Armijo Trail is a little over two miles long, located on the eastern slope of the Sandias. Richard and I made the hike on a warm Saturday afternoon. We turned it into a loop by taking the Faulty Trail north to the Cienega Trail and returning to the parking lot on Cienega and the access road. This trail was about the same length as the Cienega Trail we had hiked the week before, but the elevation change was much less.
Armijo Trail starts with a walk down an old paved road. It’s amazing how narrow roads used to be. We are used to wide expanses of concrete and asphalt, but this was just a narrow ribbon of tar-and-gravel. Two lanes, if one can judge by the double yellow stripe down the middle. I’ve been on old stretches of US 66 in Oklahoma, with the same narrow feel, especially compared to the Interstate that is sometimes only feet away.
This particular road led to a loop around a picnic area. Back then they used natural materials in the area for building. The stone wall looks good even after the area has not been used for years. Today I’m sure the retaining wall would have been built of concrete. Much faster, perhaps stronger, but not nearly as aesthetic.
One highlight of this hike was the profusion of wildflowers. We found flowers blooming all along the trail, in sunny meadows, in shady areas, in the woods. I may come back and edit this post and label the wildflower pictures, once I figure out what they are.
The greatest highlight of this hike was the wildlife. It started slowly, but built to a climax, as any good adventure should. (Click the thumbnails to see a larger photo.)
A beautiful butterfly was fluttering around. He was obliging enough to stay still for a second – long enough for me to snap his picture.
Later in the hike Richard saw a suspiciously fluttering dry leaf. It turned out to be a cleverly camouflaged moth.
While not exactly wildlife, we met a couple horses (with riders) coming up a hill we were descending. In the woods, the smaller life forms scurry out of the way of the larger ones. We scurried!
Coming down a Ponderosa Pine right in front of our eyes was a gorgeous Abert’s Squirrel! these are large squirrels, with a huge fluffy tail. The body is dark gray, and the tail has two stripes that are light gray, almost white. The Abert’s is about the size of a skunk, and with the striped tail, I initially thought that’s what it was. We saw several of these in the trees and running along the ground. Beautiful!
“Dad, there!” … “Where?” … “No, BEAR!”. Richard got a good look, but I was further back on the trail and only saw a bear-shaped shadow moving away through the woods. I was all for trying to get closer for a picture, but Richard convinced me of the folly of that idea. Later, I saw what I am sure were bear tracks beside a spring, and sign that a bear had been digging for grubs.
“Dad, come here. There’s a snake crossing the trail!” Sure enough, a large Hopi rattlesnake was slowly making his way across the trail and under a couple logs. I was snapping away when suddenly he got camera-shy and JUMPED! He is coiled up, hissing, rattle blazing away, head in a strike posture! We jumped, too, almost as fast as the snake! I got a couple photos (using the zoom, of course), before we left, not wanting him to get more upset.
I’m pretty sure I saw a Townsend’s Solitaire up over my head. He was sitting on a branch. No photo as I don’t have a telephoto lens suitable for taking bird pictures.
Close to the junction of Armijo and Faulty trails we found a pool with lots of travertine deposits. We were actually looking for Torro Spring. This looked like it might be it, but according to the trail map Torro Spring was about a quarter mile further on. Sure enough, more exploration showed water uphill, so the spring itself could not be in the pool.
The stream feeding the pool disappeared, but I continued to follow the GPS to the coordinates of Torro Spring. The extra trek paid off, as we found a beautiful forest pool. Torro Spring was a little was uphill, as evidenced by the stream feeding the pool. As I was following the stream to its source, I saw the bear tracks. Leaving off playing Dr. Livingstone, we returned to the trail for the trip back.
We followed the Faulty Trail to the north. There were no encounters with bears, snakes, or mountain lions. At the junction with the Cienega Trail, we made the descent down to the Cienega picnic area and followed the road back to the car. Along the way I took a detour along the Cienega Nature Trail. This is a short paved trail beside the Cienega Meadow. It is designed for blind people to be able to appreciate. The signs are in Braille, and most describe aspects of the stop that can be sensed with sound and touch.