Friday, December 09, 2005

Starting an Albuquerque Urban Trail With Little More Than Enthusiasm and a Small Jar of Paint

BRIDGE & CENTRAL SW--I didn't know that Bridge and Central ever met...yet here I was at the "Wye" way out near 98th St. sitting across from Mike Smith in the Calf-A. He immediately started talking about the Albuquerque Urban Trail.

"It's a 200 mile long hiking trail that runs from the volcanoes on the west to Sandia Crest on the east. It's going to wind its way through town hitting every important landmark and neighborhood in Albuquerque. I figure you can hike it in about a week...urban camping and motels."

"Urban camping?" The waitress came over to take our order. "I didn't recognize the name "Calf-A," I said to her. Didn't this place used to be the Duke City Diner?"

"Still is," she replied. One side of the sign says "Calf-A" the other says "Duke City."

"I see."

"Yes...they did a Billy Bob Thornton film in here...called Astronaut Farmer. They never bothered to change the sign back. I know it looks old. It's supposed to. And No...I didn't get to meet Billy Bob."

After she left with our order, Mike spread a big Albuquerque map out on the table. It had a bright green line coming down Paseo del Volcan to Central, then heading east to Coors where it took a dive further south, returned to Central and began zig-zagging its way through the city. From the looks of it, maybe 150 miles of the route goes north and south and 50 goes east.

I had some thoughts about it, but decided to go with Mike's enthusiasm. He has a history in his young 24-year-old life of conquering difficult routes already. He, his brother, and some friends once hiked from southern Florida up to Canada using the Appalachian Trail and then some. It took 6 months. Oh...did I mention they had to push his brother in a wheelchair?

We headed out to Paseo del Volcan, a part of the route that he has blazed already. It is a magnificent view...distant vistas, uninterrupted horizons. This is totally different from the view anywhere else near the city.

Mike and his friends are modelling the AUT on their experience with the AT. They are marking the route with painted blue rectangles. The blue blazes are inter-visual, that is you can see the next one from the previous blaze. Every once in a while there is a painted blue "R." This means that nearby there is a container with a registry, a notebook where you can enter your name and any other info you might want.

We could easily see the blue rectangles. We stopped at a registry site. It consisted of a cairn behind a tree. Under a couple of rocks was a plastic container with the notebook and pencil. I wrote my name...after all, whose else would I write.

We went back to Central Ave. so he could continue with his painting. His girlfriend invented a paint jar with a paintbrush attached to the lid. He loves it. Mike stops and kneels down to paint a rectangle about every 60 or 70 feet. Descansos were coming in bunches on this part of West Central...another unique part of the New Mexico landscape.

He is just entering the city limits. I figure he will be doing this for a long time...what with painting rectangles every 60 feet for 200 miles. But it definitely sounds like another unique part of the New Mexico landscape.

There will be plenty of time for route suggestions. E-mail Mike at


Mr. Viddy said...

Fabulous commentary you have here, if it weren't for the high cost of living I'd be moving to Duke City in a heartbeat! Keep up the good blogging.

Randy J. said...

Great article on a great idea. Mike Smith is a friend of mine though, and some of the story's details aren't quite right: he's 26 not 24, his hike from Key West, FL to Cape Gaspe, Quebec took over 10 months not 6, the urban trail's blazes are turquoise not blue, and his wife (not his girlfriend) invented the paint jars that the trail association uses to paint the trail with. Other than those petty details, your article was right on. I always know where I can go for interesting stories on my home sweet home city.