New Mexico · Outdoors · Sports

Once Upon a Hike

After four years of avoidance, I decided enough was enough.

For all of you unfamiliar with Albuquerque, La Luz is the name of a locally well-known trail that cuts upward through high desert wilderness to the Sandia Mountain crest.  The trail has gained some outside-world fame thanks to the annual footrace along it. Due to the course’s narrowness, only a couple hundred runners are allowed entrance, and of course nothing gets runners crawling out of the woodwork like a limited race entry.

For whatever reason, I’ve shied away from going anywhere near that trail, not even to walk it, much less run it. I love tramping around on trails and scaring up chipmunks as much as anyone else, but something held me back – consciousness of my own klutziness, combine with just a little too many gory tales I’d heard about the race and participants who chose speed over precaution?  Who knows?

At any rate, I recently received an invitation to hike the trail with a friendly group of people, and I couldn’t for the life of me think of one legitimate reason not to go along. I knew I’d have the stamina to complete the hike; I knew I would be in good company; and the weather forecast looked highly promising, as far as late springtime in the Duke City goes [read: it wasn’t supposed to be THAT windy].  Not to mention I was due for a day off from running. So I decided to live a little and take a stab at the trail everyone in this town keeps talking about.

It was totally worth it!!

All of the hiker angels must have shaken their heads and said “Well it’s about time this girl got out there,” because I swear, no one else could plan weather that ideal if they tried. Sunny, but not oppressively warm. Breezy, but not the belligerent gustsAlbuquerqueis capable of. Perfect!

Our group set a fairly leisurely pace from our starting point, knowing we had about eight miles to cover and not looking to break any land speed records. Conversation got tossed back and forth along our single-file line. Occasionally there would be a break in formation to scootch to the side to let someone go by, or to do some quick, ginger footwork around folks moving a bit slower, but on we hiked.

Observation: when hiking, you feel less guilty about taking a break than you do while on a run. Maybe it’s the slower initial speed you move at, or maybe it was the casual, more social atmosphere of being out there with a group of people. But it felt quite nice. 

We paused once in a while for water or snack breaks, and our intrepid leader would usually take those opportunities to point out the magnificent views above and below us. Granted, our appreciation of the scenery may have been once or twice dampened by a mild terror of tumbling off the trail and over a cliff, but still. As we sipped beers in the mountain-top restaurant after completing the hike, we all agreed that it had been a noble effort on his part.

When I run, or hike for that matter, I usually stay in secure, comfortable places. I stick to routes I know well, with un-treacherous footing, and familiar, though gorgeous, views.  Maybe it’s time to slow down and take more chances. Who knows what the scenery could turn into?

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