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Mr T’s Handiwork; Albuquerque; Sandia Mountains; Snow! Tucson; A Hat Contest

At the risk of dating myself, does anyone remember Mr. T from the 80’s? The reason I ask is not as a result of losing a trivia contest (actually, I was either at sea or stationed overseas then), but rather a recent experience getting my hair cut. At an undisclosed location (unnamed for my personal protection), I walked in to a military barber shop, saw 7 men waiting, and turned to get a number from the little red machine. Before I could draw my number, a deep bass voice announced, “Sir, there’s no wait. Sit down in this chair right here!” Startled, I looked up at a replica of Mr. T from The A Team – huge, Mohawk and wearing solid gold bling jewelry. 

Confused, I looked at the other customers, all of whom were suddenly intently studying their magazines or iPhones- except one young airman, who looked at me with a smirking “You are doomed, Bud!” expression. I said, “But what about all these guys?” “Never mind them, they’re all wusses!” (It’s hell being an out-of-towner…) I sat in the chair, and Mr. T’s twin asked how I wanted my hair cut. “Medium, not too short, tapered in back… and did I mention ‘not too short’?” Well, about 2 minutes later, I was out of the chair with the shortest haircut I’ve gotten since OCS back in 1969. You know you’re in trouble when all of a sudden you feel the wind on your bare scalp – and you’re inside! My Lovely Bride looked at me in shock when I got back to the coach, but stifled her laughter out of courtesy. 

Tent Rocks (actually the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument) between Santa Fe and Albuquerque is a stunningly beautiful area. The spires are reminiscent of the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. We had a great hike there on a day when few people were around. Those cliffs and spires are from 500 to 1,000 feet high. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the native Keresan language of the pueblo here.

Here is My Lovely Bride in a narrow slot canyon holding up the side walls – can you imagine what this would look like in a flash flood??? Ooog-ley!!!

The young ranger told us that the trail was “moderate”, but when we got near the top of the canyon, some rock scrambling was necessary… My Lovely Bride was somewhat less than impressed by the ranger’s analysis of this trail, especially since this was supposed to be a “recovery” day after a two-day workshop!  

Albuquerque was our next stop, where we caught up with Jim Pasch, a seriously metaphysical guy who also has a PhD in nuclear engineering. Jim had emailed us to offer to take me hiking, and we met up for a hike in the Sandia Mountains east of ABQ. This was my second hike in rough canyon terrain here, but worse because Jim was trying to kill me… at least, that was my conclusion when he kept finding boulders to scramble up instead of using a perfectly good trail about 50 feet away. Jim had suggested a 15 mile forced march up 4 or 5 thousand feet, but thankfully, Suzanne wanted to meet us for lunch, so it was only a 3 hour ordeal. (Actually it was a blast, even though I was concerned about breaking a leg or two.)

Jim also gave us a tour of his research facility at Kirtland – he is senior engineer working on a cutting edge Brayton cycle project to produce electricity more efficiently. I would have taken a photo of his equipment, but it was located in the nuclear area of the base, and I’d probably be locked up for a decade or three for taking photos, so I’ll pass on that. I can post a photo of Jim presenting me with a beautiful turquoise and silver money clip, which he acquired in Madrid – that’s pronounced Mad-rid, and is a quaint tourist town near ABQ. Thanks, Jim, for the gift and the hike. Suzanne and I are already looking forward to our next visit!

This terrain is typical of the Sandia Mountains – rugged and rocky. This photo was taken on the Domingo Baca Trail not far from where Jim and I hiked.

This rock cabin, presumably occupied by one Domingo Baca in the distant past, was semi-hidden up the canyon near a small snow-fed stream that was shaded by conifers. It would be a delightful rustic getaway for a hermit, but lacks a few amenities – like a roof, a door, and plumbing…

Before leaving Albuquerque, Suzanne and I got
 to hike on the east side of the mountains. We drove up to Sandia Crest (10,680 ft) and found a great hiking trail – which unfortunately was impassable because of dozens of downed trees (deadfalls). Here is MLB standing in a cold wind in a fleece jacket – it was in the low 50s up there where the wind was roaring over the crest of Sandia Peak. 

We dropped a few hundred feet in elevation to the 10K Trail, which was much warmer and more easily navigated… well, except for a few snowy areas that required some post-holing. That’s the term for when you sink up to your crotch in soft snow. At least the weather was warm enough to go without jackets, once you got off the windy crest. Also, I was very proud of Suzanne, who is doing very well at altitudes which previously caused her severe shortness of breath and fatigue. (See for her “secret”.)

We were staying at the Kirtland AFB Family Campground, which had no grass for the puppies to enjoy, only rocks, sand and dirt. So we would drive to the parade field every evening at sunset to let Rudy and Gretchen run through real grass for a change. Sunsets here in New Mexico (and throughout the Southwest) are often impressive, and this one was no exception.

We did get out one day mountain biking on some challenging trails in the Elena Gallegos Recreation Area near the Sandia Tramway. Here is MLB charging up a hill, less winded than I at that point…

Much of the trail was rocky, and most of the narrow turns had strategically-placed cactus to keep you alert. (Fortunately we survived without any cyclist-to-cactus impacts.)

Tucson was our next stop, where Suzanne worked with Dr. Gary Schwartz and his lovely wife Rhonda on research with the spirit world for the development of  the Soul Phone. Of course, I got out for a couple of hikes – the first, solo, was the scenic Bear Canyon/7 Falls trail, which took me up (where else?) Bear Canyon, a rocky, strenuous hike that brought me to seven dry cascades, but with several pools which still held water. (The teeny black thing at lower left that looks like an ant is actually another hiker.)

On our second day in Tucson, Suzanne and I hiked the Telephone Line Trail, on a much warmer day than my previous day’s hike. I felt pretty good, and after about ten minutes, realized I was getting ahead of Suzanne. Then she called out from about 25 yards astern, “Ty, come here for a second, please.” The 30 pound piece of rock she placed in my hands to carry for the rest of the hike was just too big to put in my backpack, so I agreed to throttle back a bit… plus, I didn’t want to sleep on the cold, hard ground that night…

We were pooped by the end, and no-see-ums were munching on My Lovely Bride. Seems that her Boy Scout husband had neglected to bring insect repellent… oh, gloom and sorrow. But I did get her to laugh when we stopped at the park bookstore. She hasn’t liked my desert hiking hat very much, so she picked out a new one for me. I would like to prove to her that my taste in haberdashery is just fine, so I’m taking votes on hats A (the first two photos of my really cool camouflage Foreign Legion-style cap with the flap covering my neck) and B (the third photo of the stylish chapeau that MLB prefers). 

Please send your votes with a line or two of justification for choosing the hat you like most to  The winning entry may get a camouflage hat like mine or something equally cool… like a stuffed ground squirrel…

Speaking of…. I tried getting one of the locals to vote on my hat, but he was very shy and taciturn…

1 Comment

  • Lynette
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:04 am

    I'm sorry. Just …. Nope. That hat full frontal or side view. Can't. # 2!!!!


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