Normally I am a snob about easy ways to the top of a mountain, but I had a fantastic jaunt in New Mexico that began in this manner. In years past, I have scoffed at those who drove up peaks (Whiteface) or took a cog railway (Mt. Washington). Of course, that may simply have been jealousy. As I age, I find that I’m willing to take a few sweat shortcuts. Consider this post a testament to the short cut.
To begin a trip into an alpine environment by taking a tram is a new experience, but the offer was too enticing to ignore. I’d heard of the Sandia Mountains for years, and had long wanted to hike or climb there. The range dominates views to the east from Albuquerque, reaching well over 10,000 feet and offering multiple life zones in which to hike. So when I had a brief window of time to visit the area with my bride, I jumped at the chance to take what is advertised as the world’s longest tram ride.
We arrived about noon and had to wait 20 minutes for a ride. 50 people crammed into the tram and listened as a guide gave us a play by play of the scenery, pointing out Totem Pole Rock, Echo Canyon, and more, giving information and adding plenty of wit. It was a good ride, taking about 15 minutes. Views the whole way were amazing. The top itself was sublime, a long rocky and well treed ridge. I almost salivated at the thought of hiking all over.
I learned that the back side of the Sandia range has a ski area, aptly named Sandia Peak. A long and winding road climbs all the way up to access it, but it takes over an hour. I like our route better. Either way, the views are stunning.
It was slightly amusing that there was a full service restaurant on top (supposedly the nation’s highest), which reminded me of a restaurant (since destroyed by avalanche) perched on top of Bridalveil Falls in Utah which I’d visited ages ago. That felt out of place, and so did this, but what the heck. We would later eat and drink there after hiking. So much for snobbery. I must be getting soft.
All in all, it made for a happy man before I even set foot on the Sandia Crest Trail. The top of the Sandia Range offers a beautiful environment, completely different than the high desert below surrounding Albuquerque. The temperature up top must have been at least twenty degrees cooler, and the ridges were was cloaked in pines, maples, and aspens as well as a lot of rock. This turned out to be an almost perfect day. Stay tuned for more.