of Albuquerque from this side of the mountain.
Our car is parked down there somewhere at the trailhead in Tijeras Canyon.
Our car is parked down there somewhere at the trailhead in Tijeras Canyon.
Nope, not going that way. Beginning of hike for our friends was the ending point of the hike for us.
Nope, not going that way. Beginning of hike for our friends was the ending point of the hike for us.

Pine Shadow Trail

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The trail sign itself isn’t much to look at, but I shared the photo, anyway, because it captures our beautiful blue New Mexico skies in the background. We can’t complain about winter and colder temperatures when we live in a climate that brings us abundant sunshine almost every day of the year. There is snow in the mountains this time of the year for those who like to ski, but for those of us who like to hike we can find places to go where the trails are open and clear.

On this particular hike, our only weather related issue occurred when we rounded a corner of a switchback on a canyon edge. A howling wind hit us head-on and it felt like we were going to get blown right off the mountain. This point of the trail was where we had turned around the last time that we had been on this hike. Lee had hoped that on today’s hike we could go further up the trail to reach the other side of the canyon where there was a higher viewpoint. But we all agreed that the wind did not make that a pleasant option. Instead, we found a sheltered spot behind some rocks and ate our lunch before coming back down.

At the trailhead.
At the trailhead.
Up the trail
Up the trail
View to the west
View to the southwest. The dirt road visible in the distance is the one that we drove in on.
Goal is around the corner.
Less than a mile from here is the corner we rounded and faced the fearsome canyon winds. But no winds here!
Alligator juniper
This tree is called an alligator juniper. Obvious why it’s called that, isn’t it?

One of the criteria we use in deciding where to hike is to compare the time spent in the car getting to the trailhead with the time spent on the trail. A rule of thumb is that time in the car should be less than time on the trail. In this case, it was just about equal, but, as Lee pointed out, we couldn’t let such a beautiful day pass without spending some time outside and the Manzano Mountains were a great place to be. On a Saturday, closer to Albuquerque or Santa Fe we would have encountered other hikers. But out here you really get the sense of being in the wilderness. We were the only hikers who got to enjoy the Pine Shadow Trail yesterday.

To get a sense of the location and terrain, you can use
the interactive map that has the track of our hike.