Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Albuquerque's Watermelon Mountains
Apart from the sky, the Sandia Mountains may be Albuquerque, NM's best feature. I cannot imagine anyone falling in love at first sight with the city as I did, if those mountains weren’t there. They offer a magnificent backdrop, orient us, beckon us to get closer, and seduce us to explore. The Sandia Mountains, so called because of the watermelon rosy red and orange tinted dawns and sunsets they engender, are friendly but they demand respect.
If you answer the Watermelon Mountains’ call to approach, enter and explore, do so care and caution. They are, after all, a wild place with wild terrain and animals. Go accompanied and preferably with an experienced guide. I don’ t go beyond my comfort level. My more daring friends who frequent the mountains recount interesting stories of encounters and near misses.
Go well prepared. Even at 5,000-6,000 feet where we live in the city, we can have sudden weather changes that cause temperatures to drop several degrees. Within an hour in summer, we can go from bright sunny skies to rain and hail and back again. In winter, it's relative warmth to snow and back again.
In addition, the twists and turns of paths and the uneven terrain of peaks and valleys in combination with unusual light patterns of this southwest region make it easy for one to seem to disappear in an instant, almost like camouflage.
A recent tragedy involving a young, experienced hiker and her Albuquerque Police Department helicopter pilot rescuer reminds us that we can't be too careful when out enjoying this beautiful land of ours.
Pilot Student Tragedy