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Wings over the Manzanos

After spending Friday riding in Albuquerque, Saturday September 28 seemed like a good day to explore the countryside.  I had been curious about a road on the map to Capilla Peak in the Manzano Mountains.  It appeared to go all the way to the crest of the Manzanos, which is unique because most of the high country is designated wilderness.  But the road to Capilla Peak was not, which meant I could ride my bike there.  I headed east out of town through Tijeras Canyon, crossing over to the eastern flank of the Manzano range and headed South towards the town of Manzano.

(This song is named Albaycin, which is a district in Granda, Spain.  Since the Manzanos were named after the Spanish word for apples, it makes a good match for this ride.  It lends a sense of motion.)

I figured this ride would be over a 100 miles so I stopped at the Ten Points General Store at the top of the climb up South 14 above Tijeras.  Country neighbors were touching base there as they picked up supplies for their weekends.  The US Forest Service had just suspended firewood permit sales a few days earlier in five national forests in New Mexico, including Cibola.  This was a big deal since many people heat their homes with local forest wood.  While I was fueling my own engine with assorted snacks and beverages I purchased at Ten Points, another customer was saying how thankful he was for he wood he already had stored away.  He was already getting offers from others to purchase his wood, but he said he wasn’t selling any of it.  A week or so later the Forest Service modified their rule to allow personal firewood cutting and gathering, again.  I pedaled on enjoying the day with anticipation of the unknown journey unspooling down the road ahead.

In Manzano I turned right on Forest Road 245.  The pavement ended.  I felt like the ride was just beginning.  I was heading up the mountain and would climb all the way to about 9,200 feet above sea level.  A beautiful road with very light traffic.  I passed through New Canyon Spring campground and one lone traveler was packing up his tent.  We waved at each other.  I climbed higher and higher through burn scars and into the clear blue mountain light.  The scrub oak was turning bright colors.

At the very top the road intersects with the Manzano Crest trail, and there is a trail leading to a raptor viewing area staffed by HawkWatch International.  Since 1985 every late summer and Fall HawkWatch does a raptor count and studies the migrations through the southern Rocky Mountain Flyway.  The raptors catch the thermals rising over the mountain ridges.  There is also a campground at the top where the HawkWatch crew stays during the migratory season.

I felt like I was on top of the world.  The viewshed was open in every direction, and the clear dry air was transparent.  To the east the sparsely populated Estancia Valley stretched out to the white salt basins and plains beyond.  To the west I could see the green ribbon of the Rio Grande.  There is something magical about seeing the beauty with our own eyes what for so long had been unknown or just a line on a map.  The joy of accomplishment and discovery bubbled up inside me as it felt so good to present in this unique moment time, enfolded by the landscape.

I couldn’t stand around for long, however, as I still had to get home.  I was careful on the dirt road descent, but that road really flows.  I hit some washboard sections pretty fast but managed to hang on and use the gravity to soar downhill.  By the time I came into Tajique I was almost out of liquids but Rays One Stop Store was open and I bought three cans of soda.  He might have been selling gold as far as I was concerned, and it was enough calories to get me home. I can see the Manzano Mountains from our kitchen windows.  Even though I have been looking at them for five years since we moved here, after this ride, my feeling of connection changed.  There is something intimate and comforting realizing more about the nature and the beauty of the land that enfolds us, especially the quiet, unheralded, but still awesome Manzanos.

References:

HawkWatch Manzano Mountains, NM https://hawkwatch.org/manzanos

Ten Points General Store in Tijeras (or Escabosa) https://www.facebook.com/TenPointsTijeras/

Buy apples in season at the Manzano Mountain Retreat https://www.manzanomountainretreat.com

A nice story about a fifth grader in McIntosh, NM at the base of the Manzanos saving two barn owls when their family barn collapsed in high winds https://edgewood.news/hawks-aloft-and-carson-dismuke-release-rescued-owls/

Tortuga (exploring Albuquerque murals on bicycle)

Landscape is a unity, a wholeness, an integration, of community and environment; man is ever part of nature, and the city is basically no less involved than the countryside.  –D.W. Meinig, “Reading the Landscape” in The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays

The main reason I ride a bicycle is to get where I want to go.  Sometimes I get an idea of places to go from someone else’s rides.  John Fleck, a UNM professor and journalist with an emphasis on water, posted a ride on Strava with pictures of these cool murals depicting scenes from Albuquerque’s Bosque with colorful flora and fauna.  It looked beautiful and I wanted to see it.

John posted a picture of the Pacific Avenue street sign on his ride, but I couldn’t make out the cross street.  So the first time I ended up looking for these murals I rode up and down the wrong section of Pacific.  I was on the West side of the railroad tracks.  It turns out the murals are by the Tortuga Art Gallery on the east side of the tracks.  I found it on my second try.

Standing there in September light, I marveled at this mural!  The street became a theatre for this wrap-around art work transforming an ordinary building into a vibrant bio-scape.  It must always look different in the changing light.  Even though I only found what was already there, it gave me a sense of discovery and hope.  Thank goodness there are artists working in this world!

While pedaling down Edith away from this mural a kid on his porch gave me a big wave and I waved back.  It’s amazing how the bicycle creates a sense of adventure and connection that is so accessible and easy to enjoy, right out our front door.  I took the Bosque Trail northward and the long way home, paying closer attention to the ordinary beauty all around me.

Resources:

Check out this website collecting Albuquerque murals!
https://murosabq.com

The mural in this blog post:
https://murosabq.com/denise-weaver-ross-et-al-tortuga/

You can find John Fleck on Strava,
https://www.strava.com/athletes/12521793

and also check out Mr. Fleck’s great blog on the geography of water in the arid West:
http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/

Here’s my Strava ride to view the Tortuga mural:
https://www.strava.com/activities/2744476385

Manzano mountain air

Keep at a tangent.
When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim
Out on your own and fill the element
with signatures on your own frequency.

Seamus Heaney, Station Island

Mai’s Fall break and the recent cold spell made for perfect timing to walk in the Manzano Mountains, sampling the turning colors.  Prime color season draws decent sized crowds to these remote mountains, but part of the joy was seeing other people excited by the experience of walking out in the wild, eyes wide open.  Being in the presence of splendid nature on such intimate terms imbued everyone with good manners.  The forest was a picture of health.

During our walk we encountered three different groups on horses.  I was delighted to see such beautiful animals on the trail, especially since this is probably the busiest time of year and horses are shy.  But the horses were happy too.  We saw one party being trailered up for the ride home.  The woman walked into the trailer and gently called who wants to come.  The horses with their shining brown hair followed her like dogs, heads bobbing.  Our favorite group included a donkey, who seemed to be smiling, content from the open air walk with his herd.

We packed our lunch and mid-hike we stopped on a hillside angled Southeast and sat on rocks facing the sun.  We could see the veins of color shooting up 4th of July Canyon, which we had just walked through, and we admired the speckles of color further up on the high ridges of the mountainside.  The habitat changed as we emerged from the canyon, which was filled with tall trees with long roots twisting down, tapping the ground water.  The sun exposed hillsides were dominated by alligator junipers, piñon pine, yucca and had more open vistas.  The fragrance of sun, rock, soil and forest detritus was absolutely sublime.  Lunch never tasted so good.

By the time we finished later in the afternoon we were hungry again and our legs were tired.  We went to the Manzano Mountain Retreat down the road and stocked up on fresh apples.  The Spanish settlers brought apple seeds with them centuries ago.  This luscious fruit that originated in the Caucus Mountains of Central Asia still grows well here and takes on the unique character of these mountains.  They also sell Apple Cider and we got that too.  We are still eating these delicious apples and baking pies to fuel our next walk into the glorious wild.

Keep it simple

Don’t do anything that isn’t play.  –Marshall B. Rosenberg, “Practical Spirituality

Sunday I rode up the Sandia Crest with my friend Brud.  Brud is in his 70’s now.  Every year he makes a simple goal for himself, to ride up the Sandia Mountain.  This year he’s had challenges with back and leg issues, so there was no guarantee it would happen.  But Brud’s determination won out.  As a personal health goal there is a genius to this method of climbing a mountain.

Brud recruited a lot of friends to help with his effort.  His friend Marie (Pictured with Brud in the 2nd picture below) started with him, and went all the way to the top.  She was so fast she had time to go home and get the car to come back and check on Brud.  Our friend Sierra started with Brud and cheered him on until the turn off to Las Huertas Canyon.  I started later and caught up to Brud for the last stretches to the top.  On the way he made more friends as other cyclists and occupants of cars saw him & collaborated with cheers when he made it to the top.

It was an awesome effort.  Great day.  I think Brud inspired a lot of people riding up that mountain in his sweat pants and tennis sneakers.  As we sat on the rock wall by the entrance to the Sandia Crest House gift shop, Brud devoured a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich he carried up on his bike rack.  He doesn’t consider himself an athlete, and the bicycle is just a way of getting around.  Brud is also a wood carver, and he is in the process of crafting a small bicycle, which is pictured below.  He said building it small made him concentrate on the details.  By taking his time and not rushing things he thinks it will come out nicely.  It just amazes me what he’s able to do and say with a few simple things.  Super fun sharing a ride with Brud.

What you do will be play when you can see how it enriches life…I want to see that energy reflected in the person’s actions as they go out and make things happen.  It’s something you do, a practical spirituality.  –Marshall Rosenberg

this was Brud’s idea, throwing our arms in the air

There’s nothing that is better, nothing that feels better, nothing is more enjoyable than using our efforts in the service of life, contributing to one another’s well being.  —Marshall Rosenberg

Additional References:

I’ve blogged about Brud before here: https://bikeinitiative.org/2018/02/15/artful-living-in-the-east-mountains/

Last year I rode with Brud and friends up the Crest on June 14.  There was a Lemonade Stand set up by kids at the end of our climb.  Serendipity is awesome.  Here’s the Strava feed: https://www.strava.com/activities/1638809331

Finding our way home

“What is it that awakens in my soul when I walk in the desert, when I catch the scent of rain, when I see the sun and moon rise and set on all the colors of the earth, when I approach the heart of wilderness?  What is it that stirs within me when I enter upon sacred ground?  For indeed something does move and enliven me in my spirit, something that defines my very being in the world.  I realize my humanity in proportion as I perceive my reflection in the landscape that enfolds me.”  –N. Scott Momaday, Testimony, 1996.

Following Mai up the Spruce Spring trail in the Manzanos

We’ve had a good series of adventures since I last wrote.  I’ve been to the Iron Horse Bicycling Classic in Durango, and enjoyed bike rides and walks with Mai in sweet places.  So far as figuring out where home is, I think that is a trick question.  I feel at home everywhere I am.

Mai cycling near Lemon Reservoir

Feeling at home is a matter of paying attention.  When we tune in we sense it.  In Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, she says “the reward for attention is always healing.”

Following my teammate around the Sandia Mountains

roses in front of the Hillerman Library

A cactus flowering on top of the Manzano Mountains!

Cameron goes on to say “your own healing is the greatest message of hope for others.”  This seems to me true.  And it a whole lot easier than trying to fix problems we don’t control.

Enjoying a slow roll up the mountain on the back road tucked away behind Placitas

Cooling off after the Ironhorse in Silverton

Hidden waters in the canyons of the San Juan Mountains

I enjoyed being in Durango, but it was also nice coming back to Albuquerque.  There is a lot of nature in this place, and we do well to experience it, to go with the flow.  It is ironic that people need nature to recharge and recover, but sometimes the way we build up the environment covers up this healing power.  It seems like where we need that the most is where all the people are (or most people, and now across the world, over 50% of people live in cities, and that proportion is growing).  Sometimes I feel alienated from humaneness in parts of the city, and that causes pain.  Julia Cameron wrote “pain is what it took to teach me to pay attention”.  That is an important lesson.  Building places, working with nature, so that we feel connected to all of life feels a whole lot better, and it’s worth the effort.  When people feel a sense of adventure in routine activities, enjoying simple things like a walk or bike ride, we are living well.

On most road rides I meet people

Sometimes the beauty in the mountains helps us get back on the right path and reminds us life is an adventure

The sun shines today also

“When you’re born to run, it’s so good to just slow down.”  –Steve Winwood, Back in the High Life Again

Since I started cycling everyday in 1997, the original attraction–the insight of the bicycle as a transformative tool–keeps getting stronger.   I’ve learned that in spite of my love, there is no bike friendly paradise out there that already exists for us.  We have to build our own world.

Rules to govern power differentials in spatial relationships is key for encouraging more walking and cycling.  IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) offers a simple principle for the trails to direct respectful relations.  “Descending riders yield to climbing riders.”  ( https://www.imba.com/ride/imba-rules-of-the-trail ) With speed comes the responsibility to control it.  On roads, the LAB (League of American Bicyclists) has a similar principal governing orderly flow of traffic.  It’s called “First come, first served.”  “Everyone on the road is entitled to the space they’re using.  If you want to use someone else’s space, you must yield to whoever is using it.”  ( https://bikeleague.org/content/traffic-laws ).  Education is one part.  Instilling the discipline to apply these principles is another.  Policies prioritizing safety over speed are mechanisms.   Safety is a mindset based on self-respect and respect for human individuals.

Prioritizing safety over speed is based on recognizing our limits as a species. We evolved in nature for slower moving activities.  Mechanical assistance brings in a level of responsibility we are not automatically equipped to handle. So training and knowledge becomes essential.  Nature shows us we have biophysical limits.  Travel systems such as the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, in Japan have achieved an admirable degree of fast transport and system safety by controlling variables.  To keep using our roads and trails with a high degree of autonomy and freedom, we have to implement principles, and be disciplined and restrained to protect people.

To achieve the outcome of a transportation system with all kinds of choices, and safety and dignity for all, we have to focus on the process of following basic principles.  I think we have a head start in America since the idea of respecting the individual is so strong and powerful, and we also want people to set out and explore our country.  It seems a vital necessity.  If we focus on the process and applying what we know, it feels so good to slow down and enjoy life everyday.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.

Donations: If you enjoy this blog and want to support our work building sustainable transportation systems, please donate here https://bikeinitiative.org/make-a-donation/

Home

“We must go alone.  I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”  –RW Emerson, Self Reliance

“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lessons of worship.” RW Emerson, Nature

One of the truest aspects of cycling is the way it connects us to the soil again and helps us put down roots in the places where we are growing our lives.  Cycling helps us find our way home. It’s a technology that helps us notice when we are happy, and shows us how simple the joys in life can be, how direct and integral the connections between the land, water, air, all of nature, the whole community are to sensing a greater awareness of who we are and what we can be.

I think with all the fancy technology we have there is a tendency for arrogance, for pretending we know more about life than anyone else.  But as Kurt Vonnegut points out in his talk called the Shape of Stories, we really don’t know anything more about the central mysteries of life than before.  This is what Emerson referred to as the equivalency of all times.  There is an equality inherent throughout humanity.  It is this humility and understanding our limits that keep us innovating at our best, with the aim of enjoying life on the only home we know, planet Earth.

“I have tried to bring scientific thinking to literary criticism and there’s been very little gratitude for this.”  –Kurt Vonnegut, Shape of Stories

And so on this Earth Day, I took a ride on lunch break.  The butterflies are flying about in the winds, caterpillars are crawling on the ground and on flowerstalks, and the hummingbirds are arriving in town.  It is just another day on this earth like any other day, which means today is magnificent, special and holds the complete history of time, all of the present, and the seeds of the future.  It’s a great day.  A nice day to take a stroll or a bike ride, and keep finding our way.

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence…It destroys his own inner capacity for peace.  It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”  –Thomas Merton quoted in Rick Bass, The Blood Root of Art

References:

Kurt Vonnegut’s talk Shape of Stories can be viewed on YouTube here since you probably can’t listen/watch it while “reading” this blog post and listening to Clapton and Winwood playing, but it is worth a view, as Vonnegut can tell a good story about storytelling.

Why cycling is a symbol for uplifting all of humankind:
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/cycling-and-walking-to-get-our-bearings/

The Thomas Merton quote, via Rick Bass, appears in Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion, and Meaning in a World of Data edited by Scott Slovic and Paul Slovic

“Spring Sunlight” from Sansai Studios