After so many cold, wintery days it was wonderful yesterday to enjoy springlike weather with a walk on some of the nature trails in the Bosque along the Rio Grande River near our house. Besides the pleasure of being outside, we were treated to a natural phenomena that for a time had us wondering what it was that we were seeing.
When we got out of our car in the parking lot we noticed swarms of small insects flying around us and crawling on the ground and sidewalks. It reminded me of those times when you happen to be by the water somewhere and there is a hatch of mayflies that cause the fish to jump up in a feeding frenzy. But we weren’t by the water yet at that point in our walk.
After strolling around for a mile or two on the trails along the river and through the Bosque we again began to notice the flying insect swarms. And this time we also noticed that on the soft, muddy spots of the trail there would be large groups of the insects gathered in a cluster. We bent down and looked closer and were fascinated to see that in the center of the clusters there were small holes in the ground and the winged insects were climbing out of the holes. Not only that, but there were larvae or worms crawling out of the holes, too. That’s what I captured in this video, if you have the patience to watch for a minute.
With this bitter cold January finally behind us I had high hopes that a hike on this first day of February might not feel so much like winter. But it was not to be. We had a couple of warmer days last week but another front had moved in by this weekend, bringing winds and colder temperatures. At least it was high desert country hiking so there wasn’t any ice or snow to contend with.
As the 2014 cold and flu season is in full swing, maybe you’ve had the misfortune of being infected with one of the many germs floating around out there. If so, you have my sympathies because there is nothing worse than being sick.
I’m happy to report that Lee and I have both managed to stay healthy through this long and chilly winter. But thinking about infections from germs, brought to mind our experiences yesterday ministering to a group of women at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
We went there to share with them the hope and joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So many lives in that place are in desperate need of hope and joy. We left there ourselves filled to the brim with a fresh outpouring of God’s peace and joy.
The group of 15 women who came into our classroom walked through the door with a sense of excitement and anticipation at what God was going to reveal to them through the worship songs and study of His Word. Our God is a faithful God and He did not disappoint us. His loving presence was there in all that took place. It was like an infection spread to each one of us–an infection of love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.
I believe that when the women left to go back to their cells they each carried with them a germ of that infection. God can use what was imparted to them to infect everyone they come into contact with and I pray that is what will happen. Instead of a spread of negativity and discouragement in that place I’m praying for a spread of God’s love.
Maybe you are not yet a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But as you think about how germs can spread an infection, I encourage you to turn your thoughts to positive ways that we can cause good things to spread to others around us. You might be surprised to discover how infectious a simple action like a smile and a kind word can be to those around you.
Today seemed like a good day to do another hike at one of the Albuquerque Open Space areas. The “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Albuquerque” book that has helped us discover many good trails since we moved here, had a description for a 4-mile hike at the Las Huertas Open Space near Placitas. On the Albuquerque Open Space map posted with the Manzano Open space hike, Las Huertas is the northernmost small, green polygon at the top of the map.
Las Huertas is less than 600 acres, but it adjoins a large area of BLM land. Most of today’s hike was on BLM land, not on the Open Space. This meant a day of wandering on unmarked trails, constantly looking at the description in the book to make sure I was on track. There were a few times of confusion given the numerous dirt roads and trails that are usually on BLM land this close to an urban area, but I managed to figure things out without getting lost. With all of the surrounding open desert country and the landmark mountains in the distance, it would be hard to really get lost, anyway.
The Open Space is named for Las Huertas Creek, which starts just below Capulin Peak, about 8,600 feet up in the Sandia Mountains to the south. There may be water in it somewhere up there, but I should have known that this would be a typical New Mexico watershed that is just a dry, sandy creek bed. The first section of the hike, less than a mile from the start, leads you towards the creek. Then a lot of the walking either parallels or descends into the stream bed.
There wasn’t much in the way of scenery, but as the trail ascended a couple of hills and ridges I enjoyed identifying many of our Albuquerque area landmarks in the distance . And I can check off another hike from the “60 miles” book, as well as another Albuquerque Open Space.
Maybe we were trying to identify with the rest of the country that is feeling the effects of the “polar vortex” causing record breaking cold weather in much of the nation. Living in New Mexico, even in January, there are plenty of hikes out in the desert that don’t require trudging through snow and ice. Whatever the reason, the hike we decided on today was a steep, 9.2 mile hike in the Sandia Mountains on the Pino Trail, that we knew would have wintery conditions.
This trail begins in the Sandia foothills at the Elena Gallegos Open Space, heading east along Pino Canyon and ending at the ridgeline between Sandia Crest and South Peak. Lee and I had done this trail once before, but we did it before the winter snows came to the mountains. I wouldn’t have thought of doing a hike in the winter months in this area, but that was before I knew there was such a thing as YakTrax. For those of you, like me, who don’t pay much attention to equipment for winter sports, YakTrax are devices that attach to the bottom of your boots to give you traction for walking on packed snow and ice. My friend said she had a pair that I could borrow, if I wanted to do the hike. I’m willing to try just about anything at least once. So up we went.
There was definitely packed snow and ice on the trail and I’m not sure I would have made it safely up and back down, if I hadn’t had the YakTrax. The climb up is hard enough without having to deal with an icy trail. There were also many fallen trees along the way that we had to struggle over or under or around.
As difficult as the climb is, once at the top it’s well worth the effort. And I’m really thankful that I could do a hike today when so many other people are dealing with sub-zero temperatures and can’t even get outdoors at all. I’ll take the Pino Trail over the Polar Vortex any day.
Since our last hike of 2013 was at one of the Albuquerque Open Space areas, it seemed appropriate to “open” the 2014 hiking season with another hike at an Albuquerque Open Space area. Although geographically close to each other, these 2 areas have a very different physical environment, which is part of what makes our city such an interesting place to live. That, combined with the fact that the city is committed to investing in public lands that all outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy, is one of the main reasons we chose this city as our home.
No other large metropolitan area in the US has as much public land per capita as Albuquerque. Nearly 29,000 acres of land under the city’s jurisdiction has been set aside to preserve unique landscapes, protect sensitive habitats, and provide miles of recreational trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
The map below shows the diversity of areas that are included in the Open Space. The area in the upper right corner (larger of the 2 polygons and the one furthest to the right) is the Golden Open Space where we hiked last week. The hike today was at Manzano Open Space, southwest of Tijeras, in the Sandia foothills, on the south side of I-40. We live on the west side of the Rio Grande, but it takes no time at all on a Saturday morning to drive across the city to enjoy these east side Open Spaces.
Albuquerque Open Space map
There were six of us on this group hike, which normally would have started with loading a van of hikers at one of the senior centers. But, since there weren’t any available van drivers on this particular day, the hike started with everyone meeting at the traihead. The weather forecast was predicting a storm front for the weekend that would begin with strong afternoon winds. Although the winds did noticeably pick up later in the morning, we couldn’t have asked for better weather as we began our trek up through the foothills. With the clear air and bright sunshine we have come to expect on New Mexico winter days, we had awesome views of the city below us to the west and Tijeras canyon and I-40 to the east.
2014 is off to a good start and we look forward to spending our second year enjoying the outdoors in the beautiful land of enchantment.