Sandy trails - Amy Schmitz

Sandy trails

May 16, 2016

Winston and my first adventure, running to the Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, Texas.


Mikey, Winston, and I just got home from a week away. Our spring trip took us in a circle with main stops in Albuquerque, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Denver.

After a short run at home Saturday, we headed southwest with a loose destination goal of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. We got there a little before sunset, and a park ranger told us the campground was full. Right outside the park gates is a privately owned adventure park with camping. We found a spot and made supper, and I experimented with some night photography on my new camera, a Nikon D7200.

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The next morning, we drove into the park. Winston and I ran the Lighthouse Trail, which was flat until we got to the base of the Lighthouse.

I really enjoyed this run and would like to do more destination runs (not just running a loop to run but actually running a trail to its end/feature).


While Winston and I ran, Mikey hiked the Rojo Grande Trail. It was his first of a few hikes alone. This was our first trip without Stinkers, a.k.a. Mikey's "partner in crime." There were tears but not as many as I expected. We miss our little girl and still aren't sure whether Winnel will get to enjoy more time as an only dog.

Unlike my run, Mikey had some nice shade on his trail. When he finished his hike, he walked a little way up the Lighthouse Trail to find us and helped a turtle cross the trail.


Views of the canyon on our drive out.


After I snuck in a quick shower at one of park campgrounds, we drove just a few hours to Albuquerque, which we visited in 2014.

Winston slept more on this trip. He turned 10 the month before. He hasn't slowed down much but does need a few more naps.


Monday morning Winston and I ran the dirt trails, mostly single track with some double, along the Rio Grande. I don't have Garmin data for the trip. My watch tried to upgrade the night before and bricked itself. Here's Garmin data from running there two years ago.

At our turnaround.


That afternoon we hiked the Rinconada Canyon section of Petroglyph National Monument

My sister and brother-in-law gave me a tiny tripod for my birthday. I think they weren't sure if I liked it, but I used the hell out of it on this trip! We got lots of family portraits using it and Nikon's remote app on my phone.

In 2014, we hiked the Piedras Marcadas Canyon area of Petroglyph, which had a more concentrated collection of petroglyphs. Pueblo people created most of the petroglyphs, but in the Rinconada Canyon, we could see petroglyphs by Spanish as well, including crosses and possibly the sheep.

The second and third photo in this set show details of some of the rocks in the first photo. Click on any photo to go to the gallery and see the photos larger.


In every family portrait shot, Winston insisted on looking to our right/My favorite of Mikey's many flower shots.


We drove around to the other side of Petroglyph to the Valcanoes Day Use Area. This hike was a little longer with some elevation gain and no petroglyphs.

Approaching JA Volcano, the most southern of the ridge of volcanoes. The park is trying to close and rebuild various trails. The top of this cone is not open to foot traffic, but as you can see, not everyone obeys the trail closed signs.


My favorite family portrait and possible my favorite photo of the trip. Mikey and I decided if we couldn't get Winston to look at the camera, we could just match him.


View of Vulcan Volcano from partway up Black Valcano. We loved the sky and clouds this afternoon.


Top of Black, the only volcano with a trail still open to the top/Looking back at JA from Black Volcano.


Petroglyph allows pets on trails in three of its four day use areas. 


Vulcan Volcano seen from the trail back to the parking lot. Mikey didn't take many shots on this hike, and I realized I didn't take any shots of Black Volcano when I edited photos that night.


Tuesday morning we went to the Elena Gallegos Open Space on the other side of Albuquerque to access the Pino Trail. The trail starts in the city park and continues in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. While Mikey hiked, Winston and I ran a couple of miles uphill. Because of our warm late start and several ciders the night before, I turned around early and continued my run in the foothills.

Unlike the previous day's adventures, the sky was clear and much sunnier.


We woke up early Wednesday morning, so we could get to Great Sand Dunes National Park in time to get a campsite. We arrived to light rain mixed with snow.

Once the rain began to let up, we made our way to the dunes. It was a cold, wet, and tough hike but a lot of fun! I highly recommend staying in this park for a night or two.

Plus, it's one of the most pet-friendly parks, particularly in cooler weather. Winston was allowed all the way to the first ridge of dunes, including High Dune.

The view from our campsite upon arrival/The trail leading from the campground to the dunes.


There's no set trail on the dunes. So once we got to the top of the first set of dunes, we tried to find the most efficient route to High Dune.


High Dune's wind threw ice pellets at us. I left my camera in its bag and grabbed on a little tighter to Winston.


On our way back down, the sun finally came out.


When we got back to Medano Creek, I ran ahead to get photos of Mikey and Winston crossing the cold water.


The creek cleaned our feet. 


I was glad we didn't wait until the sun came out to check out the dunes. This large school group (only about a third to half are in this photo) made its way across Medano Creek as we headed back to camp.


We headed back to camp to make supper and catch sunset.


This was my first go at night sky photography, thanks to the new camera and mini tripod. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I'm pleased with my first try.


It was a cold night's sleep in the Element that night, but I was glad we were in it and not the tent. Mikey found some hand warmers that we stuffed in our sleeping bags and socks. The next morning, our wet socks and shoes, which we had set out to dry, were covered in frost.


We headed for Denver Thursday morning. Mikey and I both really enjoyed the drive on Highway 285.

Looking back at the dunes in front of the Sangre de Christo mountains.


These deer paid no attention to us but stared when Winston talked and whined at them. Guess they didn't know what to make of his sounds.


We couldn't get an early enough check-in time at our hotel, so I ran the trails along Bear Creek in Lakewood, the Denver suburb where we always stay. Winston had sprained his tail, so he went on a smell walk with Mikey.

I came across this heron at the end of my run. If you've ever talked to me after running, you know I get a little slow in the brain. Even though the bird let me get about 8 feet from it, I didn't get my photo until it was halfway across the pond.


Friday morning, all three of us went to Deer Creek Canyon. This time, I didn't lose my phone or encounter snow, so Winston (whose tail was healing) and I actually got to finish the Red Mesa Loop while Mikey hiked the lower loop.

Just before the spot where I found my phone during our July 2015 run after running up the mountain twice.


In the trees just before where I had realized my phone wasn't in my pocket last year. This year, I added Velcro to my running shorts pockets/A view I hadn't reached before opened up to downtown.


Friday was our last sunny day. I ran my favorite trails at Green Mountain Saturday morning.

The fog and clouds were so thick I couldn't see most of the mountain/At the summit, visibility was about 20 to 30 yards. I couldn't see the tower until I was right at it, and my arm hair was frosty.


We also made it to a few favorite fabric shops (shocking!), where I bought more fabric I didn't need to add to my stash. But they're fantastic!

From left, cottons and a silk from Stitchology in Albuquerque in the two left piles (the flannels feel soooooo soft after pretreating), cottons from Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, and all the supplies I need for a really nice Bellatrix blazer from Elfriede's Fine Fabrics in Boulder, Colo.


I leave you with a collection of outtakes, mostly of Winnel.


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