Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sandia Peak Run, via the La Luz Trail, Albuquerque N.M. 10-16-2013

The Sandia Crest, east of Albuquerque, rising 5,000 feet from downtown, (5,400 feet to 10, 600).
The La Luz trail doesn't skimp on switchbacks, 31 by my count. It's 7.2 miles from trail head to the summit, complete with gift shop and antennas at the top. I prefer a steeper, straightforward approach, but the flattened angle due to all the switch-backing does make this trail very runnable. I ran most of it, but hiking a bunch of the "rock slide" sections to avoid tripping. I stopped to snap a few photos along the way, but tried to make up the time. My rule on photos: any stoppage must be redeemed by immediately sprinting to make up any lost time. The system seems to work. My heart rate slows while taking photos and the sprinting is a painful incentive to scrutinize my artistic sentiments. It make me a frugal photographer and forces luck rather than science to catch a decent shot. As you can see, I'm not very lucky.  

Granite-boulder-heaven along the La Luz.

Definitely a high desert. This and the following photo were shot at 7,500 feet. In comparison, that is 1,000 feet higher than the base of Snowbasin and 600 feet higher than Park City.

A zoomed shot from about 2,000 feet below the crest.

There is no science in my photography. I'm squatting because I thought my head was out of frame. The trail enters the deep cleft on the right where it zigs and zags up through the boulders sloughing off the granite towers. In hind site I should have gone straight up those boulders and shaved much time and distance. Plus I like boulder hopping.

Signs at the base of the 'Rock Slide' where the trail switchbacks about ten times through a boulder field.

Our legal system trying to save the world.

Topping out on the Sandia Crest. Frosted trees from the nighttime fog and freezing temps.

It was surreal to run/hike 7.2 miles, gaining 3,500+ vertical feet through some pretty wild terrain only to top out and find a parking lot full of cars, a restaurant and a gift shop. I was freezing, so went inside to warm up and in the process scared a few customers with my sweat-soaked attire and dazed look. And that's my happy look. You should see me when I'm totally gassed! At least I was wearing a shirt. After warming, as I started back down toward the trail, an old man in the parking lot told me most folks catch a ride or take the tram back down, "nobody runs up AND down the La Luz."  

Indian blankets made in Shanghai.

Albuquerque from the Sandia Crest. The tramway cables are on the other side of the ridge.

From near the 'Gift Shop' the La Luz trail can be seen about 1,000 feet below in the 'rock slide'.

Taking the fall.

New Mexico was about two weeks behind Utah, autumn wise . On my return on Friday (Oct. 17) I drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon to see the leaves and the aspens were bare.

The notorious "rock slide" of the La Luz trail.
The easy way down, but it would have left me 2 miles from my car at the La Luz trail head, and that feeling of failure for not finishing my run. I ran back down. The cold temperatures in sweaty clothes was worse than the downhill pounding.

If I lived in Albuquerque I'd live here, assuming I had a huge trust fund, or ran a meth lab. But running a meth lab is SO pass√© in Albuquerque!  One enterprising chap even runs a 'Breaking Bad' tour through town. I opted to run the La Luz instead of taking the tour. 

My version of driving buzzed: taking photos at 55MPH. That's the Sandia Crest from Tramway Blvd. It's a 5,000 foot vertical rise to the summit from this road. My run didn't burn enough time; back to that manky hotel room and it's still day light.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Albuquerque for a work assignment. Out of town work assignments usually mean a full day at work followed by "networking" into the wee hours of the morning. Golfing followed by drinking. Overpriced food followed by drinking. And bar hopping followed by drinking. I'm not a drinker so I hate corporate networking. It's phony and I don't like watching dickheads get intoxicated. Don't misunderstand, I don't care if you drink alcohol, just don't do it excess, don't do it in the name of business and don't ask me to watch. I don't drink, and most networking opportunities I've attended turn into a frat-party-like-binge given the drinks are on the company tab and the employee is out of sight of the responsible spouse.

A previous boss once told me I had to attend one of these "networking opportunities", although she knew my drink of choice was no stronger than Mt. Dew. She told me it would "further my career like no other opportunity". I went, enduring 12 hours of idiocy at the hands of company managers and executives and, in hind sight, my presence was only requested so I could be the designated driver. The night was hell and it did nothing for my career. It was like skiing with four beginners with bad knees: lots of bragging at the start, soon followed by whining and stupid comments and inane accusations. I had better things to do. The only benefit to watching executives get totally blasted is you can speak your mind with impunity, never fearing repercussions because they're too far gone to remember the conversation.

I've concluded there are two types of drunks: dozers and yellers. Both are pathetically stupid when intoxicated. Dozers sit like slugs, eyes rolling back in their heads, slipping in and out of consciousness. When they resurface they repeat the same stupid comment over and over and over.

Dozer Drunk (eyes barely open and in mumbled tones): "You know . . . Houston has much better restaurants . . ..(belch) than Salt Lake City".
Me: "Yeah, but the problem with Houston is that it has no mountains, and it's in Texas".
Dozer Drunk (eyes bugging out because her homeland might have been disrespected): "What's wrong with Texas!!?"
Me: "There's nothing wrong with Texas, other than it has no mountains".
Dozer Drunk (deflecting the subject): "Did you know that Texas (pausing for pained thought). . . is the only state in the union (hiccup) . . .  that has the option of succeeding from the union"?
Me (sarcastically): "Really, I have NEVER heard that". (I've actually heard that about 5 billion times.)
Me (again): "But if Texas actually succeeded from the union, who would Texas A&M play"?
Dozer Drunk (eyelids  barely open): "Why . . . we'd play SMU and Oklahoma. . . because Oklahoma is really part of Tex . . .(voice trailing off, eye fluttering, and out).

Yellers are the pricks of the workforce force and alcohol only amplifies this fact. They yell everything because it makes them appear bigger and far more important than they are. They're all the more annoying because, while sober at work, they never shut up about employee safety, diversity, respect, bullying, employee health, and strict adherence to the corporate bottom line (incidentally, the liquor tab that night, for four employees, including my three Dr. Peppers, came to over $500). When drunk, their true selves emerge: 

Yeller Drunk: "WHY THE F*CK CAN"T MORMON'S DRINK BOOOOOOTHZE"? (slurring because he's also fighting sleep.)
Me:  "Why do you care what Mormons drink"?
Yeller Drunk (a bit testy now):  "WELL, WHY THE F*CK  ARE MORMONS SUCH SEELLFFFFF (slurring again) RIGHTHHHEOUS ATTHHHOLETHZ"?
Me: "So if I don't drink I'm a self-righteous asshole"?
Me: "I have much better reasons than religion for NOT drinking, but, for one, I don't want to look like a dumbass".
Yeller Drunk (eyes popping, like "did I just get called a dumbass"?): "MORMONZZZ . . . (his yelling fades, and he turns away and starts yelling at someone else).
Me: "Thanks for that scintillating conversation".
Like I said, I was safe, anything said was already forgotten.
But back to Albuquerque. I was invited to go drinking but I opted out. No way. I learned my lesson. My plan was to drive up to Taos and run/hike up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico (13,161 feet). Wednesday was a short work day and my co-workers were going drinking/ golfing/drinking so that was my day to hit Wheeler Peak, but as fate would have it the weather was cold and snowy up near Taos Ski Area, the trail head for Wheeler.  It would have to be plan "B", a run up the Sandia Crest, on the eastern side of Albuquerque, via the La Luz trail. La Luz is 7.2 miles one way with a vertical rise of around 3,500 feet. It has too many switchbacks and would be a great mountain bike trail albeit too technical for most (myself included) due to the endless rock-gardens born from the endless granite boulders, domes and towers. It made for careful running so as not to trip. So I ran it. Up in 1:55 and down in 1:40 (taking too many pictures). Slow! Next time I'm sure I could cut off 20 minutes in both directions.  Familiarity means time, but racing also means you see nothing but the trail at your toes. Sometimes one must stop and smell the granite.           

1 comment:

  1. Oh MAN---I don't know when I've laughed so hard! I have actual tears in my eyes! Owen, this is the BEST!