Thursday, November 18, 1999
Highlights: Excellent winter hiking. Location: Take Placitas exit, 3.2 miles, turning right at the unmaintained road sign. Pay $3 at the station on the left. Proceed 1.9 miles, down a steep, bumpy, dirt road, passing two parking areas. A walking man sign points into the access road/Piedra Lisa Trail head. A portable toilet is provided at that site. Walk in the sandy Bernalillo watershed area in a SE direction and begin the climb, taking the left fork around the trail map sign and water tower. An hour up, look right, for a pile of carins and juniper sticks in the pine, juniper and oak flats, that leads down a thready trail, NW into unmarked Del Agua. Round-trip distance: About 5 miles. Difficulty: Moderate difficulty Elevation: 5,600-7,300 Cautions: Water needed; trail map and compass suggested, as trail gets thready. Circumvent some rock formations, on trail, on both routes, which can be dangerously iced in winter. Code of quiet and careful tread suggested for Del Agua.
Piedra Lisa / Del Agua
Got a couple of hours on a weekend? This covers five miles, with possibilities of expanding, and an altitude gain of 1,900 feet. It's especially nice in the late fall or winter, if the snows aren't too deep. A call to the Sandia Forest Ranger District (281-3304) will give you advice and news.
The Piedra Lisa from the Placitas trailhead is a good uphill climb in two spots, but generally levels out into juniper and oak flats, with spectacular views of the Sandia's eye and needle formations. Occasionally an aspen bursts butter gold through the dense green. The stream is thready, with lace patterns of cottonwood shadow and quiet.
Del Agua is a tiny, tight-as-teeth canyon to the south of Piedra Lisa. Solitude and wildness are hugged by a rugged, rising canyon, since it's in sandy arroyo most of the way down. Several respites of pooling water support grandfather cottonwoods, river willow and fall bloom.
Unfortunately, we pulled lunch leftovers (apple cores) and toilet paper out of there. Perhaps it would be a good time to consider using cloth handkerchiefs or bandanas. A zippered sandwich bag containing toilet paper that can be toted in and out is the very least we can do for the environment.