Saturday, June 11, 2011

HIke to South Sandia Peak

Our Route - clockwise loop, starting from lower right
I took my "killer" hike yesterday up to South Sandia Peak with Darren and John Brewer.  We started at Canyon Estates (in/near the village of Tijeras, east of Albuquerque), hiking on the South Crest Trail all the way to the upper terminus of the Embudito Trail, then making our way up to South Sandia Peak, and finally hiking down the "CCC Route" to its lower terminus and then back to our starting point.  I wasn't sure how I'd do, but I hung in pretty well; in fact, when the hike was over, it seemed like getting up to South Peak was the easy part, whereas hiking down the extremely steep "CCC Route" took a much-greater toll on me. (Two years ago, John and I hiked up the "CCC Route" on our way to South Peak; I wonder now how I did it, except that my health was better then.)  The only disappointment of the day was arriving at South Sandia Spring and finding it dry; I'd taken along a water filter for the express purpose of having a nice drink of cold spring water, but to no avail.

Anyway, given that I'd wondered if I'd ever see South Peak again, it was especially gratifying to be there and then to hike off the back of the Peak through the cool little canyon and aspen grove there.  I have to say now that South Crest is probably the easiest route to get to South Peak; it's certainly less difficult than any route on the west side of the Sandias.  I can't say what other "long" hikes I'm capable of -- I'm definitely having second thoughts about ever hiking up Chimney Canyon again -- but hiking up and back down the La Luz Trail proper is feasible.

Darren on the South Crest Trail
John in the Aspen Grove East of South Sandia Peak
Darren and I on the South Crest Trail
[Update 6/13/11: I've realized that this map also contains the site of Darren's 2005 Eagle Scout service project -- Carlito Spring, which is just to the southwest of Canyon Estates as the crow flies.]

[Update 6/14/11: I remember that the young men/scouts from our ward spent two nights at Deer Pass, just west from where the Embudito Trail cuts off South Crest, in April 2001 (see the unfortunately fuzzy photo below, taken at South Peak).  Chad Twitchell hiked with the older boys, who were training for their trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch that summer, with full packs all the way from our church building on Indian School Rd. to Deer Pass via Embudo Canyon. (Brutal!)  John Brewer and I took the younger boys (including Darren and John's son Steven) up the CaƱoncito Trail on the east side of the range, then south on the Crest Trail, meeting up with the others near Deer Pass.  We had to decide whether to camp on the meadow just south of South Peak or at Deer Pass; ultimately we chose the latter, which turned out to be a wise decision, and for a very simple reason: it put us that much closer to South Sandia Spring, the only source of water in the vicinity.  The spring was still over a mile away, and I can remember having to shuttle down there four or five times for water while we were camped at Deer Pass.  If the spring had been dry then like it was last Friday, we'd have been hurting.  In this photo (taken by Chad Twitchell): Jordan Roper, Steven Brewer, John Brewer, Landon Roper, Rob Pulsipher, Brandon Schofield, David Griffin, me, Brent Phelps, Lance Schofield, Michael Griffin, Curtis Twitchell, Paul Twitchell, and Darren Kartchner.  (Darren and I are the ones with the blue-camouflage boonie hats.)]
Troop 206 at South Sandia Peak, 4/13/01
[Update 6/19/11: Due to the perceived fire hazard caused by the dry conditions this year, the Forest Service has now closed all the hiking trails in the Sandias for the rest of the summer and part of the fall.  I guess it was a good thing we didn't wait to take our South Peak hike.]