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.
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.