This is the entrance to the parking lot- it's one of the nicer spots to start from because you can go north, east or south and still head into the foothills. In the distance you can see the water tower that serves the area. I used to live up here and it had two things going for it: Good hiking and admirable water pressure. Today I'll head east. It's the most popular route and the sandy path is wide and easy.
That's looking back after about 1/3 mile. There's a large berm here for flood control but it's not photographically interesting. It's 39 degrees and I'm wondering why I put my gloves away for summer. Time to get my blood pumping.
That tree looks suspiciously deciduous. When I get closer, it's in a wash, but there is no water flowing. I've now gone 1 mile and the canyon is starting to close in. The sound of the city is still very audible- 100,000 internal combustion engines humming in unison. If you come to Albuquerque from a big city, that's probably a comforting sound. Coming from smaller places, to me it sounds ominous, like a thousand clowns with baritone kazoos.
It doesn't take long before the sound of water flowing drowns the sound of the city. I've meant to come this way in early spring for years. The snow melt has begun and this canyon has a charming stream.
At this point the trail begins to get a bit rocky. If you love rocks like I do, this is some of the best part of the foothills- being right up on the rocks, scrambling about.
In summer this is a trickle if it's there at all- now is a good time to be here. The rocks are already slimy with algae and very slippery. I begin to question my judgment about wearing running shoes. Getting on top of this takes a little fancy foot work, a couple graceless splashes and some foul language. Should have worn hiking boots.
If you come here in summer, you probably won't make it much further. It's not that the water has stopped flowing, it's that it's mostly flowing through the sand. As such, the paths are muddy and impassible from the overgrown folliage. Also, it's mosquito city. Now is the time to go.
My first wildlife of the day is a bug.
This is actually the first time I've made it this far, having always tried and failed in summer. I figured the canyon would go on for miles, but it turns out that it opens up pretty quickly. This is the last of it.
The sound of water flowing is still present, but it's being taken over by something else- birds! Lots of birds. Infact, the most prevalent is hummingbirds. They're here! Ladies and gentleman, fill your feeders.
Trying to catch a picture of these birds is reminding me of how skilled/lucky nature photographers are. I see lots of birds and have my camera ready just as they fly behind something.
These two were fairly obliging. Shortly after this shot, the wide canyon split and I headed up the center of the forks. Two hummingbirds (one chasing the other) flew straight down the path toward me and came within an inch of my right ear!
Many plants are blooming up here. When some people think of the southwest they think of saguaros. People more familiar with NM think of cholla and prickly pear. I ask you locals, what do you make of this?
This is what hiking in the foothills really looks like. One big hill in front of you, the south face of the Sandia range behind that. Of course, if you get on top of the big hill, there's an even bigger one behind it, but that's another day's death march.
I'm pretty sure that's a jay. Further, it's probably wondering "Am I going north or south? I'm so confused"
Did I mention birds are tough? If you look closely you'll see bird back. That's a red shafted flicker- a beautiful woodpecker with intricate spots on its back and red under its wings when spread. There's a few other varieties, but the red shafted type is the one I see here the most. I wait for a minute to see if I can catch him in flight before giving up. The moment I put the camera down he flys away.
If you look at any of these boulders close up, they're really very intricate. The camera angle doesn't show the crystals to great advantage, but they're all over the place. Lichen, too. I climb on top of this one (it's about 15 feet tall and at the top of a hill) and have some water. Here is a nausea-inducing panoramic video from this vintage point.
You ever play the cloud game where you watch the sky and see shapes in the clouds? You can do the same thing with rocks. Here we have my friend Stef's nose on top and a turtle head at the bottom.