Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sandia Mountains of New Mexico

In Spanish Sandia means watermelon. The mountains were given their name by Spanish explorers because of the pink cast of the granite cliffs at sunset.  On Monday we took the tram up the west face of the escarpment. It was a 15 minute ascent of 10,678 feet. During that ride we had a great view of  4 different life zones which were pointed out to us by the tram guide. On the desert floor there are pinon and juniper trees, in the canyons we saw ponderosa pine followed by mixed conifer, and at the top were spruce and fir trees. Our guide said that in her many rides over the slope of the mountain she has seen mule deer and bobcats. Last week someone else saw a black bear at the peak. On the ride up I was able to get a picture of another tram on  its way down as it passed us. During the winter the tram is used to transport skiers to the top.
Also on the way up our guide pointed out the site of the Kiwanis Cabin, constructed by the CCC in 1936. It happens frequently that the weather changes suddenly at the peak, so the cabin was built for hikers who may suddenly need to get inside and away from the elements. In the picture below the cabin can not be seen, but it sits at the end of the highest peak. Little did John and I realized that later we would be hiking to it!
When we arrived at the top it was 39degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately we were prepared with hats and gloves. The scenic mountain vistas made up for any discomfort we may have felt. Spread out below us was the desert floor with the city  of Albuquerque off in the distance.
We did not want to take the tram down immediately after arriving, and the trails leading off from the tram station beckoned to us. We decided to take the trail to the stone cabin. The hike turned out to be a bit more strenuous than anticipated, but we still enjoyed ourselves. We had to navigate small rocks on our path as well as some mud, snow and ice. Only wildlife we saw was a pocket gopher who was too busy digging a tunnel to pay any attention to us. Below is a picture of the scenery which awaited us at the stone cabin.
We returned home immediately after coming off the mountain. Costumed children were out by then on the streets to collect their goodies. We are now sitting in a mobile home park so there are young families around us. About 20 children knocked on our door for candy, more that we ever had when we lived in St.Louis!

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