May 20, 2021, Thursday
4.5 miles, 3,593 ft
I had been hiking every Saturday with my buddy Eric, and I had been wanting to a longer hike on La Luz. Typically, we’d do about an hour of hiking, and then come back down. Eric usually has his Saturdays scheduled to do some chores at the house. So, after taking an annual leave from work, I started to prepare for La Luz immediately after the morning service (6:30 am) on Thursday. My (Korean) church has a daily early morning worship that starts at 6 am. And thank heavens for online worship since the pandemic had started. I no longer feel guilty about not having to drive all the way there.
I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but after some reading and watching of a show where bunch of guys were doing Three Peaks challenge in Korea, I learned of the importance of taking enough electrolyte and water. That’s exactly what I did, along with two oranges and two nutbars. Being a novice hiker, I didn’t have any trekking poles, or anything else that one’s supposed to take on a difficult hiking trip. I wasn’t expecting difficulties. I just wanted to do it longer than a couple of hours.
While on the first part of La Luz, I became curious about the trail ahead of me, so I downloaded an app called AllTrails, and, I immediately became aware all of the trails around me. I later found out the Chimney Canyon Trail wasn’t even on the official map, but AllTrails showed it. The starting point was close ahead of me, so I decided to take it on a whim. Mostly because all of the hikers seemed to be on La Luz, probably all the way to the top of Sandia, perhaps, to the Sandia Crest, and this new trail I was about to take on seemed to lead straight to the top without too many switchbacks. Again, being a noob, I didn’t know better. I just dove in. It forked to the left, and I found that the starting point was practically hidden from the main trail. The starting steps of Chimney was very steep. It was like a hidden ladder from the main trail. My knees don’t usually feel strong, due to some injuries from Taekwondo in my childhood, and many years of kendo practice, but I went ahead one step at a time anyway. As usual, I started to breathe hard, and even though I didn’t feel tired, my body wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted, but I kept on moving. The trail was mostly steep, but you did have a little switchbacks or flat trails along the way. I considered them as a small period of relief, and I appreciated them much more than I did on regular trails. Soon, I instinctively felt the need for trekking pole. I started by grabbing one dry tree branch nearby, and as the incline became even more steeper, I felt the need for another one.
Thankfully, most of the trail was visible, but probably due to the smaller number of people who’ve hiked on the trail, I could see how one could easily get lost. I could feel a rush of adrenaline at the possibility of reaching the top, and I was vigilant about which track I’m supposed to be on. There were at least three or four places, where you’re simply climbing over a narrow field of naturally strewn rocks. And then about the middle of Chimney, I found myself climbing an extremely steep wall of rocks. I went on for a good twenty minutes or so only to realize I was on a wrong path, because I didn’t see an end in sight, and I was pretty high up in a canyon of rocks. I felt I was off-trail, and probably because I was so high up in the area, my phone had a data connection, and I was able to see where I was on the map. At this point, I ate an orange I had brought along, and put all of the skin inside a Ziplock bag and put it in my bag. It indicated I had gone off-trail to north. So, I slowly climbed down, using the same posture I used to climb up, because it was so steep. I threw down two sticks I was using as poles, and was on all four climbing down carefully. I got back on the trail. The last part of Chimney seemed to follow along a rocky ridge on the left side, and then swing around to left and meet a fork.
That turn to left seemed to be the most difficult one. Again, it was mostly rocks in the first part, and then slippery ground due to a good amount rain that came down several days ago. I was able to see the fresh pole marks left by an earlier hiker. Seeing that there were only one set of pole marks, I was guessing that there was just one other person who had done the trail that day earlier. Anyway, I physically couldn’t move more than 3 or 4 steps at a time. I had set my watch on a timer for every 20 minutes for a water break, and was relatively consistent with that. My innards were crying out aloud, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I simply had to keep going. Having had no food that morning other than one nutbar, I was doing pretty good. I wasn’t feeling hungry at all. I wasn’t feeling fatigued, probably due to the adrenaline rush, but I guess it’s more of a dull ache mostly with my legs.
I don’t remember how long it took me to finish that last part, but I looked up and I could see that there was some type of plateau, and on my right, I could see the antennae. I was very close to the top!!
Looking down on my most difficult passage, I took a quick video. It really doesn’t capture much, but the canyon which I had come through felt like some mysterious rite of passage. I felt a great sense of accomplishment at this point.
I was somewhat excited that I would be at the Sandia Crest soon, but I realized this particular trail led around to get there, and I didn’t know how long I was in for more hiking. At the top of this passage, was a long birch tree that was cut down as if someone had laid it down as a resting spot across the visible trail. It was inviting for me to take a seat and rest for a while. I sat down, drank some water, and checked everything. I had felt somewhat dizzy climbing up, and I was breathing very hard, so I rested until my body felt calm. I restarted again by standing up and taking more steps. With the Sandia Crest right side of me, I seemed to be going the opposite way around a large bedrock on the right. I knew I was on the other side of the Sandia mountains, because I was able to see the town of Edgewood, the east side of the mountain.
Not too long after this, this particular trail met North Crest Trail.
The trail seemed familiar. It’s the trail along the top of the mountain that led to Sandia Crest. I had never been on this one, but having seen it on the map, added with anticipation, it felt like the homebound trail. After some coverage, it led to a path right along the fenced area for antennae on the right side, and then finally onto the parking of Sandia Crest. I think I may have spent around 5 hours climbing. Then two more hours waiting for my family to arrive to pick me up.