I spent two days in Kansas City and easily wrote four blog posts about the city. The fountains, the jazz, the Royals, the barbecue, the Spanish architecture…there was so much to write about.

 I spent three days in and around Santa Fe, and I’m writing…one post. I just didn’t fall in love with the city. And I thought I would! Everyone always raves about this southwest town. Plus the red rock forests of New Mexico are stunning, and adobe buildings make great pictures, AND I like Mexican food.

 

Don’t get me wrong, New Mexico’s mountains and small towns I immediately fell in love with (hellooooo, Pie Town!), but I just couldn’t get attached to Santa Fe or Taos. The adobe was gorgeous, but the towns seemed a bit on the touristy side. I can’t wait to head back to New Mexico next month, but I’m glad I’ll be exploring the northwestern deserts, mountains, and pueblos with the Blue Desert Guide Company instead.

But even in Santa Fe and Taos, mountains salvaged my trip. After I got bored shopping I hit some trails. Here are a few day hikes if you are in town and are NOT in the market for dried chili wreaths or miniature adobe doll houses. 

Santa Fe

Luckily, Santa Fe is at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. An easy, 4-mile day hike in these mountains is the Borrego Loop. This is a hike that starts by heading downhill, follows a creek, and then climbs back uphill for the last two miles. Hikes that start off downhill can scare off some people, but don’t let a tougher ending dissuade you – it’s a pretty east hike. Actually, it’s a popular place for trail runners as well. For directions, specifics, and other hiking options, check out www.sdcmountainworks.com/hiking. The website claims that there is a meadow near the creek that is perfect for a picnic, but I would disagree. Scratchy, patchy grass is actually not perfect for a picnic. Take your eats to Fort Marcy Park after the hike instead.

Taos

Now to be fair, Taos isn’t only for shopping and trying to spot Julia Roberts (does she still live there?). The other touristy thing to do in Taos is to head just north out of town to the historical Taos pueblo. However, it was closed when I was there in late August. So again, up the mountains I headed. There is not a lot of online information about Taos hikes, so I went to the Camino Real Ranger Station, which is on highway 64 East/Kit Carson Road. They introduced me to several hiking options in the Taos Canyon and Carson National Forest. I decided on the Devisadero Loop Trail #108. (5.1 miles, 1,114 elevation gain, moderate difficulty). The trail head is on highway 64 just beyond the Ranger Station. You have to park in the lot on the right side of the road, but the trailhead is across the street on the left side of the road.

 This trail was long. It seemed longer than its 5.1 miles. Perhaps that’s because you actually climb about four peaks in succession before looping back down. I really enjoyed it though. The stubby trees provided scenic greenery but didn’t block views of Taos (a bigger city than I’d thought), the surrounding mountains and valleys, and rain storms headed my way. The trail was well marked and just challenging enough. The trail is open in the summer and spring for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. In the winter you can head up the trail on your cross country skies or snowshoes.

 Albuquerque

I hit a trail in Albuquerque too, but that wasn’t to escape trendy boutique shops. I actually didn’t get the chance to explore ABQ at all, so it could be nothing like the northern towns. I’d come here solely to tackle a trail. On my way to New Mexico I signed up for the Dirty Lil’ 10K, aka my first trail run. Signing up for a race a week in a half was uncharacteristically forward thinking of me. I was so unused to planning ahead that I forgotten that I’d signed up for the race and tried to sign up again. The system was idiot-proof and wouldn’t let me pay twice.

The Dirty Lil’ 10K starts at the base of the Sandia Mountains where the new Sandia Tramway (and the associated museum) is. This was a very scenic trail, I suppose. I looked up once to take stock of the city below me, glowing gold as the sun rose over the mountains with hot air balloon dotting the sky. Then I almost tripped over a tree root, reminded myself that I was running on a trail, and my eyes never left the trail again. Later on I was perusing the race website and they corroborated my observation with the following trail explanation:

“…trail of the Sandia Foothills with beautiful views if you have the ability to look around. Most single track with plenty of dbl track and opportunities to pass with a handful of small technical sections. Course is challenging and the last mile will definitely be faster than the first mile!”

This was true. The first ½ mile was pretty much straight uphill. We didn’t even get four minutes in before people were walking, swearing, and yelling “whose bright ideas was it to do this race?” at their friends.

It was fun though. Check out http://www.trisportcoaching.com next summer to sign up. The race was September 11th this year (a veteran who was at the Pentagon ten years before gave a speech to commemorate the day, and all the participants softly sang The Star Spangled Banner after), and will hopefully take place next year around the same time. The 10K was $35, which proceeds going to fund the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. There is also a Half Marathon run ($55) if you are so inclined. The race is capped at around 100 people, so beware. I signed up in late August, but the race did close a few days later.

So here’s to the Sandia Mountains, the Carson National Forest, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, for salvaging my New Mexico vacation and saving me tons of money that would have otherwise been spent on touristy items (sorry New Mexican economy…)