An overcast, chilly winter day and it feels wonderful to relax in an easy chair with a hot cup of tea. Especially after today’s rugged 6-1/2 mile hike in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
Lee had read about a hike called Boulder Ridge that was posted on the Albuquerque Senior Center Hiking Groups website. Since the Sandia foothills are just east of the city we have become familiar with the area and had a sense of where the hike would go. But one of the problems with the proximity to the city is that the area is heavily used by hikers, dog walkers and bicyclists, many of whom make their own unofficial trails. It’s often difficult to know if you are on the trail you intend to follow. Also, it’s not too far from the trailheads when the boundary of the Sandia Mountains Wilderness area is crossed. As you ascend you continue to see the city below and can’t get truly lost, but, in a wilderness area, trail markers aren’t allowed so any number of the intersecting trails could lead you astray from your destination.
I had the benefit of a GPS app on my phone where I pre-loaded the track from the hike posted by the seniors group. After the first mile Lee chose a different route than what the track showed, thinking we would meet up further down the trail. Big mistake.
Fortunately, we had cell coverage and for the next couple of hours we were calling and texting back and forth trying to figure out where we were in relation to each other and how and when we would meet back up. I was enjoying the views up on the ridge but wasn’t sure if I wanted to complete the entire loop. Parts of the track weren’t easy to follow and some of the terrain was very rugged, including several north slopes with packed snow on the trail making for slippery downhills.
Lee was fairly certain he would be able to intersect me at some point after I started the descent. I wasn’t so sure. From his descriptions of the ridges he was on it seemed like he was several ridges to the south. After two hours of hiking I was approaching the halfway point on the track and the notes I had from the hike description said there would be some bushwhacking at that point. I was having problems following the track when Lee called to get an update. I kept walking and chatting with him on the phone when suddenly he said, “I can see you!” Sure enough I looked up to the top of the ridge in front of me and there he stood waving at me.
It still wasn’t an easy matter to meet up on the trail. The trail I was following descended into a canyon. I could no longer see the ridge where Lee had been standing and my phone lost coverage. The track left the main trail and twice I took a wrong turn and had to backtrack. At the second wrong turn I had stopped and was searching for a visible trail that lead in the direction indicated by the track. Imagine my surprise to hear Lee’s voice and there he was on the trail right behind me.
I never did figure out how he met up with me when he did. We ended up not completing the track I was following, deciding instead to head towards one of the lower elevation trails that were now visible on the down slope. The end result of my hike was a loop of the same distance as the loop on the original track, just on a better trail. Sometimes you just have to step out and be bold, winter day or no winter day and clear trail or no clear trail.