|St John's College and Sun Mountain and snow|
Distance: 7mi roundtrip
Starting elev at St John's College TH: 7300ftAtalaya Summit: 9121ft
Atalaya: (Sp) for 'Watchtower', which is badass in of itself
The three weeks of Spring weather that we had enjoyed of late was firmly pushed aside Monday by a terrific blast of winter. New Mexico is awesome. I might as well be living in Disneyland.
From the office desk I watched in wide-eyed silence as the gloom outside spread and grew dark and big gobs of snow finally began falling from the heavens. Given those circumstances there is really only one appropriate action to take - and that's to race home, grab the running shoes (and hat and gloves), and dash off to the hills for an epic snow-trail run. And that's what I did.
|Trees in bloom with spring snow|
|Frosted chamisas along the arroyo|
|Looking down valley from Wilderness Gate Rd|
|At the (national) forest gate - one mile in|
My preference in running-trails when the weather socks-in is Atalaya. The gains in altitude amplify the snow and cloud for maximum effect. Not a lot of traffic out there Monday night unless you count the ponderosa and cedar. They looked as psyched as I was, pantomiming low sweeping tree-branch hi-fives to each other.
|The baby ponderosa grove at the third switchback|
|Spring running trail|
|Crazy hi-fiving ponderosa|
|The foothills in snow|
|Dry ledge with handy moss rocks|
|Atalaya finally comes into view|
Near zero visibility at the top. I know there was a sunset out there somewhere, but the view of ridgelines receding into stormcloud was pretty impressive all the same. The weather picked up and I headed back. Descended in the dark. Didn't see a soul for 90min+, coming or going, on one of the best days on Atalaya we'll have all year.
|South ridge of Atalaya in cloud (and sunset)|
|Somewhere Christmas-y and wonderful|
|Back at the trailhead|
I've made the summit in 43min before. Add approximately 7min if your plans include hi-fiving trees, heckling the crows, and walking a few of the steeps.1hr+ for hikers (one-way)
A looped hike is possible off the north ridge down the saddle to Picacho Peak, then descending portions of the Dorothy Stewart Trail back to Camino Cruz Blanca or St. John's. Approximate mileage for this link-up is 8mi+.