I should write more about one of my favorite pastimes which also happens to be a great workout, and that is going for hikes and picnics in the Sandia Mountains. Not only do I want to share the beauty of the Sandias with others, but I have some safety tips to impart others, so that they may enjoy the natural beauty without too much difficulty. A recent comment from a friend that volunteers with Search and Rescue made me think to write this and provide some tips.
One of my favorite hikes is a loop that I now complete in about two hours and a half. It used to take me much longer, but as I’ve become more familiar with the terrain and in better shape my time has dropped. It’s the best workout for the body and mind. The views are amazing! I encourage everyone that enjoys the New Mexico outdoors to recharge their mind and body with a regular hike in the Sandias.
There are not that many cities in with World with such a magnificent backdrop as Albuquerque has. Not only do we have miles of amazing walking and biking trails in the foothills, but there are many trails that head up into the wilderness, some going all the way to the crest. There are many great trails, and I’ll choose one depending on how much time and energy I have. But I won’t go without the essentials.
One essential for the Sandias is a great pair of hiking boots. The terrain tends to include a lot of loose sandy gravel, really small granite bits that can cause you to slip suddenly in steep parts of the trail. For this you won’t believe the difference that aggressive tread on a pair of running shoes, or hiking boots can make. I don’t exaggerate much when I say that you’ll want to buy shoes/boots where the tread looks like the tires from a monster truck. Take your time shopping because good shoes can mean the difference between a safe hike down and a scary one, or worse.
Speaking of shoes, one gotcha for unsuspecting or new hikers is what I call “Sandia tied shoelaces”. It’s not really having your shoelaces tied, but it will feel just like it if you step on the stem of a Soapweed Yucca with one food and try to walk through with the other. This plant is often found on edges of trails and has stems as strong as rope. There’s no give and you might take a very dangerous fall as a result, especially when walking downhill.
In case an out of town visitor is reading this, please don’t head up with just a T-shirt and shorts, no matter how warm it might seem at the time. The temps drop with altitude, and then continue to drop with time after the sun sets. So another essential is layered clothing. A windbreaker can be packed in a tiny fanny-pack and really help if the weather turns unexpectedly.
Water won’t seem that important to bring along until you start to feel dehydrated. I’m not a physiologist but I’m pretty sure experts will agree that dehydration can effect your mental state. There’s not much water in the Sandias, except after it rains in some of the nooks on certain rocks. There are springs and the stream along Domingo Baca Canyon, but Murphy’s law says you’ll be lost somewhere else when you didn’t bring water.
There are other things to bring depending on where you go, and your personal needs. Be mindful that letting others know is a good idea, no matter how short you think your hike is going to be. It’s possible to sprain an ankle no matter how careful one is, so you might have to sit around and wait for help. Having a small LED flashlight, or headlamp would make being found much easier. Also people do get lost or disoriented in the Sandias every year, and cell service can be spotty in some parts of the mountain. Search and Rescue (SAR) participates in a rescue every other week on average according to my friend.
But once prepared you’re less likely to need SAR’s help. And then the best thing to bring along is a friend either human, canine or better both. You can even persuade them to carry your picnic lunch and water for you!