See part 1 here.
My dogs and I were heading to the mountains, and we wanted to go to a peak, but didn't have time to drive all the way around the Sandias to get to the Crest. Instead, we drove out to Tijeras and turned south, into the Manzanitas. The Manzanitas are the small range between the Sandias to the North that overlook Albuquerque, and the Manzano range to South. Manzano means apple tree in Spanish, while manzanitas are evergreen shrubs with edible berries. Manzanitas like places with poor soil and little water, and have smooth orange/red bark and, twisting branches, and are found all over the mountains in the area. Native Americans used the berries for food and the leaves to make tea for poison oak and urinary tract infections. Due to the fire resistant nature of the wood, manzanita root burls were used during World War 2 to make pipes for tobacco, when briar supplies became unavailable. In keeping with the fruit theme, sandia means watermelon in spanish, and the range is so named probably to the hue the mountains take on during spectacular New Mexican sunsets.
After traversing the gap in the mountains via Route 66 and hearing a highway rendition of "America the Beautiful" from the tuned rumble strip on The Musical Road, we turned right in Tijeras and headed south on 337, which took us past some beautiful terrain with multiple pull-offs and parking areas for hikers, bikers and ATV riders. Many of them had vehicles parked, a sign that the many trails through the canyons and foothills were being taken advantage of. The area is a hub for mountain biking and especially off road vehicles. This part of the Cibola National Forest offers a large trail system that can be rocky and hard packed or smooth single track. The trails wind through a mix of pinyon pine, juniper and ponderosa. Other plants on the mountain include yucca, prickly pear cactus, oak and mountain mahogany. I saw at least eight trailheads, informational signs show around 80 miles of trails in long loops. Once we hit Sabino Canyon we turned left to head north on 252, which led us past some remote mountain homes and to the Cedro Peak Campground. Normally quiet and empty, the campground was playing host to to a festival/gathering: Magic Mountain Mabon, put on by a local pagan group. To my surprise I heard drums and chanting, and saw the campground filled with colorful tents. I was intrigued!
Stay tuned for more pagan chanting and the Peak!