We have gone back and forth over our time hiking about how best to remember our hikes. Way back in college when I first started hiking I went out and purchased a black moleskin notebook. In it I wrote the stats of each hike and a little synopsis almost like a journal. It is safe to say that I was rather poor at keeping it updated even though I kept it for years. Then there was scrapbooking which my wife loves. She used to make scrapbook pages for all of our hikes but the more we hiked and the busier we became with life. It quickly became an unsustainable system. We have used digital systems like the All Trails app which is convenient but not a great way to look back on your trips.
The whole purpose of creating this site is to share how we manage to go hiking and outdoors while still maintaining a “normal” or traditional life. We both have normal full time jobs, with a mortgage, and car payments. So to that end the way we remember our hikes reflects that. We maintain a hiking photo collage.
Instead of it being on your traditional canvas print or in a frame we decided that it would be more fun to display them on a larger and ever evolving scale. Our gear closet is located under our stairs- think Harry’s room from Harry Potter- so we had the brilliant idea to install a roll of cork on which to display our pictures. After each and every hike we go through and pick out our favorite picture or the picture that reminds us the most of that hike, sometimes this can be difficult as we both take a ton of pictures. We print the winning photo and write on the back the trail we hiked, the date, elevation gain, and mileage. Then the picture gets pinned up on the board. So every time we go into our gear closet we can see all of the memories we have made out hiking.
The Canon MX 492 is a little pricier for a printer but we wanted one that supports wireless printing via iPads. The Canon Glossy Photo Paper on the other hand is super affordable at only ten cents a page. So after each hike we go through the pictures we took and do some editing. We then pick our favorite and directly from my iPad I send it to the printer. Then the wife writes the info on the back, I have crappy handwriting. The picture goes up on the board and in about five minutes we have a way to remember our hike or trip.
Our hiking photo collage just seemed like an economical, efficient and fun way to keep our memories somewhere that we knew we would look at on a regular basis, we even hang up our dog leashes in there so we literally get a look every night. We easily take 30-50 pictures per hike so even keeping the pictures organized on our iPads is starting to become a bit of a task. There are other ways that would better showcase all of our trips such as printed photo albums or scrapbooks but those would quickly become more time consuming than the hikes themselves. With our photo collage we keep the focus on the hiking and making the memories not memorializing them. Plus with our memory board in our gear room the best time to remember is as we are planning out our next trip to add to the college so the focus stays on making memories. It is a really fun, easy, and quick way to remember our trips.
After a couple of big weekends in a row we decided to take it a little lighter. We also had “normal” life stuff going on Saturday so we decided to make the drive up to Sandia Crest on Sunday and do a short hike. The Sandia Mountains are an interesting place. Along the west side of the mountains are some of the area’s most famous trails such as La Luz which is about 13 miles and 3,500’ of elevation gain up to the top. But what makes it kind of funny is that you can drive to the same point via the east side of the mountains.
Our trip got off to a rough start right from the beginning. We slept in pretty late after festivities the night before. I think we finally left the house around 9ish. We went to make our quick trip to Starbucks for the customary pupcups for the dogs. Well Ripley, the German Shepherd, has gotten pretty accustomed to her pupcups and a little impatient. As I was pulling out of the Starbucks she climbed up on the center console to try and reach her pupcup. At almost the exact same time someone cut me off so I had to slam on the brakes. Which equaled a flying German Shepherd who exploded one of our coffees all over the front of the car. Of course we had to turn around and get a replacement coffee. Then it was back to the house to clean the car up and try to restart the trip.
Once the coffee was cleaned up as best as we could manage we took back off to the Sandia Crest. It was right at an hour drive in most of a circle to go around the mountains and then back up to the crest. Once at Sandia Crest we found colder temperatures than expected and some significant wind. The car said it was 36 degrees out but it felt well below freezing and colder even than our day on Deception Peak. We went to use the facilities at the trailhead before starting our hike with signs on the door stating that they were maintained by the shop at the crest. I am not sure why they claimed them because even for vault toilets they were literally the nastiest I have ever seen.
So several minor tragedies managed we finally got to set of our hike. We planned to follow the North Crest Trail (Trail 130) a short two miles north from Sandia Crest, the high point of the mountains, to the North Sandia Crest which is a point at about 10,430’. The hike really wasn’t the best and was solidly rock and with plenty of tree roots. Tree roots were all over the trails in Arkansas but are a rarity in New Mexico. I don’t know if the dogs were just fired up from being cooped up while we were gone the day before or what but they were not good hiking companions. Ripley managed to apply just the slightest pressure on her leash that caused me to trip over a rock or root.
The trail really wasn’t that good but it did have a bunch of off shoots to lookouts from the mountain back over Albuquerque. The North Sandia Crest actually didn’t have much in the way of views due to trees but several of the lookouts before provided a great background for some nice photos. We turned around and covered the short mileage back home including a small side trail adventure. All in all we ended up doing 4.6 miles with 733’ of elevation gain in 1:42. On the way home we stopped at Brickyard Pizza and grabbed a green chili Lobo Pizza for lunch which might have been the high point of the trip.
Sadly this hike was meant to just be a nice easy one that we could fit into an otherwise busy weekend but it really didn’t deliver. I guess you can’t win every weekend and we have had some great trips over the last couple of months. Usually our dogs are solid on hikes. Lilly the Siberian Husky has a knee issue so she is capped at 4-6 miles but they pups did not make this an easy trip. Hopefully we can turn the luck around next weekend and have another great trip.
I have worn Saucony Kinvara running shoes for about five years now and they have been my favorites. So when I recently saw the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail running shoes which are a very similar pair of shoes to the Kinvara just for trail running I decided to give them a try. I am glad I did because I absolutely love the Saucony Peregrine ISO train runners. Now that I am nearing 100 miles I think I can do a detailed review of the Saucony Peregine ISO trail running shoes.
Overall Specs The Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners are a neutral shoe with a mid arch. The heel stack height is 22.5mm with a drop of 4mm to the toe. The basic specs of the Peregrine are almost identical to the Saucony Kinvara that I still wear for paved running. My pair is a size 10 and I think they Saucony Peregrine ISO runs pretty true to size as 10 US is my most common shoe size. I think the toe box is definitely adequate but I don’t have wide feet by any means. I definitely wouldn’t say the Peregrine has the “oversized” foot box that is common on some trail runners. Saucony claims 298g for the Peregrine ISO and my shoes come out to 304g and 298g each without any insoles. I removed my custom ones for the weighing but have no clue where the originals are now.
Sole If there is a single selling point of the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners it is the sole. Saucony has names for their technology in each section of the sole with the EVERUN topsole, PWRFOAM midsole, and the PWRTRAC outsole. I can’t exactly explain how you can feel all of these different technologies while running or hiking but I can tell you the Saucony Peregrine ISO has a great feel. They have a nice flex to the shoe and a little bounce to each step while still providing enough cushioning on uneven terrain. There is not a rock plate on these shoes but I have yet to have an issue with that even while hiking some decent mountains in New Mexico. I have used the Saucony Peregrine ISO for just shy of 100 miles so far which has been a mix of trail running, road running, hiking, and casual wear.
The sole has huge 6mm lugs that provide phenomenal traction. I have literally never slipped or lost traction while wearing the Saucony Peregrine ISO. I would not call them a great all around runner as they definitely feel over built for normal surfaces but the moment you get off the asphalt the Peregrine comes completely into its own and I have really enjoyed running in them. So far, the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners seem to be standing up pretty well. There is a little wear to some of the outside lugs on each shoe but nothing I consider out of the norm for being 20% through their lifespan.
Upper The upper on the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners is exceptionally comfortable. Through 100 miles it has survived several accidental rock scrapes without any damage. The upper is also the weak point for anyone who wants to use the Saucony Peregrine ISO for more of an all around trail hiking shoe. Saucony calls the upper ISOfit dynamic. I would call it almost a sock upper. The tongue on the Saucony Peregrine ISO is attached on the sides so that when you lace them up you end up with a sock like wrap around your foot, it is pretty comfy.
The heel cup is rock solid and I’ve had no movement issues from the heel and therefore 0 blisters while wearing the Peregines even on big days. Around the toe there is a lot of mesh which does allow good air flow and I haven’t had any issues with overly sweaty feet. The mesh does tend to let in a decent amount of sand/dust but that’s a fair trade off. The Saucony Peregrine ISO is not a Gore-Tex shoe although Saucony does still offer a Gore-Tex version of the predecessor Peregrine 8 trail running shoe. Personally I am not a fan of Gore-Tex for running shoes. I always end up with hot sweaty feet wearing Gore-Tex so I might as well have just soaked my feet anyways, plus if they do get wet it takes FOREVER for them to dry. Overall I am actually pretty happy that Saucony chose to forgo the Gore-Tex for the Peregrine ISO.
Where the upper leaves a little to be desired is lateral support. I have worn the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners for several loose scramble climbs and they do great on the way up. But on the descent you feel like your foot might roll off the side of the shoe under load. I would really like to see a bit more of a locked down feel to the upper through the mid and front of the foot. I think for most trail runners this won’t be much of an issue but for someone who is looking for a bit more of an all around trail shoe, like the Salomon XA Pro 3D, they would fall short. To be fair I know these shoes are in completely different categories but I love the overall feel of the Saucony Peregrine ISO that I wish it could be my go to shoe for all hikes.
Insole I simply mention the insole because this is one thing that I change out on every pair of shoes I own and the Saucony Peregrine ISO was no exception. I use SuperFeet semi-custom insoles that get fitted to your feet at running stores. This means I can’t comment at all on the insoles in the Saucony Peregrine ISO because I never used them.
Final Thoughts I really can’t say enough good things about the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners. I wish I could make them into all around trail shoes but that just isn’t what they are designed for. But for trail running and light, fast hikes they perform perfectly and are extremely comfortable. These shoes are wonderful on every unpaved surface I’ve taken them on. The tread is overkill for paved running but provides a great grip on everything from loose dirt, to snow, to rock. They aren’t horrible on the wallet at $120 and are available online and in stores. The Saucony Peregrine ISO is also available in a women’s model under the same name.
For this review I purchased a pair of Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners in a men’s size 10 with my own money from my local REI store.
After my hike of Santa Fe Baldy on Saturday we decided to take a day trip up to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area or as it is more commonly known Bisti Badlands. This trip was actually our furthest one to date as Bisti Badlands is about two and half hours from Albuquerque up in the northwest corner of New Mexico. We got up about 7am and got all of stuff including our Siberian Husky, Lilly, and our German Shepherd, Ripley, loaded up and ready to go. We had to make a customary stop at Starbucks for pupcups, little espresso cups full of whipped cream for the dogs, and then we headed off to Bisti Badlands.
The first trail we went to was the De-Na-Zion section trail that was on the south side of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. The trail was okay but mostly just followed a dry creek bed or arroyo. It wouldn’t have been a bad hike but it was a pretty common hike that can be found all over the southern half of New Mexico. I thought our trail came right next to another one so that instead of the out-back route that was on All Trails we could turn it into a loop. Well I didn’t zoom in enough on the map to realize that they two trails didn’t connect. So we set off on our own to find a way to reach the other trail; which actually ended up being the best section of this trail. We reached the top of the canyon above the arroyo and the view was much better. There were also some interesting rocks that Bisti Badlands is famous for.
We followed our new path down a dirt road back towards the car. Somewhere along the way we missed a turnoff, probably at the point where we saw some deer lounging in the sparsely shaded area, and our dirt road took us out to the main road and not the parking lot. Rather than retrace our steps we climbed under a barbed wire fence and followed the main dirt road that runs along the southern edge of Bisti Badlands back about a quarter of a mile to the trailhead.
It was safe to say we were rather unimpressed with our first taste of Bisti Badlands but we figured we drove a long ways to get here we might as well check out the rest and I’m glad we did. We drove roughly 30 minutes to another trailhead on the west edge of Bisti Badlands to hike the Bisti Badlands Trail. Although calling this a trail is definitely a bit of a misnomer. There really isn’t a trail at all. Basically this section of Bisti Badlands is like another planet. It is barren and interesting shades of red, white, black and brown that you don’t normally see. Spread throughout this crazy landscape is a bunch of unique rock formations and you basically just wonder from rock formation to rock formation in whatever pattern pleases you.
The best part is that outside of the special rock formations you are free to climb up and over whatever you want. We basically spent most of time in Bisti Badlands climbing through a series of canyons that reminded me of a smaller version of Tent Rocks National Monument. In hindsight it might have been a bit more on the rough side than we had meant to do with the dogs in tow. There were a few times that I had to perform pup lifts, in particular with Lilly the Husky who was not a fan of the crevices. We then hiked a little further into the Bisti Badlands before looping around the outer side to head back towards the car. We then piled everyone in and started the drive back to Albuquerque.
It was cool to see another side of our new home state. One of the biggest selling points of New Mexico is the crazy number of vastly difference landscapes. New Mexico has everything from desert to alpine environments and everything in between. I would definitely recommend skipping the first area we went to and going straight towards the Bisti Badlands Trail area. We hiked around 3 miles at each location but I think 6 spent at the second would be a much better use of ones time. All in all it ended up being a solid trip but one that I’m not sure I would feel the need to do again.
I recently picked up a pair of the Black Diamond Mont Blanc lightweight gloves from REI. I was looking for a comfy pair of light, cell phone functional gloves for chillier hikes. It seemed like the BD Mont Blancs might check all the right boxes so I really wanted to like them but I just can’t.
Fit and Comfort I have small hands so a size small in the Black Diamond Mont Blanc fit well. I had chilly not cold temperatures in mind so I was leaning more towards function and to that end I really like the fit of these gloves. They are form fitting but not tight so that I have good dexterity and I can actually get them on and off. The Mont Blancs are also comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The back of the hands has a wind proof layer while the palm has silicone strips for grip.
Cellphone Usage The index finger and thumb pad of both gloves have sections that will work the screens of smartphones. I have used them on both my iPhone and my Apple Watch and both work just fine. Pinching and zooming on topo maps can be a bit of a challenge but is still doable while basic tasks are easily done with the Black Diamond Mont Blancs. I haven’t had issues with accidentally tapping the wrong icon even on my smaller Apple Watch.
Warmth So far my review has been pretty positive and like I said, I actually really wanted to like the Black Diamond Mont Blanc gloves. Sadly everything falls when it comes to their warmth factor. According to the packaging the intended temperature range for the Mont Blanc’s is 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t even come close to that. My hands feel cold after 30 minutes out in the high 30’s. I have used them on my hikes such as Deception Peak and Santa Fe Baldy but also while taking my dogs for their nightly walk and ended up with some very cold hands. I wouldn’t trust the Black Diamond Mont Blancs below 40 for hiking.
Summary Like I said I am really disappointed with the Black Diamond Mont Blanc gloves. They seemed to have so much potential. I really like the lightweight design and fit. The cellphone fingertips work well and at only $25 they seemed like a steal. But they just don’t accomplish their primary function which is to keep my hands warm. I will probably keep them around for hikes that have a low around 40 or so but with temps expected to warm up. However, I will definitely reach for a different pair for any activity that has consistent temperatures below 40 degrees.
A Busy Weekend Part 1 With a weird schedule this weekend we actually managed to get in a couple of trips. As someone had to work on Saturday, I went for a solo hike to the peak of Santa Fe Baldy. Santa Fe Baldy is a 12,632’ peak in the Santa Fe National Forest. My planned route was to hike the Winsor Trail (254) to the Skyline Trail (251) then to the summit of Santa Fe Baldy. At a distance of 13.5 miles with 3,517’ of elevation gain it was going to be a long day. My planning was slightly complicated by unknown weather. Depending on which source I looked at I found everything from 28-38 degrees for the day to 38-58. Twenty degrees might not sound like a lot but it really can be in those ranges. Also, the area had received 4” of snow two weeks prior and with relatively cool temperatures I was unsure how much would be left or if it might have turned to ice.
The Trip I got up at 6am and made a quick trip to Starbucks for a little morning pick me up then made the hour and a half drive up to the Ski Santa Fe area inside the Santa Fe National Forest. The drive was pretty easy and I was able to start hiking right after 8am. My car said it was in the high 30’s when I started so I was pretty sure I had more stuff in my 7.6 kilo pack than I was going to need.
The first mile or so is uphill until you cross through a fence and start back downhill. The decline lasts about 2 miles then the route becomes a gentle uphill for a while. This section had a decent amount of snow but it was mostly packed down and a bit crunchy. Traction wasn’t really an issue. I did get out my gaiters to prevent any snow from getting down into my Salomon’s. I had really wanted to use my Saucony Peregrines for this hike but decided against it at the last moment because I thought they might soak through from the snow, it was probably a smart call. This section of the trail was solid but nothing super memorable. There were a couple of creek crossings-one was flowing but the other two were frozen. It was cool to hear the water flowing underneath the ice as you walked right across the stream. Water features are one thing I have definitely come to appreciate in New Mexico as they are few and far between.
From mile 3 to mile 6 the trail continued uphill at a solid incline but nothing that raised the heart rate too much. However, that all changed when I found the signpost and left the Skyline Trail to start the route up Santa Fe Baldy. From the transition from one trail to the top was right at a mile with almost exactly 1,000’ of elevation gain. So safe to say it was a steep mile. The highlight of the trip though was a wildlife spotting. I was just a couple hundred feet from the summit of Santa Fe Baldy when I came over a point and a huge big horn sheep was just standing in the middle of the trail. Then I realized he had a bunch of buddies. There were about 8 or so big horn sheep all over the trail and to the sides. I also realized I was rather close, probably no further than 50 feet or so but the sheep didn’t seem to mind me at all. I thought of the potential newspaper headline of man dies after being rammed off of cliff by sheep... My wife would not have been amused. After taking a bunch of pictures I slowly walked towards them and they just meandered off of the trail to let me pass. A short trek later the incline leveled off and I was at the summit of Santa Fe Baldy.
The views were impressive and I relaxed for 10 minutes or so to have a snack. Right as I was getting ready to leave the sheep got spooked by another hiker’s dog and took off running down what seemed like a sheer cliff. It was pretty amazing to watch and seemed right out of a National Geographic special. It had taken me 3 hours and 20 minutes to summit Santa Fe Baldy so I was hoping to go a little faster on the way out as I still had a 90 minute drive home to deal with. I did a bit of a trot/jog down the steepest sections and tried to stay around 3 mph down the decline. It worked for an hour or so but towards mile 11 or 12 I just lost all momentum and I was ready to be done. The uphill section back to the gate was just a slog. I ran into several rude hikers including one lady who was having a speaker phone conversation while hiking. That really seems to defeat the entire purpose of hiking to me. Safe to say I was worn out and happy to make it back to the car. My trip ended up being 15.1 miles with 3,522’ of elevation gain in a moving time of 5:45 according to Strava run on my Apple Watch.
Summary All in all I would say Santa Fe Baldy is a great climb. The final mile is steep but the views are constant and the summit is pretty satisfying. I will say my hike was helped by phenomenal weather. It probably warmed up to the high 50’s so I was doing sections of hiking through snow while wearing a t-shirt. At the summit there was almost no wind at all. The little wind speed meter I bought off of Amazon for $17, super reliable, was between 1-3.8 mph. I will say the approach miles are a bit rough. It isn’t a bad hike by any stretch but definitely not the most scenic and trudging back 7 miles with nothing to motivate you can be a bit rough mentally. The climb is great but the approach mileage not so great. I would definitely recommend the hike but just be aware of what you are biting off. I got back to my car around 3pm so it was pretty much an all day event. I ran into a lady right below the summit who said it took her 5 hours to reach the top and she was hoping to finish the return trip in 4.5 more.
It definitely felt like a solid achievement to summit one of New Mexico’s 12,000’ peaks. This hike actually ended up being my highest mountain summit to date and the longest hike by mileage and by time. Definitely a big step for me as a hiker. To be Continued...
One of my most used items recently has been the new KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape. I have used normal KT Tape over the last several years for whatever issue has ailed me from plantar fasciitis through knee pain. For those who haven’t used KT Tape before it is precut strips of stretchy, adhesive tape that are used to offer support for injuries. The company recently released the KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape targeted as a hot spot treatment to prevent blisters.
KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape is meant to be used prior to the formation of a blister to prevent it in the first place. The idea being to reduce friction. When you feel a hot spot forming you cover the spot with the Blister Tape and it prevents the rubbing and therefore the blister. When I hiked the Mayan Temple a few weeks back I placed KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape on the back of both heels about halfway through the hike after feeling the friction.
I have recently taken to using the tape as a complete preventative that I put on the night before a hike or activity. KT Tape says that the Blister Tape will last around 2 days, even with showering, and that seems to be about right. KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape is easy to use as the strips are precut and have a band aide like paper backing. Just pull of the paper backing and slap the tape wherever you are feeling a little heat. Once I throw it on I haven’t had any issues with it moving or rubbing off like I have had with Moleskin.
KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape comes in a package of 30 small strips for $10. It is available in black or beige (skin colorish) and comes in a plastic carrying case. The case is useful if you want to throw it in a gym bag so that the roll of tape doesn’t get all messed up. I can’t recommend KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape enough. It has saved me from blisters on several occasions now, it is super easy to use, and pretty cost effective at 33 cents per strip. I keep a coupe strips in my medical kit and in each of my survival kits just in case.
On Sunday, 11/03/2019, we set out to hike to the top of Deception Peak. The goal was for this to be our first winter hike as Santa Fe, NM received about 4” of snow in the week before. Being from Arkansas originally we have done absolutely no snow hiking. So we got up around 6am, the extra hour of sleep was awesome, so that we could grab Starbucks and be on the road to Santa Fe by 7am. The drive took about a hour and a half to reach the trailhead in the Santa Fe National Forest and right by Ski Santa Fe. We were only the third car at the trailhead. We got loaded up and started around 8:30am with a temperature of around 30 degrees.
The first mile is a gradual uphill through a pine forest. There was a stream right by the start that was frozen over but you could hear the water running underneath the ice. At the mile-ish mark we hit a fence. At this point we were supposed to make a sharp right hand turn to go up Raven’s Ridge but we missed the turn and continued on until All Trails alerted us that we were off course. We turned around and located our turn on the second try. There seemed to be about 2” of snow still left so we put on some REI low hiking gaiters that we had purchased the week before to keep snow out of our shoes. It was definitely a good call.
We followed the trail down a barb wire fence on a gradual uphill for another mile before making another sharp right hand turn to head up towards Deception Peak. We saw our first few views on this section of the trail including frozen Nambe Lake down below. That might be our hiking objective next week. We hiked upwards for the next mile or so up to about 12,000’. The trail has two slight downhill sections to break up the ascent but we could tell they would be a pain coming back.
Once we broke through the tree line the wind picked up like crazy. To the point that it felt like it would almost blow you over. The snow disappeared at this point and it was just a straight hike up loose rock to the ridge and a short walk down the ridge to the summit of Deception Peak. We took a few pictures from the summit and then I decided to give the ridge scramble across to Lake Peak a try. Supposedly this was a class 3 scramble that depending on who you ask was either rather difficult or easy. Safe to say I found it rather difficult. I managed to snake my way back and forth across the ridge looking for a path to the halfway point. Then I encountered a bit of an obstacle that I tried to down climb around. But I decided it was too sketchy for me and turned back. Somewhere along the scramble back I managed to rip the top of my new gaiters. Hopefully I can repair them with some sort of patch.
After I got back to Deception Peak we again trudged through the crazy winds back to the tree line. We accidentally overshot the trail back down and made it most of the way to the top of the Ski Santa Fe lifts. Rather than backtrack through the wind we just made a diagonal path across and hit the trail around the tree line. Then we slipped and slid most of the way back down to the car.
Total distance according All Trails was 7.5 miles using my iPhone. My Apple Watch using Strava came out to 8.4 miles. I like to claim the extra distance using Strava with a moving time of 4 hours and 1 minute which makes for an average speed of 2.1 mph, definitely not blazing fast. On the way home we had to stop at a Ikonic Coffee Roasters for some coffee and bagels! It did end up being a much longer day than expected and we didn’t get home until around 2pm
I will say this hike was a bit of a tough sludge up the hill in the snow. And it was rather disappointing to not get to the top of Lake Peak. But the views from Deception Peak were pretty awesome and I would give our first snow outing a big thumbs up. Other than the crazy winds at the top the temperatures were pretty manageable and we never got too cold. We are both in agreement that Santa Fe might be our new location for a little while. Gear used for this trip (Links are to Amazon) Pack - Osprey Stratos 24L Poles - Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Water Bladder - Osprey Hydraulics LT 2.5L Shoes - Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX Gloves - Black Diamond Mont Blanc Gaiters - REI Backpacker Low (Link to comparable product) GPS - alltrails.com on iPhone GPS - Strava on Apple Watch
Similar to my Survival Kits I have a water filter kit. This is all part of How I Organize my Hiking Gear, which you can read using the link to my older post. But basically I keep all of the gear I commonly use for hiking organized by use and in ready to go Magpul DAKA pouches. This lets me pick a pack based on the hike I’m going to do and then fill it up quickly with the pouches I will need. It makes packing a breeze!
In my water filter pouch I keep everything I need for filtering water while out hiking or camping. The kit is based around the Sawyer Squeeze filter system. I have had a Sawyer Squeeze for years but I recently purchased a Sawyer Micro Squeeze to try. A lot of people have had issues with the flow rate on the Sawyer Squeeze Mini so fingers crossed. I will write a review of the Sawyer Micro Squeeze after I’ve put it through it through some decent testing.
My kit includes these specific items (the links go to Amazon):
For those who haven’t used the Sawyer Squeeze water filter system I would strongly recommend it. If I can manage to work it anyone can. The Sawyer Mini and Micro are available for $20-30 and you can get the original Sawyer Squeeze as a kit with soft bottles and everything you need for around $50.
One must have addition to the Sawyer Squeeze is a better dirty water bag and I can’t recommend the CNOC dirty water bag enough. It has a huge opening on one end that allows you to fill the bottle from any source in seconds. Fold the opening over and close the slider and you can easily carry around 2L. To filter water from it you simply unscrew the other end and screw it directly into the Sawyer Squeeze. Then turn it upside down and you are filtering water. The included Sawyer soft bottles will work but the small opening can make filling them from certain water sources an act in patience.
I use a hydration bladder when I hike so I like to carry a Sawyer soft water bottle and the thread adapter so that you can filter clean water into the soft bottle. Then you can take the soft bottle and pour the water into your hydration bladder. I have found it to just be a mess to try and filter water directly into into a soft water bladder. Because I have heard of the issues with the Sayer Micro Squeeze jamming up I bring the included syringe with. It is used to backflush the filter by pushing water in the opposite direction you filter water. This is to clean the filter out and restore flow rate.
This whole system including the small Magpul DAKA pouch (6”x9”) weighs in at 259 grams. For those who are curious the Sawyer Micro Squeeze by itself weighs 66 grams. But the purpose of packing my gear this way is that when I want to have the ability to filter water while hiking I can simply grab my water filter pouch and I know I have everything I will need. One tip though is to keep the CNOC dirty water bag at the top of the pouch. This way you can get it out without having to take everything else out. So if you come across a water source but don’t want to take the time to filter water right then you can quickly fill up the dirty water pouch, throw it into your pack, and then filter your dirty water later when you stop for a break.
This past weekend we hiked Mount Taylor which is an extinct volcano about 50 miles west of Albuquerque on I-40. Mount Taylor tops out at 11,301ft but has a prominence of 4,094ft. I was told to expect some fantastic views and I can say that Mount Taylor did not disappoint. I would actually venture to say this was the best hike to date in New Mexico. It was enough of a challenge but not so difficult that all of the fun was removed. And the views, the views were spectacular. We planned to hike Mount Taylor via the Gooseberry Trail which is the most common route to the summit. All Trails has the route as 6.2 miles round trip with 2,017ft of elevation gain.
Our trip hit a snag called three snoozed alarms at 6am. We both had long weeks so the motivation to get out of a warm bed was not high. Eventually we made it up and on the road with quick stops for gas and coffee. The trip to the trailhead took about 90 minutes. Most of the drive was down I-40 to Grants, NM then onto New Mexico Highway 547 with the last 5 miles down Forest Service Road 193 which was a well maintained dirt road. The trail head was small with only parking for about 5 cars however, we were only the second car there. We got all of our gear on and leashed up our German Shepherd who was coming with for this trip and set off at around 9am with a temperature of around 38 degrees.
The first 1.5 miles of the hike felt relatively flat although it was actually a slight incline. We were in a pine forest that makes for an easy start to the hike. Before we exited the forest we passed through some Aspen groves which I think are the prettiest trees ever. Just look at some of those pictures. Next the hike opened up into a huge field and really started the uphill. It felt weird to be out in a meadow like environment in New Mexico, I mean there was actually grass! At this point our view really started to open up and we get a hint of what this hike will be. The next six tenths of a mile was a solid uphill section that really got the heart rate going but then it eased up for a bit and the the trail wrapped around the mountain. This point had some stunning views of the elevation we still had to gain and of the surrounding hills.
As we continued around we come to see Mount Taylor and across the gully and the couple of switchbacks that lead to the top. I think when you can look across at a mountain and see the trail trace its way up is just one of the coolest sights in hiking. The last 1.2 miles had about 900ft of elevation gain to the summit. The path was a series of three switchbacks that had a bunch of wind exposure. We had to throw our rain jackets back on after warming up earlier. The last switchback provided a bit of a false summit that was a tad demoralizing. However, we only had about three tenths of a mile with not too much incline left to the summit of Mount Taylor.
At the top there is a big summit sign with the mountains elevation. We relaxed for a few minutes to eat snacks and took pictures before starting back downhill to the car. The whole trip took us 3 hours and 13 minutes with 2 hours and 52 of that moving. We covered 7 miles with 2,034ft of elevation gain averaging 2.4mph. We definitely sped way up on the downhill thanks to the German Shepherd tank who wanted to do the return at a solid trot. We stopped at Mount Taylor Coffee Co. in Grants for coffee and a muffin before making the drive back to Albuquerque.
Overall I can’t recommend this trail enough. It had some solid sections of incline but nothing that was just demoralizing or rough on the knees for the descent. Plus who doesn’t love a good series of switchbacks with a wide open view back across the way. The views were fantastic and unlike anything I’ve seen in New Mexico to date. I felt like I was in Colorado. The open fields provided a fantastic view of the Sandia’s and Monzano’s back to the east. Mount Taylor might not be the tallest mountain but its’ prominence completely makes up for it.