A bit north of Albuquerque rise the Sandias, which boast America’s longest Cable Car ride- which I did not partake of.
My first overnight backpacking trip of the season was this 26 mile thru hike up, across, over, and down this big rock. It was my dog Sammy’s first big hike and being out of shape, this was a great accomplishment for our first trip of the season. A really big thanks to my friend Cedra for picking us up at the Southern terminus, going out for food, and shuttling us back to the truck at the N TH.
We arrived at the Northern TH in Placitas and started our hike at 12:30 pm… not exactly genius timing, but I’m a “wing-it” kind of girl.
The trail starts gravelly/rocky and steadily climbs up up up up. All afternoon. It was grey and got a bit drizzly. We came upon a few wee patches of snow, and this is how Sammy reacts:
We had some nice views, though to be real about it, the Sandias are hardly a “wilderness area” as there’s roads all over it, numerous connecting trails, a sprawling view of the city and interstate….
It drizzled during my lunch break and weather moved in, foggy, and threatening but not horribly so.
So after maybe 4-5,000′ elevation gain and 10 miles or so we made it to the top where all the radio towers are. There was rather a lot of snow up to 5′ in some areas. We stomped and slid our way thru it as sunset approached. I was feeling it, the nonstop uphill and then the snow slog!
The trail levels out, somewhat and we finally arrived at the big parking areas with the (closed) restaurant, shop, and cable car in some pretty gnarly sleet. I put on different layers in the unlocked pit toilet. Convenient! Sun was setting, not to decide what to do and where to pitch in this weather and wind.
As the sun sets and I keep walking thru this signed tourist mountaintop area, the irony of “yikes” sets in just a touch. I’m an expert backpacker dammit and I have GOT this, although it’s not what I had really anticipated, and the wind picks up and the snow is sideways and it sure is pretty and where the heck can I pitch. I found a great low tree that would provide some shelter but it felt weird so I kept on and came upon the Kiwanis stone cabin, built in the early 1900s precisely for THIS kind of situation.
FREAKING COOL! I GET TO PITCH IN A STONE CABIN IN A BLIZZARD ON A MOUNTAINTOP.
No, I actually am sincere when I say that. Only seasoned hikertrash will feel this way. I was adequately supplied for this, rain pants instead of the rain skirt would have been cool, but all was well! The major downside of my Tarptent Contrail is how difficult it is to pitch properly without using stakes (like in the ground) and the sideways snow/wind didn’t assist. Sammy was kindof scared and couldn’t wait to get inside the tent, which was a first!
The morning after. It doesn’t look windy, but it (still) is. I thoroughly enjoyed my coffee in the sack, and was impressed with my success in using my rain skirt to protect myself from my wet dog while forcing her shivering puppiness to succumb to my loving spooning! I had to use earplugs the wind was so bad and Sammy groaned. A LOT.
All the snow on ONE side of all the trees. Nowhere near as dramatic as the insane ice storm May 16-17 2011 on the PCT, THAT was insane huge ice growths on the windward side of everything and ice chunks falling like boulders from the sky!
Sammy frolicks in the snow
Northside: no downed trees, Southside: a bizzilion downed trees
Upon reaching the truck at the trailhead, after having rested in Cedra’s car while we ate
Upon having reached home and managing to exit the vehicle