A distance of 231 miles of hiking in 12 days, what are my reflections about my dream of a new National Scenic Trail I call the Four Corners Loop. I am calling this a mini reflection because there is so much that awaits exploration, and I also know that 231 miles is also not insignificant to many.
Unsurprisingly to me the first two sections from Santa Fe to Tijeras with a bonus stop on Albuquerque, and from Tijeras to Socorro went as well as I could plan. With two exceptions both caused by weather and climate. The region is currently in a class 5 drought, the most severe. There was also a large late season snow storm that blanketed the high over 10,000 foot Sandia and Manzama mountains with up to four feet of fresh snow. Fresh snow is not consolidated and has no body weight holding power so post holing up to my thigh caused me to bush “post hole” to the road that leads up to Sandia Crest at 10,600 feet. I then route found my down the West side of the mountains descending over 4,000 feet and half of it was in snow on a steep trail with cliff bands below me.
It took me five days to reach Albuquerque so a rest day with Larry and Marsha parents of my friend Patrick was a must. Remember the drought? Water in this section was very scarce. Only one windmill provided water. I purchased two gallons in Madrid because the town does not drink their water due to the high sulfur content. I then chose to support the local economy at the general store. Madrid is a historic mining town that has been inhabited by artist squatters I was told. It was quite an eclectic town popular with motorcycle riders. Good conservations were had at a distance.
There was a lot of road walking mainly along New Mexico highway 14 due to private property along the route. I can see future negotiations with land owners relocating the route to off highway locations.
Since I did an up and over hike of the Sandia Mountains after leaving Albuquerque Larry dropped me off via automobile at an appropriate stop on the East side to ensure I had a continuous foot path. I took the Fallon trail, a lower North to South trail that had little snow but high in tree diversity. It was such a pleasant walk in the woods.
I quickly passed through Tijeras my first resupply. It is just a post office location and a Subway, not much more to say. There is a Forest Service station where I thought water was available but everything was off and no one was there. From here I took a network of mountain bike and motorcycle trails through the woods and they were enjoyable with many options.
These trails ended when the forest boundary ended forcing me onto another road avoiding private property again. The silver lining was a small grocery where I purchased two gallons of water, and the clerk talked of climbing Liberty Bell in Washington.
After more road walking I “found” my way up to the national forest, discovering two water sources I did not need. My travels brought me higher and higher up into the snow along the crest of the Manzama. Eleven miles of post holing occurred with zest and joy. It gave me a thrill because I love using my well honed trail finding skills. When the trail is obscured, buried by snow I love to call my route an “Animal Path”.
The Manzama Mountains quickly lost their mighty height to the desert below. At the foot of the mountain I found a critical spring near a forest service campground, when a rancher appeared on his ATV stating this was the driest he has ever seen the spring. How would the drought effect the dry 60 mile stretch across the low desert lands ahead?
Just North of US60, on my website you would have seen me diverge from the line shown on my map. I was not lost, but following better route advice learned from the Grand Enchantments Trail (GET). From Alberquerque to Socorro I was basically following the GET. This is a trail that people take from Phoenix to Alberquerque.
South of US60 is a a mix of private ranching land and Bureau of Land Management (BLM - “Bureau of Livestock and Mining”). Actually I passed a wildernesses study area along this section. This section comprised of some cross country travel. I thought avoiding cactus would slow me down, they were easy to avoid. One of the days I even hiked 24.8 miles because it was very windy and there was no use in stopping to camp in the wind so I just kept walking. Couple this with 18 miles the following day only stopping to rest once to reach Socorro. Interesting I think I know why my left foot hurts.
So I am resting in Socorro today, picking up a resupply. My left foot could be an issue, it does have me concerned. I need to take more short rests and not hike for four hours straight before resting.
So in summation is what I hiked so far worthy of a new National Scenic Trail. I say YES! I also know it will get much better and more scenic as I venture along my chosen Animal path.