Posted by Josh Baker
After riding a tram to the top of the Sandia Range, as documented in my last post, I was confronted with some tough choices as a hiker. It felt like the ad for a certain mini market chain: Too much good stuff! Luckily, an obvious hiking target arose quickly in the Kiwanis Cabin. It was visible a mile to the north along the edge of the ridge. It looked like a spectacular vantage point for photos.
The first part of the Crest Trail heads at a casual pitch north of the area where the Sandia Peak Tram and the Sandia Peak Ski Area abut.In just a few steps there is a junction. The route to the left plunges into the abyss, clinging tenuously to the rocky scarp. It reminded me a great deal of the upper third of the Bright Angel Trail in The Grand Canyon. A misstep in certain spots would send a hiker tumbling hundreds of feet. We were worried about our pup darting after a squirrel or bird, so we turned back toward the intersection and turned up the Crest Trail.
There is a nature trail loop, but we stayed on the main trail, which offers a few stellar views to the west as we walked on limestone with what appeared to be fossils embedded. Denise wore cowgirl boots, and Jackie Chan was getting over being sick, so they turned around at one especially windy open slope.
After promising to hike quickly and return, I forged ahead in the woods, few other hikers nearby. Once I hit the other trails coming from the north, foot traffic started increasing.
The route to the Kiwanis Cabin takes sections of a few trails to curve around a lovely alpine meadow mostly blocked off by split-rail fences. Apparently there once were multiple trails crossing the open area, but they were abused, and alpine areas take a long time healing from clumsy hikers and bikers, so the area was closed for restoration.
The hike is short anyway, and it was worth it to reach the sweeping views at the Kiwanis Cabin. The stone house was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s as part of the New Deal to get people jobs and teach them skills. Mount Hood has a number of CCC huts built in the same time frame, a couple of which are still out there near the Timberline Trail.
The Kiwanis Cabin was a casual 1.5 miles from the tram’s upper terminal. There is one short section where the trail climbed steadily and dealt with significant roots and rocks. Most hikers would be fine here, although the elevation might make it feel tiring.
As my camera has dropped-by-owner disease, not all of my photos came out well. Hopefully in the next week or so I will purchase a new camera.
The Sandia Range is beautiful, easily accessible for most people, yet very rugged. This is highly recommended for any who want a classic island in the sky experience. There is nothing like being in a green forest and looking thousands of feet down at a brown and red desert landscape.