Monday, June 18, 2012

This was the largest group I have hiked with, yet. I believe there were almost 20 of us, split up into two ASCHG vans. After loading up at the center in Albuquerque, we made our way to the Red Canyon Campground (and trail heads) on the east side, and almost all the way to the south end, of the Manzano Mountains in the Cibola National Forest.

Once at the campground, we parked near the Spruce Spring Trail Head. Elevation at the trail head is 7,903 feet and at its intersection with the Crest Trail elevation is 9,128 feet. We hiked 3.6 miles up this trail, taking time to check out the spring this trail is named for (see pics). At the intersection with the Crest Trail, we had climbed 1,299 feet in a little over 2 hours. Even with all that elevation gain, the grade was only 6.4%, so it didn’t really feel like we worked that hard to get to the crest.

By that time, it was close to lunch, so we hiked a little further up the trail to a nice overlook area and took a much deserved break. Wild turkeys were spotted just below the overlook, but I was late to the party, so missed out. I am beginning to believe I am critter-ly challenged! 😦

After lunch, we headed back down the Crest Trail, but, after only a short distance, we took a left fork onto another trail, of which I do not know the name. This trail ran almost parallel to, and a little downhill from, the Crest Trail and it was on this trail that we had our close encounter with three horses and their riders coming the other way (see second video). I believe the riders were doing trail maintenance, which is always nice to see. More volunteers doing their thing. Pretty amazing!

After hiking 1.5 miles, we came to the intersection with the Red Canyon Trail. The elevation gain on this leg was only 595 feet and about the same grade as the first leg, but took about an 1.3 hours due to the horse encounter and simply being bogged down after lunch. That being the case, another break was in order! 🙂 Some of us (me included)  still had enough energy and determination to hike up to the overlook area for another top-of-the-world view, while the rest plopped themselves down in the nearest shade and took it easy until we returned.

Once we got on the Red Canyon Trail, it was all downhill, which gave us a much-needed break from climbing. This last leg was 2.8 miles and took 1.8 hours. The elevation dropped 1,778 feet and had a grade of -11.7%, so good thing we weren’t going the opposite direction! This trail was  wider than the narrow trails we had to deal with on the first two legs and was much easier on us. Ran across the remains of a wild turkey, which amounted to a heck of a lot of feathers. Not sure what did the turkey in, but there were feathers all over the place. Also hiked next to rock faces, a small cave, and a dry stream feeding a dry waterfall — fitting since a number of hikers in the group were now water-less, as well! 😉

All in all, the loop was 7.9 miles, took us 5.25 hours to complete, with total vertical climbing of nearly 2,000 feet. It was a great hike and a great workout with another great group of people!

Here are my hiking companions for this trip:

Here is our close encounter of the horse kind:

Here are the pics for this trip. Just click on the first one to start the manual slide show. If you would like to leave a comment, you may do so at the bottom of this page.