Meaning “the light,” the La Luz trail ascends 4200 feet to the peak of the Sandia Mountains. These precipitous mountains, which are the result of Rio Grande rifting, exhibit steep drop-offs, marked transformations in vegetation, and spectacular birds-eye views of Albuquerque. Sandia, meaning “watermelon,” could possibly represent the craving for juicy, delectable fruit one may have during the strenuous, exhausting climb, but is actually named for the pink glow of the granite cliffs at sunset.
My favorite aspects of this hike were: 1) the fascinating change in vegetation as we climbed upwards, transitioning from dry cacti, to rich coniferous trees, to snow as we neared the peak; 2) the views of Albuquerque and layers of Sandia mountains hidden from the interstate; and 3) the consistent, gradual uphill climb, void of any excessively steep areas.
However, I would be lying if I said this hike wasn’t challenging or that I was able to maintain peace of mind for the entire 9.5 miles uphill. One of my yoga instructors once said that the moment you want to exit a pose, that’s when the true pose begins. I think the same may be said of hiking. It’s easy to enjoy the first half of a hike, when you’re eager and determined and relatively pain-free, when your lungs thrive on the rich inhaled oxygen, when you feel good about yourself and your physical abilities. But eventually you reach that point when you’re over halfway to the top, yet the end is still nowhere in site, and you find yourself consumed by anger and frustration. You wonder why you aren’t lounging on the couch with a cold beverage, watching football. You ask yourself what kind of insane, masochistic person would allow themselves to endure this type of torture…and for what? To see trees? You become angry with yourself. I thought I was stronger than this. How is it possible that people 40+ years older than me can do this without any problem? How am I ever going to hike Baldy next weekend if I can’t handle this? You know that the solution is to find peace in nature, to embrace every feeling and emotion that enters the body and let it all go, and to live in the moment, but that solution begins to feel more and more distant from reality. This is the point at which the true hike begins…and needless to say I have a lot of work to do in order to become a true hiker.
My struggles were magnified by that fact that in hiking, unlike running a race, the finish line is rarely within sight, and there are no mile markers. Yet, why are we so focused on needing to see the endpoint? Why do I need to know how much time has passed, and how much we have remaining? Why are we as humans infatuated with the destination?
Despite my struggles and frustrations, I persevered and made it to the Sandia peak. Thankfully, we were rewarded… by delicious drinks at the highest altitude full-functioning restaurant in North America, and a ride down the mountain on the world’s longest tram.
Next week… Santa Fe Baldy!