Faulty Trail

Faulty Trail by ewhughes1
Faulty Trail, a photo by ewhughes1 on Flickr.

Even though we’re enjoying a robust monsoon season this year, in July and August it’s important to pick trails that provide ample shade. Last weekend I hiked lower Faulty Trail and found it quite comfortable. There was a lot to like about it actually. The drive is short enough, just north of the Doc Long Picnic area on the road up to the crest that I could make it out here on a weeknight and it’s well shaded and little traveled so the dogs were able to get out and really romp.
This trail has some decent steep beneath the pine trees at the beginning (are there any hikes around here that don’t?!) and then evens out along an oak-lined ridge with some pretty good views to the north. It’s a good workout hike on a decently maintained trail. In my trail running days this one would certainly be in heavy rotation on my training log.
There’s some good scree about for keeping your ankles awake and alert. I think this would be a great training hike if I were trying to log some practice miles with a new backpack or boots in anticipation of hiking a bigger hill like Wheeler Peak or some of his neighbors to the north in Colorado.
Something about this hike really tired the dogs out too. Dixie and her companions, Cooper and Daisy had all about had it an hour or so in. It was a sweet shady day hike that left me feeling like I had accomplished something at the end. Not bad. Not bad at all.


A Day at the station


I awoke on a chilly morning in Chama, NM to take a stroll to the depot. The mountains breezes echoed through the tiny town on this Fourth of July morning until they were hushed by the hiss and thunder of the ol 433 warming up for an Independence Day run up the line to Antonito.
Chama is home to the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. The tourist train runs restored railcars through the mountain passes of New Mexico throughout the summer months. While I wouldn’t be riding the train, I did have a chance to look at the history parked at the depot.
Here are a few of the pics I took.

The Galloping Goose waiting for daybreak.



Angel’s Landing, Zion

Sizing up the Angel’s Landing summit from the Trail below.

The Angel’s Landing Hike at Zion National Park is one of the most terrific hikes I’ve ever done. When I say terrific I don’t mean it so much as, as in great, but terrific as in the root of the word “terror.” This classic Zion hike covers 1400 feet of elevation gain in 2.5 miles to the absolute top one of the most distinguished peaks in the park.
The first 2 miles are on a wide, paved path that snakes up from the Virgin River. This part of the ascent offers views of the river valley stretching the length of the park. It’s a great first hike upon arriving at Zion to get your bearings in the canyon, from up here you can see everything from the Temple of Sinawava to the Visitors Center at the western end of the park.
Even if you’re not up for the strenuous hike to Scout’s Landing and the white-knuckle ascent to the ridge, do hike far enough to check out the lovely WPA-era stone work on the trail, and Refrigerator Canyon.

View from Refrigerator Canyon.

Named for its chilly environment, Refrigerator Canyon offers a cool, green shady respite from the blazing sunshine encountered at the beginning and end of this hike.
After the cooling confines of the canyon, the steep takes hold again on the Walter’s Wiggles section of the hike. It’s a terraced set of switchbacks that lead to Scout landing. This spot on the trail, named for the engineer who designed it, is always good for a fun photo op.

Serious WPA engineering at Walter’s Wiggles.

Past Walter’s Wiggles, things get serious. There’s a sign or two warning about the steep ledges and harrowing ascent that lies ahead. I have to say, in this day and age of padded playgrounds I’m somewhat shocked at how dangerous, unsupervised and harrowing the final half mile ascent to Angel’s Landing is. For most of the half mile… which took us about an hour to climb, there’s about 18” of rock ledge and a chain bolted to the ledge wall. What’s really scary is that this popular hike gets crowded on a summer weekend. Someone else’s hesitation, misstep or sweaty slippery sunscreen hands could send a whole group over the edge. All that said, once you get to the top, you know why it’s called Angel’s Landing.

View from the top.

The cliffs of Zion that towered over your arrival in the park now cower like foothills in the distance. Kick back, relax and enjoy this summit, because the downclimb back is just as challenging, and the swift descent down those 1400 feet of gain is anything but easy on knees. But when you’re at the bottom waiting for the shuttle and gazing up to the peaks, you’ll always have the memory of what it’s like to look out from Angel’s Landing.

Hump Day Hike Night #1: The Waterfall

On Wednesday nights I do a local hike. This is the first of the series “Hump Day Hikes.” For the first of the series I chose one of the most centrally located and easy hikes in Albuquerque. Looking at the map http://www.cabq.gov/openspace/pdf/embudito.pdf its the lower part of the Embudo Trail, but generally locals call it “the waterfall hike”at the end of Indian School Rd. Getting to the trail head is easy like sunday morning, you just drive to the end of Indian School Road, pass through the gates and there it is.
One of the things that amazes me about hiking in town, is how few people I see. Whether it’s the Bosque on Saturday morning, or the foothills on a weekday night, you have to wonder, with so much natural beauty around us, what the hell are people doing instead of getting outside and enjoying it? Anyway, fewer people means more solitude, so I’m not complaining.
The hike starts through the canyon on a wide gravel path. It goes up at a good grade with no protection from the sun. It’s deceptively flat looking, but it’s not. There are some forks in the trail to wander about the canyon, but just head straight back, through two fence gates and before you know it the dry arroyo turns to shady creekbed. The well marked path wanders back a bit further to more running water, willows and some rock scrambling. For a weeknight hike I usually turn around at the waterfall, or sit on the rocks and drink a beer, enjoying the sound of the creek , the interesting rock formations and the blue blue sky.

New Mexico is Gorge-ous

Sometimes the best adventures happen as the result of a wrong turn. I was supposed to be heading to the healing waters of Ojo Caliente, but missed a turn along the way and ended up headed toward Taos along a funky stretch of Rt. 68 dotted with junkyards, art galleries and the occasional winery. The atmosphere reminded me very much of the old Taos I remembered from my childhood, you know the one, before they had a casino and a wal-mart. A loose affiliations of artists, beatniks and ski bums all sort of waiting around for something interesting to happen.
When I realized the blue dot of my GPS had strayed many miles from the intended course, I assessed an alternate route to make my way back to the hot springs I was intending to enjoy on this sunny Saturday. I doubled back to the town (using the term loosely, here) of Pilar and found the turn off for Rt. 560. When I sped past Pilar the first time I thought this road was a driveway. After many miles of following the Rio Grande north and south, 560 delighted me by dropping down to the water and following the river along its banks as it snaked through the beginnings of the Rio Grande Gorge.
I was skeptical about how far north I was heading and what sort of river crossing lay ahead, then a single lane suspension bridge appeared and Rt. 560 turned to Rt. 567 I stopped at the bridge to wonder at the river below, and the snowy peaks in the distance. I had 100% by accident, stumbled on a beautiful place on a perfect, sunny fall afternoon.
After I crossed the bridge, the road abruptly turned to gravel and the grade got steep. I was kind of amazed that there was no warning that this would be an unpaved road with steep drop-offs and no shoulder, but hey, that’s New Mexico for ya. Some of the swtichbacks were so narrow, I was half expecting the road to turn to hiking trail and for me to have to return the way I came.
Thankfully, this was not the case. When I reached the top, I stopped to take more photos from the majestic vista, got back in my truck and climbed a few miles higher, then just as abruptly as the road had become gravel, the road was paved again and I was on the top of the mesa, looking at green expanses of land inhabited by very, very few people.
According to my calculations, and those of a few other savvy Nuevo natives, I was due south of the area where the documentary “Life on the Mesa” was filmed. Somewhere to the north, between there and Taos, was the lawless, off-the-grid commune from the movie. I was not headed to “the mesa” today though, I was headed to a spa and was running late, so just like that I was speeding back toward civilization.

Beirut, The Band

One of the people I was talking to about this show, actually asked me if I was going to Lebanon on Friday night. No, just Santa Fe. I’m surprised these guys don’t have more of a following around here being hometown heroes from Santa Fe. I mean, they’re all over NPR and Pitchfork, oh well.
I didn’t go to Lebanon to see them, I went to Santa Fe, to the convention center. Despite a 30-minute walk through the pouring rain, the venue was breathtaking and the show was excellent.

Simple gypsy decorations of blinking christmas lights were perfect under the gorgeous beams and nuevo light fixtures. The band mainly stuck to songs off their critically acclaimed new album Rip Tide. They showed a mastery of the intricate gypsy rhythms and the tracks translated well to the live show. There were a few of the older, more rambling chaotic Eastern-European tracks , but they were just sparing enough not to clutter the beautiful simplicity of Rip Tide. I think the lack of more rollicking horn tunes, was also due in part to frontman Zach Condon being admittedly short of breath from the altitude on his first set. It was a great evening, in a great space, I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to catch a show up there. The acoustics are top notch and the architectural features are splendid.

Telluride Blues and BREWS

There were two parts to my weekend in Telluride…
one was the lovely flaming lips show on saturday night, and the second component was the grand (beer) tasting on Saturday. Saturday’s weather turned out to be a bit less than desirable for doing anything except drinking scotch by the fire, but with wristband firmly on wrist, and 90 microbrews waiting, I pressed onward through the fog.
Its always hard to capture snow on camera, but it rained and sleeted for a better part of the tasting. It was so wet and cold I couldnt take any tasting notes and could barely remove my fingers from my jacket to take pictures. Here’s is one to give you an idea:

Here is an annotated list of the beers I believe I may have sampled:
Pretty much my methodolgy was to drink the dankest, stoutest, most warming ale at the closest tent possible.
Marble Brewery- Double White (yeah dude, I am predictable)
Steamworks – Backside Stout (warming)
Ska Brewing – Some Heffe/ Banana-y that Erin really liked
Great Divide- IPA (guessing)
Bonfire Brewing –These guys ruled, Chris, Elisa and I made friend with them to stand under the large patio umbrella they were wielding. When the umbrella master suggested we try some of their “secret” beer, it was a vanilla porter, poured from a growler. It was a delicious beer, spot on for the day. These people win!!!
Aspen Brewing- I have a sticker, I must have had some beer?
Upslope- I really like their logo and was hoping to score some gear, but once again, too damn cold for commerce, the had a nice brown lager. It was snowing heavily and I cursed their lack of oatmeal stout. Pretty much at this point, I was just walking around randomly, jumping in puddles of mud, asking for stouts and porters.
Pug Ryans- Skillfully directed here by Chris, they had a really good IPA that had been aged in oak (chardonnay) barrels. Sounds odd, tasted great. I’d like to be able to savor these flavors with a clean palate and no hyperthermia.
Deschutes- Sigh, we all know I’m like a moth to a flame for Mirror Pond IPA, I got a sticker, that might work well on my bike.
Honestly, beer wise, thats about all I can recall. My tasting notes arent ever very thorough, but this day was even worse. I returned to town, frozen, covered in mud and soaking wet. Erin kindly gave me her left over lunch and took me home to change and compose myself. Later in the afternoon we headed over to Ghostriders for some hot tubbin’ hot tub beers consumed included Modus Hoperandii IPA and a growler marked “Red” from Steamworks.
The following morning, driving back we stopped at the Orvis Hotsprings to further defrost and Erin shared a special vintage with me, a sweet hot tub wine, specially bottled (in plastic, natch) obtained from a naked east-coast caving event.
Despite the snow and rain and mud, it was a great weekend. I’d certainly go back next year, especially since the locals claim, “it never snows 2 years in a row.”