February 19, 2015

The Old La Luz Trail is my get-back-in-shape hike after being relatively inactive all winter. At around 6.5 miles round-trip, an elevation gain of 2,000′, and an average grade of 12%, it provides a really good workout.  My first hike was on Feb. 8th. Then hiked it again on the 19th.

I have written about this hike a few times before, but since this is the earliest I have hiked this trail, I wanted to share a few pics of the snow and ice I ran into on the trail. Couldn’t have done it without micro-spikes. A word to the wise right? 😉

Along that line: On my way back down, after I had left the first section of the old trail and was on the Tram Trail headed back to the main trail, I ran into two very elderly gentlemen. They looked like they might have been in their late seventies. One had hiking poles, the other did not. Both were wearing street clothes. Both were wearing street shoes. Neither was wearing a traction device. Okay, I give them credit for even having the gumption to be out there at their age, however…

I was still on the Tram Trail, very close to merging with the main trail, but stepped aside to let them pass. They were negotiating a short stretch of ice, the first ice on the Tram Trail, in fact, the first ice they had encountered since leaving the La Luz Trail Head.

The first gentleman, the one without trekking poles, was holding his hands out trying to maintain his balance as he gingerly made his way across the ice. So far, so good. As the second gentleman passed, I warned them both there was a lot more ice just ahead, longer stretches of ice, and that it got worse the farther up you went, while doing my best to use vocal inflection and facial expressions to infer a sense of danger. The second gentleman just smiled and said they weren’t going far and would be okay.

I went on my way, merged with the main trail, removed my micro-spikes, and headed back down to the trail head. From this part of the main trail, at least for a short distance, you can see the Tram Trail across a ravine, so I kept looking across at the elderly gentlemen as they made their way along the Tram Trail.

As they approached the next ice patch on the trail, I decided I’d better stop and watch them to make certain they got across okay. Again, the gentleman without trekking poles went first, arms outstretched in an attempt to maintain balance. About five feet into the the ice patch… he slipped and fell! I called over asking if he was okay, was he hurt? The second gentleman called back that they were fine. I asked if they needed help. They said they did not.

The one who fell did all he could to recover and regain his footing but couldn’t get enough traction on the ice. Although a fall like that, given his age, could easily have resulted in a broken hip, I could tell by the way he was moving around on the ice he wasn’t hurt. No matter what they tried, the one who fell just couldn’t gain enough traction to stand up. Those two guys tried everything they could think of, even one throwing a trekking pole to his fallen comrade to use for stability, but no matter what, the guy would get partially up and then fall back down.

After watching them for well over five minutes, and after making a second call over to them asking if they needed help, and getting the very same reply, I decided I’d better backtrack, put my micro-spikes back on, and help them recover from their ordeal. At that very moment, another hiker appeared on the Tram Trail, rendered aide, got the poor guy back on his feet, and helped them return to the main trail. And apparently, no worse for wear. Well, maybe a bruised butt! So all’s well that ends well, I guess.

That was a classic example of hikers not being prepared. If you have been on that trail, you know that ravine is steep and rocky, and the trail runs right along the edge of the ravine. When the elderly gentleman slipped and fell, he could have easily gone over the edge. And given his age, and somewhat fragile looking condition, he could have been seriously injured or, had he hit his head on a rock, even killed. This gentleman was very fortunate.

And guess what, the hiker who stopped and helped… he was wearing street clothes, street shoes, and didn’t have a traction device. As I started to turn and be on my way, I heard the hiker (the one who stopped and helped) tell the elderly gentlemen that he (the hiker who stopped and helped) had been up there hiking that very same trail the other day and had slipped and fallen on that very same patch of ice… only he had gone over the edge! Fortunately, he landed in an open patch of dirt, which he pointed out, and didn’t tumble all the way down into the ravine, so he wasn’t hurt in the fall. Yet, there he was… back out there… same trail… same patch of ice… and still wasn’t dressed properly for the hike or for the trail conditions. Didn’t learn a thing. Mind boggling. I mean, what does it take? Go figure.

Okay, I’ve divided the pics up by sections. If you want to see a map of the old trail, with fair-weather pics, and a description of each section, click here. If you want to see more pictures of the main trail, click here.

So check out the pics, and be advised, these conditions can exist on into April, so don’t hike in these mountains during winter/spring without the proper gear and, yes, that means a traction device. And before someone asks, my recommendation for traction would be Kahtoola MICROspikes. That’s what I wear and I don’t see how you could do better.

Click the first pic to start the manual slideshow:

Section 1:

Section 2:

Section 3:

Almost all of this section was clear of ice and snow.


Section 4: