Monday, July 6, 2015

South Sandia Peak Hike, 6/19/15

First two-thirds of the hike
Last one-third of the hike

For the first time in nearly three years, John Brewer and I went hiking together in the Sandia Mountains on Friday, June 19, 2015.  Once more John let me pick what inevitably became an over-ambitious route; I wanted to go to South Sandia Peak again, although I couldn't bear the thought of hiking up one of the trails on the west face of the Sandias.  I also thought it would be cool to do another "traverse" of the mountain, so I suggested going up Bart's Trail on the east side of the mountain, south on the Crest Trail to South Peak, and then down the entire length of the Embudito Trail.

The big problem, as it turned out, was that the same landowner who, around 2001, gated Cole Spring Road, closing it off to vehicular passage (to both the Cole Spring Picnicground and the trailhead for Bart's Trail and the Canoncito Trail), has now put up a barrier much further down the road and posted the entire road off-limits to "trespassing."  (I've written previously about my feelings concerning the Forest Service's acquiescence in the landowner's actions in 2001; if the government had taken the guy to court then for a declaratory judgment establishing a public right-of-way -- as it freaking well should have done -- this new crap probably wouldn't have happened.)  Anyway, John and I decided, rather than to risk an altercation -- or being shot at, or whatever -- simply to have John's dad drop us off at the Cienega Canyon Picnicground, where we'd hike up to the Faulty Trail and then south to its intersection with Bart's Trail, whence we'd do the rest of the hike we'd planned.  It probably added three miles to the overall hike, although at least they weren't difficult miles.

Bart's Trail is an enigma to me, not so much due to its origin or location, but the fact that people (including Mike Coltrin, the author of the current Sandia Mountain hiking guide), insist that Bart's is only 1.9 miles long from end to end.  Is it steep?  Yes.  Does it take much longer to hike than a similar distance on a flatter trail like the Faulty Trail?  Yes.  But it also meanders a lot more than indicated on the topo map (attached) and appears to want to "top out" at least a dozen times before it actually does intersect the Crest Trail.  All of that makes for a pretty disconcerting hike, especially when one adds on the rest of the Crest Trail segment to South Peak.  Compounding things was the fact that it was a hot, sunny day; I'd brought three quarts of water, but that was at least one quart too little for my needs.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we reached South Peak, which was almost anticlimactic.  We rested up a little in the aspen grove on the back side of South Peak, then headed off for the Embudito Trail.  I was wearing a new pair of Hi-Tec hiking boots, and, unfortunately, my toes were already screaming at me as we started the descent down to Oso Pass.  The rest of the hike down to the lower Embudito trailhead was pretty torturous for my left big toe, preventing me from taking any joy in being on the Sandias.  (One could guess that wearing new boots with poorly cushioned socks caused my toe issues; however, hiking boots these days typically don't require any break-in, and my boots definitely aren't oversized, so it remains a bit of a mystery.  All I know is (a) that I'm going to lose my toenail shortly, and (b) that I will wear very thick socks with these boots from now on.)

Despite my travails, I'm ready to do more hiking, although I'm through with these murderous, all-day hikes.  Two possible future routes that come to my mind are, one, up Agua Sarca Canyon and down Del Horno Canyon, and, two, up the Pino Trail and down the other side on the Cienega Canyon Trail.
Me on the Crest Trail north of South Sandia Peak

Mexico Trip June 2015

Casa Alhaja from across the street
Walking past "Tessoros" at dusk

"Dream By the Sea" house
Living room of "Dream By the Sea"

Nicole, Mariah, Dorine
Downtown PP

Front of La Michoacana
Ice Cream at La Michoacana

Traditional Hamblin Family clambake/pig-out
Catching crabs on the beach at night
Leah and Noelle with my new guitar
Darren and Cait

The only good sting-ray is...
Having pollo asado with the Hamblins

Interior of Casa Alhaja
Zach enjoying the sunny beach
Dining out and driving the waitress crazy
Tyler, Maddi, and Hailee having mangoes

Nicole selfie
The three of us

Kayla as Ariel
Dorine with Joey
Nicole and Mariah
Nicole with Noelle

Mariah, Maddi, Zach, Nicole
Nicole, happy to be in Mexico
Panoramic shot of Las Conchas at dawn
For the sixth consecutive year, Dorine and I traveled to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico with family to spend time at Casa Alhaja, the beachfront home of which our son-in-law Easton Hamblin's parents, Steve and Jeannie, are part owners.  Once again, Dorine made herculean efforts to see that all of our own kids and grandkids (and Dorine's brother Don Wilson and his family) could go with us and spend at least four nights in Mexico.  (This year, Heidi and Nicole's friend Mariah Smith went with us, too.)  That became a very dicey matter this year, because we couldn't get into Casa Alhaja until the late afternoon of Sunday, June 7, and then the Hamblins would be coming down (in two groups, on Tuesday the 9th and Wednesday the 10th).  We finally ended up renting the house across the road from Casa Alhaja, "Dream By the Sea," for five nights (which wasn't cheap), and about half of our party had to stay in a hotel in Puerto Peñasco, "Hotel Paraíso del Desierto," on Saturday night the 6th.  (It also entailed playing quite a bit of "musical houses" for the next few days, but those are the breaks.)

The Albuquerque contingent (less Devery and Easton) left town mid-morning on Friday the 5th, having reservations to stay in a Springhill Suites in Tempe, AZ near the airport.  Our route had us taking I-40 all the way to Flagstaff, then south to Phoenix on I-17.  Dorine was feeling a massive amount of stress over putting into effect all of her intricate travel plans; however, I simply didn't feel like walking on eggshells, so we spent most of the day carping at each other.  It rained most of the way, but we drove into an incredible thundershower between Flagstaff and Phoenix that reduced visibility down to about 150' -- which, needless to say, is a scary sensation when you've been driving 75 mph. The others arrived at the hotel in Tempe well before us, simply because they were more tech-savvy and were able to use their smart phones to avoid a large traffic jam as we were entering metropolitan Phoenix.  We got a screaming deal on two of the four suites we occupied that night, thanks to my sister's husband Don Salazar, who works for Marriott and was able to get us a couple of "friends and family" vouchers.  Nicole flew in from SLC that evening, and then Darren and Cait flew in from LA the next day; Dorine and I had to make both runs to the airport to pick them up.

The next day, I'd intended simply to head west on I-10 to AZ-85 and go south, which would take us all the way into Mexico.  Dorine wanted to go to a Costco store that she knew was just off I-10 and thought was on the way; however, it wasn't on the way -- we had to drive about 12 miles south, down eastbound I-10, to get there -- and from there it was a much-shorter route to continue southwest, taking AZ-347 to Maricopa and then AZ-238 to Gila Bend (where we finally got on AZ-85), instead of backtracking.  It wasn't much hassle to cross the border, although the Mexican border guard decided to look in our car trunk when I spoke to her in Spanish; it's funny how a few language skills seem to make one the object of suspicion in Mexico.  For some reason, the 60-70 mile drive from the border to Puerto Peñasco always seems long on the way into Mexico.

We drove directly to the office of Océano, the property-management company that handles the rentals for "Dream By the Sea"; it was after 5:00 pm, so they'd taped the keys to the house to the outside window of the office.  (We checked in officially the next day, Sunday.)  All of us drove out to Las Conchas to see the house and help get Kristy and Heidi and their families situated -- their staying in "Dream By the Sea" on Saturday was the key to Kristy and Chris getting a fourth night on/near the beach.  (Casa Alhaja had what was obviously a very
 large family group, probably one of the other shareholders, staying there, who wouldn't be leaving until the following day -- hence our not being able to get in there until late afternoon on Sunday.)  Then Dorine and I, along with Darren, Cait, Kiley, and Joey, and Don, Margarita, and Rosita, drove back into town and checked into "Hotel Paraíso del Desierto," which is on Avenida Constitución only a few blocks away from the "Super Ley" supermarket at which we always shop for food.  

The hotel was a real "Mexican" hotel -- eccentric architecture, dubious fire-escape routes, a swimming pool that no one in our group would have dared to get in, etc.  Our "junior suite," consisting of two bedrooms and a bath, had enough beds for us (Don and Margarita stayed in their own room); however, it only had one a/c unit, so the main bedroom stayed pretty hot. Nonetheless, it was only for one night and provided us with a memorable cultural experience.  That evening, everyone drove in from Las Conchas and we went out to dinner, ending up at a restaurant that had too many menu choices and driving the poor mesera half-nuts trying to understand what everyone wanted.  It's common for locals to come into restaurants and try to sell various wares to the diners; I had decided to keep a few one-dollar bills handy just to give to these people -- in lieu of buying stuff I didn't want or turning them away -- and I probably handed out $10-$12 in singles that evening, in addition to actually buying a couple of battery-powered toy puppies from one older lady.

On Sunday the 7th, we checked out of the hotel, and all of us gathered at "Dream By the Sea."  Devery, Easton, and their kids came down from Tucson that day and actually attended the 1:00 pm sacrament meeting (as did Don, Margarita, and Zach) at church in Puerto Peñasco before coming out to Las Conchas.  We were able to get into Casa Alhaja late in the afternoon, after the cleaning crew finished; however, Dorine and I stayed in "Dream By the Sea" for the next three nights.  "Dream By the Sea" doesn't have wi-fi and satellite TV (as does Casa Alhaja, although the wi-fi wasn't working very well there, either), and I experienced a lot of Internet withdrawal.

The next few days are a blur in my mind.  We did a lot of souvenir shopping; we ate at a number of restaurants (getting take-out once at "Pollos Lucas"); we got ice cream a couple of times at "La MIchoacana"; and we took long walks on the beach, at low-tide and otherwise.  On Tuesday, Zach got a bad injury on his foot from a sting-ray, which required urgent medical attention at the local Red Cross clinic.  Steve Hamblin and Easton's sister Hannah showed up on Tuesday afternoon, and Jeannie Hamblin, together with Easton's brother Stuart (and Stuart's friend Seth Larson) came down on Wednesday.  (We had to vacate Casa Alhaja for a few hours so that it could be cleaned again in advance of Jeannie's arrival.)  Kristy, Chris, and their kids had to leave on Wednesday so that Chris could get back to work; then Heidi, Don and Margarita, and Darren and Cait left on Thursday, and that day we finally checked out of "Dream By the Sea."  (Kiley, who'd skyped with Sam a few times during n the week, started missing him greatly, although she stayed until Saturday with Dorine and me.)

On Thursday afternoon, Devery and I went into town so that I could buy a nylon-string guitar at a new music store in town (located across the street from "La Michoacana).  I would have liked to buy something made locally (i.e., in Mexico), but the best value ended up being a Chinese-made Ibanez guitar.  The store wasn't yet set up to take credit cards, so we had to go to the bank, take a bunch of pesos out of the ATM, and go back to pay for the guitar.  (It was really nice, for once, to have a guitar to play in Mexico!)  That evening, as is their custom, Steve and Jeannie cooked up a mess of shrimp, clams, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, etc., and we had the traditional Hamblin Family Pig-Out.  On Friday evening, we went back to "Pollos Lucas" and ate a sit-down dinner of pollo asado and the trimmings.

Finally, on Saturday the 12th, Dorine, Kiley, Joey, and I left Puerto Peñasco,and headed home.  This time we did travel on AZ-85 north all the way to I-10, then headed east to I-17, north to Flagstaff, and east on I-40 all the way back to Albuquerque.  Obviously, it was a long drive to do in one day, but somehow it didn't seem to drag, especially since Joey was his usual good self in the car.  Dorine is already making plans for next year, but it's probably going to come down to a choice between taking our family with us or spending time with the Hamblins; I think the idea of doing both is gradually going by the wayside.