North Sandia Peak
Leaving Ruidoso, New Mexico on the morning of 3 June 2011, Kelly Bou and I had to forego plans for hiking up nearby Sierra Blanca because the forest was closed due to extreme fire hazard.  Instead, we visited a few ruins along the way to Albuquerque before checking into a hotel there.  After doing a little research on the Internet, I decided late in the day to visit the Sandia Mountains which dominate the eastern skyline of the city.  There is actually a paved road that runs all the way up to the highest point of the massif which is also known as Sandia Crest.  Starting from the Sandia Crest parking lot, Kelly and I hiked north along a good trail to tag the next highest point of the massif, North Sandia Peak.  While views are limited along this forested trail, I found the walk to be refreshing largely because of the cooler temperatures.  Besides having to backtrack a bit to find the unmarked spur trail leading to North Sandia Peak, the only other issue we had was a wall of smoke that swept into the area after we reached the summit.  Originating from Arizona wildfires, the smoke obscured most of the lights of Albuquerque and slightly irritated our breathing as we hiked back to Sandia Crest in the dark.
Don't fence me in! Kelly starts off on the trail to North Sandia Peak.  The fence keeps people away from the multitude of telecommunications equipment near Sandia Crest.
Although the east ridge of the Needle has been reported as a Class 4 scramble, it is now generally considered a Class 5 technical climb. The Needle is a striking landmark in the Sandia Mountains.
Hmmm...maybe we should have left a wee bit earlier for this hike! North Sandia Peak is within sight as the sky begins to darken.
This orange-coloured variant is apparently not as common as the usual yellow flowers. A Western Wallflower helps to brighten the mood.
Not the greatest of summits, but it beats sitting in the hotel watching the Travel Channel. Kelly and Sonny stand on a cement block at the 3187-metre summit of North Sandia Peak.  There used to be a signaling beacon on the summit.
Not bad for the amount of effort expended to get here. From the summit, Kelly looks toward the lights of Albuquerque.  The Needle is visible at left.  Note the wall of smoke rolling in from the right.
Remember that 1980 movie, "The Fog"? Six must die... The smoke begins to obscure the lights of the city.
I knew I should have taken that left turn... Here is the last view of Albuquerque just before it disappears in the smoke.
The air was smoky at this point. Kelly uses a headlamp to find the trail in the dark.
Be careful driving up the access road especially in the evening. Lotsa yahoos racing up there  la Dead Man's Curve.

Total Distance:  6.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  2 hours 10 minutes
Net Elevation Loss:  43 metres

GPX Data