Cancer or Progress?

Stopping along the Summit Trail at the El Cerro de Los Lunas Open Space, Lee’s comment as we looked over the sprawl on the west side of Los Lunas was one word: “Cancer.” On the right and left side are newly built subdivisions with more land on both sides that is already being prepared for additional homes. The white buildings in the distance are part of the massive Facebook data center still under construction. Is all of this development a cancer or, as many would say, does it represent progress?

It all depends on your perspective. As retirees we are blessed with resources, health and free time to wander in open spaces. We don’t want suburbia to spoil our views. But for folks who need to raise a family and make a living their priority is jobs and housing. I’m thankful that there are ways to accommodate both perspectives. Somewhere along the line there were individuals with enough foresight to set aside this 1700 acres where we were hiking as a natural preserve with many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

It may not be the most exciting place to hike, especially this time of year when everything is brown and dry. But there are good views over the Rio Grande Valley: Albuquerque and the Sandias to the northeast, Manzano Mountains to the east, Mount Taylor to the west and the Ladrones and Magdalena Mountains to the south. The trails are well maintained and have enough elevation change to give a decent workout. Best of all, we were the only hikers out there today.

We decided to call today’s hike the “Summit Circuit.” The eroded volcanic cone that composes El Cerro de Los Lunas has three separate summits. On other hikes here we have been on the Western Summit, but today we did a loop that included the Northern Summit and the Central Summit.

View looking south towards Ladrones and Magdalena from Central Summit.
Side Trail leading up to Western Summit, the highest of the three at 5954 feet.
Western Summit. Mount Taylor in the distance.

There is a helpful trail map that the Village of Los Lunas has posted on this site. When we have hiked there in the past we have always started at the trailhead at the north end, which requires a long walk through empty desert before reaching El Cerro. The trail from the southeastern side doesn’t yet have an official trailhead but because the housing development being built on that side hasn’t yet been completed there are plenty of places to park in the empty future streets. We decided today to see what it was like to hike from that side.

It wasn’t clear where to start the official “Sunrise Trail” because of the many unofficial trails everywhere. But no problem always seeing where you are with so much open space. Maybe in the future there will be more funding to mark trails and designate trailheads. The progressive “cancer” that brings more houses and buildings also brings in more tax money for the village of Los Lunas, allowing them to improve their open spaces. Given that it is such a small community I think they have done a good job, so far.

Last Arizona Hike

Our last hike in Arizona before heading back to Albuquerque was a perfect ending to our wonderful winter getaway. On the northwest side of Phoenix, the White Tank Mountains were a short drive from our motel. The regional park, like the others we have visited in Arizona, charges an entrance fee, but it is well worth it. Trails and facilities are top notch and well maintained.

We started our exploration on the Waterfall Trail, a short one mile out and back trail, which was paved for most of the way. Of course, we didn’t expect to see any water falling down the mountain, although there was a small pool at the base of the waterfall. What we did see was a lot of other walkers, but we were in and out before the big crowds arrived.

There is a small pool of water down there but not the right time of year to see a waterfall.

We drove further into the park and stopped at one of the parking lots with access to several of the trails. Most of the loop trails were longer than what we were prepared to do. Looking at the map we decided to do an out and back on the Mesquite Trail, knowing we couldn’t get all the way to the top but we would do what we could.

I was surprised when we got back to the car to see that we had done 6 miles with a 1000 foot elevation gain on the 3 miles up. The trail was so well constructed with switchbacks and good solid footing that it didn’t seem difficult at all. Or maybe it’s that we have gained some additional hiking muscle after 15 straight days of hiking every day!

Besides well maintained trails we enjoyed the views and being able to see more of my favorite Arizona classic, the Saguaro Cactus. We couldn’t have asked for better weather— no wind, sunny skies and high 60’s. There were more hikers than what we usually encounter on hikes in New Mexico but plenty of room for everyone to enjoy being out in God’s wonderful creation.

No matter how barren the winter landscape is, Lee always manages to find some flowers to photograph.