Last fall I took us on a ramshackle tour of Central Ave/Route 66 and said that sometimes I just want to walk around. Sure, I like nice, relaxing hikes out in nature. But I also enjoy wandering down back alleys, through vacant lots, and along drainage ditches. What can I say? It’s always been the case. That’s why I’ve been so impressed with the Albuquerque Neighborhood Walking Tour Series. A couple years ago, I stumbled upon the brochures/maps for these tours, which I think were created in 2006, at the downtown library. Last I saw, they still had some by the newspaper racks.
There are five tours and last Sunday I figured I should make an effort to polish them off by visiting the Pat Hurley Neighborhood. What’s great is that these tours don’t have you strolling around Old Town or following a well-trod trail near the Sandias. Instead, they send you on something closer to a wild goose chase, dropping you in neighborhoods you might never otherwise visit. Even the Nob Hill tour takes you off the beaten path and down Tulane Dr. to see Colonel Sellers log cabin, then through some alleys and over to Campus Blvd. Only for a short time do you actually find yourself on Central.
I’d never been to the Pat Hurley Neighborhood and passed very few people as I roamed mostly residential streets, occasionally consulting my brochure to make sure I didn’t miss anything. One thing immediately became clear: If you take this tour, you’re going to meet dogs. There’s just no way around it. While the pups I encountered stayed behind their fences, they all seemed to have a lot on their minds. A few were happy to see me; most were not. That’s something else—these tours put you in some places that might make you uncomfortable. Of course, when you’re uncomfortable, you’re often learning something. Or, if you’re not paying attention, maybe you’re going to learn something. I guess that’s probably worth remembering.
Since you won’t be blending in with the hustle and bustle, you might also meet some residents. The woman that owns the Manuel Sanchez y Aranda Home, a designated historic landmark built in 1895, wondered why I was taking a picture of the 104-year-old cottonwood in her yard. I produced my brochure and showed her that the house was described within, as was the tree. She was surprised and asked where she could get a copy. Trust me when I say I’m rarely so well alibied.
I have a sad suspicion that not many people take these walks. But if you want to see a telephone pole decorated in shoes, the Bachechi “Compound,” a house made of sod blocks, the ca. 1940 Albuquerque Motorcycle Club building (shown above and reportedly made with stone from the West Mesa volcanoes)--or if you’re just looking to learn a little more about your city--I highly recommend them. Luckily, they’re also on-line RIGHT HERE!
John Mulhouse is an Albuquerque-based frequenter of gravel roads, ghost towns, and empty buildings. His blog, City of Dust, features photos and hidden history from all corners of New Mexico and beyond. He publishes a NM-ghost-town-photo-a-day on Facebook.