Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall in NM

It's everybody's favorite season in New Mexico right now. The temperature is nice, the chiles are roasted and the tourists are keeping Old Town busy.

 A few weeks ago, we celebrated a milestone birthday for Hubbers by backpacking Hermit's Peak outside of Las Vegas. We took a circuitous route up El Porvenir Canyon, looped back over Hermit's Peak and came down the steep Hermit trail.

 The aspen were just beginning to think about turning yellow.

It rained lightly several times in the three days we were out there. But we still managed to get a campfire going so I could bake a birthday cake on it. We made it up and over the peak just before the storm clouds came in.

The birthday gift that I carried for two days in my backpack until I could give it to him.
It's still a bit too warm to be wearing a wool cap with ear flaps, but it should come in handy for skiing this winter. The hat pattern came from a free Ravelry download, but I made the Zia chart. See my project page for details.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Obligatory Balloon Fiesta Photos

It's been half a year since the last blog post and what has happened that finally makes me post a new blog? Balloon Fiesta. This event in my town claims to be the most photographed event in the world. I am no photographer, but I happen to have a camera, so here's some enjoyable photos from Saturday.

The Fiesta introduced a bicycle valet service last year to encourage people to ride there rather than drive. So, we were on our bikes at 5:40 am for an 8.5-mile ride to the park to arrive before sunrise. I have no pictures of that, but it explains the helmet-hair and bright yellow jacket.

Already a couple of hundred balloons in the air as the sun rises over the Sandias.

More balloons are just getting ready to rise.

The view from the field. There are something like 100,000 people and 500 balloons.

 Troy's favorite balloon: Spider Pig

Not sure if Troy is getting stepped on or getting his head licked by "Sam".

My favorite balloon this year: Sam, an upside-down elephant from Brazil.

The Shark and astronaut were new this year too.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Canyonlands, part 2

Here's Part 1 if you missed it. This is a trip we took at the beginning of April. We had just two nights of camping in the backcountry of the Needles district, but that provided enough photographic wonders for two blog posts.

Here's our Chesler Park campsite for the second night. We got there relatively early because it was not a far walk from the first campsite.

After setting up our tent, we headed out for a long walk to find Druid Arch. Troy doesn't agree with the term slick-rock because the sandstone is actually quite grippy, nonetheless this trail started out along the slick-rock that the region is famous for. Just behind Troy you can vaguely see that there is a hole in the ground, a canyon in fact. Our hike was about to take us down into such a canyon.

Here we are at the bottom of the canyon, walking up a sandy wash southward toward Druid Arch.

Eventually, we reached the headwall of this drainage and climbed up a short ladder to reach the arch. It turns out that Druid Arch is part of a fin sticking out of the headwall, so it is impossible to see until you are right next to it.

Looking back toward Elephant Canyon, you can't see the bottom of the canyon with the sandy wash that we hiked in on. You can barely see the hints of treetops poking up from the bottom of the canyon.

Did you notice the gathering clouds in the last couple of photos? If you've read this blog before, you know what happens when we go camping in the desert… that's right, SNOW! (Examples from the past: Carlsbad, Gila, Chiricahua) The final morning greeted us cold and snowy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Geek knitter

It has been a while since I posted about knitting, yet those are always my most popular posts. I had a fun, geeky knitting spree on laptop sleeves over the winter. They're fun to knit because they're just big rectangles which I treated as an empty canvas for colorwork. The three bags I made are different in the type of colorwork I did, the material (type of yarn) and even the construction of the bag. Here's an overview and comparison.

My favorite bag turned out to be this one. It is knit from a self-striping yarn (so no real colorwork there) and then felted. After felting, I needle-felted the metro logo using dyed roving. This is my favorite of the three because it turned out strong and protective for the laptop and it was the easiest to make.

This next one was made for an iPad, so it is a bit smaller and doesn't need to carry as much weight. I used a cotton/silk blend for this bag so that it would not be very stretchy. It looks really cute and the person that I gave it to says it works great. The front and back have different patterns because I've always wanted to knit an argyle pattern.

The last bag is actually the first one I started, but the last to get finished. I learned some lessons from this bag. The space invaders pattern was just too cool not to put on a laptop sleeve! Recently, a guy asked me where he could buy one for his wife… and then asked where he could get the pattern when I told him that I knit the bag. So I like the way the bag looks, but the yarn is too stretchy to carry the weight of the laptop. I had to put in a fabric liner and that took me 5 months. It still doesn't seem quite as strong or protective as the felted laptop bag. But it does look cool, I almost wish I had put space invaders on both sides of the bag instead of the flowers.

You can always get more knitting details and links to patterns or charts from my Ravelry project pages.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Canyonlands, part 1

Can you believe that this place is only about 6 hours from my house but it has taken me 10 years to visit Canyonlands? It lived up to all of my expectations. Of course, we stopped first at Newspaper Rock, which I would re-name Archival Rock because I really don't expect to see new stuff up here each day.

We had two nights in the backcountry in the Needles District and because we had to carry all of our water, that was plenty of time. Here's our first campsite in Devil's Pocket. It turns out that the devil has a bunch of tumbleweeds piling up in his pocket like pocket lint.

 The highlight of the next day was hiking the Joint Trail. Joint means a gap between rocks. This part looks amazingly like a train tunnel:
 Then it gets narrower:
 Finally, we hiked out the end of the trail, then walked back above the trail to have a look. I'm sitting on the edge of the "joint" that I had just been hiking through a few minutes earlier. Amazing how straight, narrow and flat that trail is!

 Here's a nice panoramic of the Needles, overlooking Elephant Canyon. This is a sneak peak of our next day's hike.

Friday, March 30, 2012


A couple of weekends ago we headed down to the Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad. Of course, we stopped by the Caverns first and "explored" the well-lit cave with a mob of other tourists on paved pathways with railings. It didn't really remind me of caving or give me that creepy feeling of being deep underground in an environment that humans simply were not intended to be in. But it is an enormous cavern!

Sunday, we headed out along Isolation Ridge in the Guadalupes. It was 50 degrees, cloudy and windy. Troy asked if it snows much in the Guadalupes. I thought he'd spent too much time in Texas if he thought that 50 degrees and clouds means snow.

 The next morning brought an answer to his question. Apparently he's not crazy.

We were not prepared for this. It was supposed to be warm, so we shivered all the way back to the trailhead. You can't see the 50mph wind in the photo (because we only stop for photos where we're protected from the wind), but you can tell it's there because the snow has been slammed into the sides of the plants not just the top.

After getting home, I asked the internet how often it snows in the Guadalupes and I found the park weather page, which tells me that we're lucky it was only 50mph wind and not 100mph. We were also lucky that it was snow and not a lightning storm. As we drove back down the dirt road that got us to this trail, we were hit with sleet, rain, hail and lightning. Glad we weren't hiking in that!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is February

Winter is my second-favorite season. Fall is indisputably the best of all seasons in New Mexico. However, not everybody agrees about winter being the second-best season. I keep hearing complaints this month about the cold weather. Personally, I have not yet decided yet whether spring or summer is the worst time of year around here - both have their problems, but we'll get to that when the time comes. For now, why I love winter…
February 13, on the 10k Trail in the Sandias
As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what February should look like. And the weather has been quite cooperative this year. This is the trail that inspired me to buy backcountry skis as it often pitches skiers downhill, around curves with trees everywhere. With a few inches of fresh powder on top, it is really a lot of fun. We usually just ski north along the trail for 45 minutes or an hour, then turn around and come back in about the same time. Then head home in time for lunch.

February 18 with WRW at the end of the Jemez Dam Road
Of course, this is also February. What you see in this photo tells me how you'd feel about winter in New Mexico. Do you see a perfect blue sky and dry pavement? Or do you see a bunch of cyclists bundled up in jackets and long pants for a cold winter ride?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winter Trails

Several weeks ago a good friend got an iPhone. She told me that she realized that she'd been denying herself this device for a long time because it seemed extravagant. She wanted me to get an iPhone too because she knew that I secretly wanted one. I thought about it really hard, and realized what I had really wanted for years but hadn't allowed myself to buy… a pair of backcountry skis.

Yes, I have telemark skis and cross-country skis, so I can handle the steep ups and downs as well as flat snow. The problem is that snow in New Mexico tends to accumulate on mountains, not in the flats. The cross-country skis are not terribly useful. Backcountry skis have a similar (but beefier) boot and binding as cross-country, but the skis themselves have metal edges (like downhill skis) are somewhat shorter and more parabolic. With these I can ski most of the same trails that I would hike in other seasons.

While shopping for backcountry skis, I discovered that the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works has an excellent website with descriptions of places around Santa Fe for skiing, biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, etc. Unfortunately, they went out of business last summer but their website is still live for now. Their idea of backcountry skiing is a bit more extreme than mine. Their nice website has inspired me to share here some descriptions of winter trails around Albuquerque that I enjoy. I started with the Ellis and North Crest Trail post. You'll see some more soon.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos of rare cross-country skiing in Albuquerque (from the great snowstorm of 2007).

The foothills 365 trail (January 2007).
The Bosque at Central Avenue with the Bio Park in the background (January 2007).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ellis Trail to North Crest Trail Loop

The snow we got last night was just about perfect for cross country skiing. Around here, snow trails are in the mountains so the terrain can get a bit rugged. Today, we set out north from the Ellis Trailhead in the Sandias. This trail follows an obvious clearing but is not heavily travelled. We cut fresh tracks most of the way.
The trailhead is somewhere way back there.

Cutting fresh tracks through little ups and downs.

Vixen grows an ice beard.

 Eventually (after about 3 miles) we met up with the North Crest Trail and started to circle back. The Crest Trail hugs the ridge of Sandia and so it can get rather windy. The trees grow a bit stunted and unless it has snowed within the past couple of days, there probably wouldn't be much for skiing. It was a bit chilly up there today, but the sun started to come out a bit as we found ourselves on a narrow trail between snow-covered trees.
Winter wonderland.

Enjoying this before we really hit the uphill climb to the crest.

Frosted trees.

Wind-swept aspen.

Enjoying the view to the west.

You might be able to see Bernalillo down there.

All of these trails on the north side of the Sandia Crest trail are pretty quiet and beautiful with fresh snow. We worked our way back uphill past the radio towers to the Crest parking lot and crossed the road. South of the road, we found a lot more people (but it's still not crowded) with wider trails that have more packed snow. From here, it was a quick, fun glide back down the Kiwanis Meadow Trail and Switchback Trail to Ellis Trailhead.