The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Lalo Talking

“Lalo,” a Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Lalo in the backpack

Hiking to the hot springs

Adventures in Lalo-land

Signpost readers have been asking what happened to the Belknaps’ Time Off column last month. Haven’t they had any time for adventures? Did they go broke, get old, or just get lazy?
Well, the truth is that it’s my fault—my name is Lalo, and I’m their new puppy.

Now you may not have read a Signpost article written by a dog before, but I thought I’d take this chance to give my new owners a little “time off.”

They picked me up in Colorado after going on their yurt ski trip that they write about every year. Boring! Since then I have been the main source of recreation around here. They keep whining about no snow to play on. Last week I found out what they meant when a bunch of it fell on my dog pen. I bit it and rolled in it and got myself soaking wet, then ran all through the house. Boy, is that stuff fun!

But they’re still not happy because they say there won’t be enough water in the rivers for canoeing and rafting, and the woods will probably be closed to camping because of forest fires. People are never satisfied.

Still, I think it’s pretty nice around here. I take them for walks in the arroyos and out to the Placitas Open Space whenever they want. There is plenty of food to eat and I can go to the bathroom anywhere I want. The people here get excited whenever I pee in the house and throw me outside and wait for me to go again. I don’t get it—hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

A fat little red heeler named Ruby lives here, too. She growled and bit me the first time we met, but now we’re pretty good friends. She herds me and tries to bite my heels, but then I run big circles around her and try to hump her. I don’t know why. The most fun thing to do with Ruby is to bite on my squeaky toy—it drives her crazy.

My new family tried to get a little time off last month. Two days after I got here, when I was eight-weeks old, they stuffed me into a backpack and went on an four-mile hike with some friends out to San Antonio Hot Springs, in the Jemez Mountains. Most winters they like to cross-country ski in there, but this time there wasn’t enough snow. Everyone was having a real nice time soaking in the hot water until I fell in. The guy with the backpack had to fish me out and wrap me in his towel. When I started to shiver, he made everybody get back on the trail so I could warm up. On the way home, I nearly got kicked out of my first barroom and later found out about cats.

Last week, they took me over to a friend’s party to watch a slide show about a river trip through the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge Wilderness area. I thought it was pretty exciting to see all those people, so I peed all over the kitchen. Then I got passed around and watched the show from different people’s laps.

Pretty soon we’re going to the river because I’m a water dog. I sure hope they take up duck hunting.

Today I plan to chase my shadow, eat some socks, and later I’ll probably sneak way under the bed and rip off more stuff from the box spring. That’s fun, too. My people always get really excited when I do that.

So you see, I’m not slowing anybody down too much. In fact, I think they like having me around. Pretty soon maybe they’ll have some adventures of their own.

A treatment room at The Day Spa at Serenity Gardens offers room for two.

Time for serenity

The room was lit with candles. An old fireplace marked the wall. Two heated massage tables stood side by side, dressed in clean cotton blankets and sheets. My esthetician, Patricia, instructed me to climb under the bedding on one of the tables, while ambient music drew my mind to inspect the antique wooden ceiling and arched doorways of the one-hundred-year-old rambling adobe building.

I thought about how pretty the tended gardens outside must look in full bloom and wondered how this quiet serenity could be captured so well just a few steps away from the traffic on Corrales Road. I could hear birds twittering and the peaceful dripping of a distant water fountain. This was The Day Spa at Serenity Gardens.

The three-part package I indulged in that March morning was aptly named the Drift Away. Beginning with handfuls of sea salt and aromatherapy oils vigorously rubbed onto my back, arms, and legs, Patricia confided, “This Salt Glow is my favorite of all the treatments we offer.” Apparently the salt exfoliates layers of dead skin that clog pores and lead to poor skin health. She explained, “Your skin protects your organs and everything inside. I recommend this once a season.”

After a shower to wash off the salt, and a slathering of herbal lotion, I was back on the table—smooth, tingly, and invigorated—ready to ‘drift away’ further to the next step, a relaxing facial.

Serenity Gardens offers all kinds of facial treatments. Some focus on skin toning, blemish extraction, and cosmetology, while others are more plainly meant to trigger relaxation.

Priscilla talked candidly about skin and aging. “You see these tiny lines?” she said, pointing to her cheek. “This is dehydrated skin. In New Mexico, we all have it.” She explained how dehydration, and the subsequent loss of collagen, can cause the skin to contract, giving a corrugated appearance otherwise known as wrinkles. She said, There are simple things we can all do to slow this process down. Why not look your best?”

After a soothing massage of face, scalp, neck, shoulders, hands, and feet, plus the application of several potions and warm washcloths, Priscilla painted a honey-textured citrus mask on my face. By now, my raft was drifting far offshore and I briefly wondered how I would ever manage grocery shopping on the way home, let alone get back to work when I got there.

I couldn’t imagine having anything more done, when Patricia returned, tucking me further under the warm blankets for another healthful hour of therapeutic massage. Her strong hands traveled over my muscles, giving my circulatory and lymphatic systems a boost. Apart from being good for me, it was just plain fun to lie down for three hours in the middle of an ordinary weekday.

All said and done, I felt great. I was relaxed and could have been run over by one of those gravel trucks and not really cared.
Keeping stress at bay? It’s a good thing.

The Day Spa at Serenity Gardens, at 3824 Corrales Road, offers spa services for men and women, including massage, facials, body wraps, aromatherapy, natural nails, hatha yoga, and other treatments to help you feel and look good. To view their spa menu, schedule an appointment, purchase an “instant gift certificate, or find further information, visit or call 899-5707.

Davito Hammack Climbing

Davito Hammack in action

Local climber presents film at Placitas Talks

David “Davito” Hammack is an experienced outdoorsman who has been featured in a number of Time Off columns in the Signpost over the years. He’s taken me spelunking and rock climbing, and has been a valuable participant in some of the best river trips that we have written about.

He is an expert in a kayak, inflatable raft, and dory, but we almost lost him last summer when his kayak was trapped under an overhanging wall—an uncharacteristic mistake that nearly ended a life full of adventure. That would have been a real tragedy, of course, but at least he would have been immortalized in the rock-climbing documentary that had been completed the previous spring.

Los Días was filmed and produced by first-year film student Kevin Jaramillo, Davito’s regular climbing partner. It will be presented by Davito and possibly Kevin as part of the Placitas Community Library’s Placitas Talks series at the Placitas Fire Station at 7:00 p.m. on April 13. Los Días premiered at last summer’s Taos Mountain Film Festival.

Davito started climbing with his father, David Hammack, when he was just twelve years old. “He’s the guy you should be writing about,” Davito said.

“My dad started technical climbing [using ropes, pitons, etc.] back in the fifties. We did a lot of first ascents together and he took me on my first climbing trip to Yosemite Valley. He is seventy-eight now and still hikes the La Luz Trail to the top of the mountain every Sunday.”

First introduced to the area when his father served as minister of the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, Davito moved to Placitas with his wife, Sheila, sixteen years ago. He built a rock-veneered solar house off the grid. “I used all the exotic rocks I’ve been collecting since I was a kid. I’ve been carrying rocks home in my backpack for nearly forty years, and my friends have brought me rocks from all over the world,” he explained.

“I love rocks—the look, texture, feel, and history of rocks.”

For eight of his earlier years, Davito earned good wages as a tree planter in the winter and climbed mountains all summer. Now he owns and operates Iron Hawk Electric and also installs solar electricity systems for Direct Power. Seldom seen when he is not working or climbing, much of his free time is spent practicing bluegrass fiddle—another obsession. (The sound track of Los Días features his fiddle teacher.)

He has done pretty well for a dyslexic who quit his formal education after the fifth grade—a dubious distinction for someone appearing in a library lecture series—but he’s never been one to avoid a challenge. Davito is somewhat shy and doesn’t consider public speaking one of his strengths. So, if only for the sadistic pleasure of watching a strong man squirm, the next Placitas Talks is a must-go.

If, however, you have an interest in climbing the Sandias, you couldn’t ask for a better authority. Do Davito a favor and ask lots of questions. Ask about his kayak mishap.

Davito is a guide for Suntoucher Mountain Guides. He can safely guide clients of all ages and levels of experience to suitable locations in the Sandias.

“I can take people to places like Palomas Peak, where they can work on their moves in a controlled, safe environment. I like guiding at the Thumb or the Shield, where the climbing is not that technically difficult, but it’s a long climb with a mind-blowing view that is massively exposed [a big drop]. A little experience with ropes and technique in the gym is helpful,” says Davito.

“Climbing gets you to beautiful places, where you do wild things in the wilderness.”

For more information, visit or call the Placitas Community Library, at 867-3355.






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