On The Trail Again

We’ve had so many back-to-back trips lately that there hasn’t been any time in over a month for us to plan a local hike in our favorite spots around Albuquerque. Today we finally had the time to get back out on familiar trails.

With all we’ve had going on, it felt good to have a day with nothing scheduled. We weren’t in a rush in the morning to make up our minds where to go or to get ourselves ready. Since it’s a short drive to get to the hiking trails on the east side of the Sandias, we decided to hike on the 10K Trail, maybe making a loop or just an out-and-back depending on how we felt.

What we failed to account for is that it is still the monsoon season around here, which means an afternoon thunderstorm can quickly build up in the mountains, while it’s still hot and sunny in town. And that’s exactly what happened. Our loop took us up to the North Crest for a nice overlook lunch spot, but as we turned around to head back we could see the dark clouds beginning to form.

We walked back on the Ellis Trail, which is not as forested as the 10K Trail. I was getting nervous on the exposed slopes when I began to see lightning and hear thunder. Fortunately, before the storm hit we had looped back to the 10K and were under cover of the trees. What surprised us the most was starting to see hailstones bouncing on the trail and then suddenly we were getting pounded by hail before it began to rain in earnest. Typical of storms around here, though, it didn’t last very long. In less than 20 minutes we were back to the car and the storm had stopped.

Driving back down the mountain the road was slick and white, covered with hail, looking like a winter storm had hit. The temperature had dropped to 52 degrees. Back in Albuquerque, which is only a 30-mile drive, the temperature was 94 degrees. It was hard to believe that just a short time before we had been wet and cold. It’s like a different world when you go from the desert up into the mountains. One of the best things about living here is how quickly you can go from one to the other. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a hike in the mountains on a hot summer day, hailstorm and all. I’m thankful we finally had the time to get back on the trail.

Start of the 10K Trail.
Start of the 10K Trail.

Harebells
Harebells
Interesting fungi.
Interesting fungi.

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View from North Crest, looking south towards Albuquerque.
View from North Crest, looking south towards Albuquerque.
From North Crest looking towards Rio Rancho.
From North Crest looking towards Rio Rancho.
Mushrooms on a tree.
Mushrooms on a tree.
Starting loop onto Ellis Trail.
Starting loop onto Ellis Trail.
Still lots of wildflowers.
Still lots of wildflowers.
Indian Paintbrush.
Indian Paintbrush.
We took a shortcut from the Ellis Trail back to the 10K by walking along the power line.
We took a shortcut from the Ellis Trail back to the 10K by walking along the power line.
Hail by the side of the road.
Hail by the side of the road.
Driving back down after the hailstorm.
Driving back down after the hailstorm.

A Peak Experience

One of the things we enjoy about living in Albuquerque is the view of the Sandia Mountains to the east of the city. There are two major summits: Sandia Crest at 10,678 feet and South Sandia Peak at 9700 feet. We have been to the Crest many times, since it is accessible by road from the east side of the mountains, by the tram from the west side, and by several hiking trails we have done at various times. South Sandia Peak is not as accessible.

The only way to get to South Sandia Peak is by hiking. There are several trail routes that will get you there, but none of them are easy. From our apartment on the west side it is the South Sandia Peak that we can see; the Crest is out of our viewpoint. So always looking at South Sandia Peak from our windows and knowing that we hadn’t yet made it up there, was a challenge we knew we had to meet. Today we finally did the 11-mile hike on the Embudito Trail that got us to the 9700 foot summit.

The trailhead starts at 6200 feet, which means over 3000 feet of elevation gain in the 5.5 miles it takes to get to the top. Thankfully, we got an early enough start in the day, as it ended up taking us 8 hours to go up and back. The middle of June could have meant a sweltering day, but the weather cooperated. By the time the morning started to warm up we were in the shaded, forested part of the hike. In the afternoon, on the way back down, when we reached the lower elevations where it is more open and can get pretty hot, a thunderstorm moved across the city and we benefited from the clouds and cool breezes. We didn’t even put on our rain jackets when we started to get wet because it felt so good to get cooled off and there was only a short distance back to the car.

I’m glad that we finally bagged South Sandia Peak, but I don’t think it’s a hike I will be anxious to do again anytime soon.  11 miles is a lot of hiking to do for one day!

Starting to get high enough for views of the city below.
Starting to get high enough for views of the city below.
We were pleasantly surprised by all the greenery on the crest.
We were pleasantly surprised by all the greenery on the crest.
There was a sort of "false" crest where we thought we had reached the top.
There was a sort of “false” peak where we thought we had reached the top.
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To the right and around the corner is the South Peak summit. In the distance is the Sandia Crest summit.
There's the elusive South Peak up ahead.
There’s the elusive South Peak up ahead.
Looking to the east from the South Peak.  San Pedro and Ortiz Mountains in the distance.
Looking to the east from the South Peak. San Pedro and Ortiz Mountains in the distance.
Afternoon thunderstorm building up over the city on the way down.
Afternoon thunderstorm building up over the city on the way down.