Travertine Falls

IMG_2268 by ewhughes1
IMG_2268, a photo by ewhughes1 on Flickr.

While TLC advises that you don’t go chasing waterfalls, if you hike up to Travertine Falls, you ‘re gonna find one. The waterfall is about a mile up the trail and the shady creek bed runs about another mile up the trail. The spring is a great place to stash some beer in the stream to savor on the way back.
The waterfall flows even in the peak summer months and the route is well shaded and has lots of mud for puppies to play in. The Travertine Falls trail connects with Bart’s, Crest and Faulty Trails, so it’s a nice start/finish to some of the longer, steeper classic Sandia hikes a good choose-your-own adventure for varying degrees of difficulty and mileage. The trailhead is kind of tricky to get to off the Tijeras /Rt.14 exit access road (exit for 333, not 14 where the ramp splits!) but its close proximity to town and shaded sections make it an excellent after-work hike.

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.

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

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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.