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Off-trail

Day 174: Albuquerque

I didn’t manage to get to sleep until like 4am, but then I couldn’t sleep in until 8 because my roommates got up and started talking and making breakfast and such. So, I got up and started getting ready myself.

This mostly meant packing while my frozen breakfast sandwiches warmed in the oven. (The hostel, running only on solar power, lacks any microwave ovens, so I needed a good hour to defrost them through.)

Margaret and Anna Grace arrived a little after nine as I was taking my clothes off the line. I got them some of the bacon my roommates were cooking and hurried to finish packing so we could get started. Because Anna insisted my mustache was wrong, I took a few minutes to wax it, then all that was left was loading my stuff in the car and taking my bedclothes to the washer.

After a couple of wrong turns, we got on the highway headed out to the eastern side of El Malpais. Our first morning destination was La Ventana Natural Arch. It was an easy stroll from the parking lot to the base, no need to stock up on snacks, though Anna insisted on carrying a banana (and on not being called Anna Banana). I made a very difficult climb onto a tall boulder for a photo so that I had to jump off. Anna pretended that a sloped section of ground was equally treacherous. Kids, eh?

After Anna ate her banana at one of the picnic tables, we set off for the bigger adventure. A few miles south, we turned down Pie Town Rd, then a mile later, hung a left onto a ragged sandy road out into the prairie. Margaret said it was still a better road than the one to her house. We couldn’t go all the way down the single lane road because a truck was parked in the middle of it, but we just waited a couple of minutes for the coyote hunter driving out to walk back across the country. He stopped to tell us about the bear sign he had seen, and Margaret decided to carry protection as a result.

We couldn’t drive much further anyway. The trail into the canyon was blocked to vehicle traffic. So we parked and got snacks and lunch packed up to walk 2.5 miles into the canyon.

It was a pretty easy hike all told, basically level ground. But it was tough for Anna because the sand kept getting in her shoes (no gaiters) and the thorny sticker plants kept leaving pointy bits in her socks and pant legs. Being a child, she found this absolutely insufferable and had to stop often to pick at her socks and shoes. She also did not want to wear her sun hat, preferring to risk a scalp sunburn over getting hot from the lack of airflow over her head. Plus, a two hour walk in the desert is not super entertaining by itself, so she entertained herself by picking bouquets of grass for her mom or just to throw in the air. Eventually, I got bored with holding back my pace, put on some music, and went ahead at a slow but comfortable speed, only stopping to wait every ten to fifteen minutes.

The last break, less than a half mile from the destination, took a lot longer than expected, so I just gave Anna a piggy back ride the rest of the way there.

We had lunch in the dilapidated house (with an oddly new metal roof) we encountered there, then I went on alone to track down the petroglyphs that were supposed to be carved in the canyon. There were supposed to be many more than the two I found on a boulder right nearby, but although I found some areas interesting from a natural beauty perspective, I couldn’t find any other petroglyphs.

So as soon as I got back to the house, we headed out again back to the car. The way back proceeded largely as before with Anna causing delays in the same ways and being just as unwilling to wear the hat. She tried hard at the prospect of the holiday Oreos I had stashed there, but again, over an hour of walking is not the most engaging prospect for a child. So I carried her most of a mile on my shoulders.

It was about a 5 hour little hiking trip by the time we got back to vehicle and started rolling toward Albuquerque. I was out really starting to feel the lack of sleep, so we stopped on the way for a bathroom break and got me to grab some caffeine.

An hour later we cruised into ABQ over a rousing game of I Spy. Despite the 5 mile walk in the sun, Anna did not sleep a wink on the car trip. Our destination was a small Mediterranean restaurant in the Brick Light District. After some running about the parking lot where Margaret was paying the fee and I was injuring myself falling down in a gambit to entertain Anna, we made it safely into the restaurant.

As far as the Greek food went, mine was great. Souvlaki and Dolmades were exactly the reason I had chosen the place. The baklava was about average… neither great nor terrible. Margaret’s kebab was a bit below average in my opinion while Anna’s cheeseburger seemed to be way above average as kids meals tend to go. Although she had no interest in anything but the bun in the long run, they did actually include onions, tomato, and a sizeable serving of melted cheese.

After dinner, we crossed the street for the Insomnia Cookies. I got a regular chocolate chunk cookie I found to be not even as enticing as the one I could have gotten next door at the Jimmy John’s. Not bad, no. Margaret got an enormous peanut butter cup cookie which was equally okay. Anna’s strawberry ice cream, on the other hand, was pretty great.

My hotel was five minutes down the road, and that’s where they left me around 8. I scheduled a 4am wake-up call and a 4:30 airport shuttle when I checked in, then spent the rest of the night in my room hanging on with a friend online while drinking one of the remaining beers I had brought. I should have brought one in with me at dinner because the other one I was never going to drink.

I got to sleep around midnight following a long relaxing shower/bath. Not much time to sleep, but it wasn’t like I would be having a big hike ahead of me.

Tomorrow will be my last daily post for the season. Believe me, I’m as sorry as you are to be back in the real world.

Miles hiked: 5

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