Alamo Vista Trail
We’re in Santa Fe where my dear friend Katie lives. We had a lovely dinner with her, her husband Jim, and their son and daughter-in-law. We got to talking about great hikes in the neighborhood and Jim mentioned the Alamo Vista Trail in Santa Fe National Forest. He said it was a beautiful hike, very rewarding, not too long.
”How far do you like to hike?”, he asked. I responded gamely, “four miles” and then feeling a little insecure that that sounded weak, I added, “I have a bit of a hip issue.” Katie offered, “It’s kind of steep. Some people are really suckin’ wind doing that climb.” Jim responded, “It’s not bad. They’ll be fine.”
This exchange is etched in my mind. The trail, which started at about 9k elevation, was buried in snow and ice. At the very start it immediately ascended to the point where the angle between me and the ground was very, shall we say, acute. It stayed that way for about half a mile. After the first thousand feet or so I gasped, “I remember Katie said that some people are really sucking wind doing this climb.” Brose gasped back, “if we sucked any more wind all the sailboats in the Western hemisphere would be in irons.”
I whispered, “I can just see the two of them, evilly chuckling at the vision of their flat-lander, suburban friends struggling to do this hike.” Brose panted “you should write a post about this.” Unable to vocalize, I thought vindictively, “you bet. Katie and Jim are goin’ in the blog.”
About halfway up the 1.25-mile 1,100+-ft ascent, we reached a gorgeous, snow-covered meadow, bordered by thousands of aspen trees. We learned that the place was called “Carl’s Meadow” in honor of a 22-year-old young man who had spent a lot of time there as he was battling brain cancer. The sad story deepened our appreciation of the field’s magnificence.
While the meadow offered a slight relief from severe incline, the trail’s ascent reasserted itself. Again I was practically able to touch the ground while standing. At one point I told Brose I was feeling a little dizzy, maybe from the altitude. He responded, “It's not the altitude. You’re having a heart attack.” (He didn’t bother turning around as he made this suggestion.)
But every step was breathtaking, in all meanings of the word. I think Aspens are my favorite trees. They are so delicate and noble and carry these beautiful scars that reflect the terrain that surrounds them.
At the top, the trail intersects with downhill ski slopes complete with chairlift unloading ramp. Charlie was pretty curious about that scene. (She, by the way, had a grand time. She must have covered 3 times the ground Brose and I did racing up and down the trail, sliding in the snow and chasing scents.)
We had a fun trek down, feeling invincible in our sturdy hiking boots and yaktrax. Jim and Katie were right. It was an extremely beautiful and rewarding hike.