Patience (or Not) of One Sort or Another

by syaffolee

Day 4 (December 28, 2012)

The old man, a volunteer at the visitor’s center at Petroglyph National Monument, seemed to take great pleasure in explaining the park trails in roundabout detail. I only listened with half an ear, impatient to actually get on a trail. It is a fault of mine, to find long, circuitous speech tiresome. If only people would get straight to the point more often. The only exception I’d make would be for storytelling where the method and style of telling may be as important (or more so) than the bare bones plot.

Petroglyph National Monument consists of several discrete sections, wedged off by an encroaching suburbia. The first trail that we drove to, the Piedras Marcadas Canyon, was closed off for the season. But the trailhead itself sat in a strange place, behind a burrito joint and an oil change establishment, winding through people’s backyards.

At Boca Negra Canyon, the most interesting trail was the Mesa Point Trail which squirreled its way to the top of a lava flow 5,280 feet above sea level. Being at the top of the mesa is a far less scary proposition than going up or coming down. But that said, not all the tourists we saw who attempted this ever made it to the top. The steps are narrow and precarious, winding around boulders scrawled with petroglyphs in odd positions. If you’re afraid of heights, you might not even want to start this one.

One lady who gave up climbing to the top told me I had great shoes, making me momentarily confused. No one ever compliments my shoes because they’re always the practical sort. But then I realized that I was wearing hiking boots and she was wearing the sort of flats you’d find on yuppies heading to yoga class.

We ate lunch at Boca Negra, under the hungry eyes of a small chipmunk. Then we hiked Rinconada Canyon, playing hunt and find with the petroglyphs scattered along boulders and rubble which made up the canyon walls. A couple of hikers, deep in conversation, had to back track once they realized they had zoomed past us without looking at the scenery. Parents who brought their kids spent most of their time pleading and cajoling. I could understand why this particular trail would be boring to anyone under the age of fifteen. Some petroglyphs may be obvious but others are definitely less so. It takes patience to find some of them.

By the time my sister and I finished the Rinconada Canyon trail, it was around 3 PM. My sister was eager to see the tramway at Sandia Peak before the sun set and it would probably take too long if we decided to hike the volcanoes trail located at the opposite end of the park. When we got to the tramway station, though, there were warnings that there may be limited visibility at the top of the mountain. But as we were there anyway, we decided to risk that. And by the time we got to the top, the clouds had been whisked away by a brisk, numbing wind.

We walked around a bit, but it was too cold to stick around too long. I tried to send a tweet out at the top of the mountain, but there was no cell phone reception. Briefly, we took refuge at the High Finance Restaurant & Tavern. The appetizers were really mediocre although my sister gave the hot chocolate there a thumb’s up. (She should know, I suppose. She’s been to hot chocolate tasting parties with her friends.) The people at the table next to ours kept on ordering more alcohol and getting more drunk.

We came back down just as the sun started its descent. The light hit the side of the mountain, making the feldspar glow orange-pink. A pair of bobcats loped along the rocks, ignoring the metal gondola overhead filled with photograph-obsessed tourists.

At the bottom, we went to Sandiago’s for dinner. As we had the foresight to make a reservation there, we got a window-side table and watched the sun set over Albuquerque while we ate. The food here was great (I had the Baja Tacos with mahi-mahi and my sister had the Carne Adovada Plate) and I would recommend the place to anyone wanting to eat at Sandia Peak. But as the portions are extremely generous, be prepared to take home leftovers!