Tuesday Tramway Trials

Two weeks ago today a friend and I did a hike on the Tramway Trail.  The parking for the hike is the same area you park when you want to ride up the tram.  You have to go past an entrance booth to pay the parking fee.  The attendant at the booth informed us that the tram closes on Tuesdays for maintenance.  But since we were just hiking out and back on the trail, not planning to ride the tram, we thanked him for letting us know, paid our fee, and parked the car.

Today being Tuesday, and a beautiful fall day, perfect for hiking, I felt I just had to get out in the Sandias somewhere. Lee had plans for the afternoon and needed the car so he couldn’t go with me. But he could drop me off at a trailhead in the morning and pick me up after his appointment. I thought it would be fun to have him drop me off at the La Luz trailhead, hike the 7 miles up to the crest and then ride the tram back down. Then Lee would be able to pick me up at the tram parking lot at the bottom.

Can you see where I’m going with this? I completely forgot what I learned two weeks ago about the tram closing on Tuesday. So off I went up the La Luz Trail, making great time and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. I was a mile from the crest when I stopped for lunch. It was a nice leisurely lunch because I knew I was almost there and I would have plenty of time to kill because Lee wouldn’t be able to pick me up right away.

Shortly after lunch, as I walked further along the trail, I encountered a nice young couple coming back down the trail. “You do know that the tram is closed on Tuesday’s, don’t you”?, they said. Well, I certainly should have known, but since I had forgotten what I learned 2 weeks ago, my heart sank to the bottom of my already sore feet as I contemplated the task before me. I was going to have to hike all the way back down! What I had planned as a 7 mile hike turned into a 13.5 mile hike.

It’s been many years since I’ve hiked that many miles in one day. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but it’s surprising what your body can accomplish if you push through. My daughter would be proud of me. She’s always encouraging people to make an effort to go beyond what they think are their limitations. And the La Luz Trail is such a beautiful hike that I enjoyed the scenery all over again on the way down.
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Sandia Mountain Magic

Almost to the top!  The goal is to reach the Tramway and then we will be riding one of those cars back down the mountain.
Almost to the top! The goal is to reach the Tramway and then we will be riding one of those cars back down the mountain.

There are times when I whine about Albuquerque’s weather, windstorms, and brown desert landscape. But then along comes one of our many opportunities to hike in the nearby mountains and I think to myself how could there be a more awesome place to live than here where we have this gorgeous range of mountains called the Sandia’s sitting practically in our front yard.

When you talk to anyone who knows anything about hiking in this area, one of the first questions will be if you’ve hiked the La Luz Trail. It’s the premier Albuquerque trail that everyone knows about and hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of people hike every year. That’s one of the main reasons I resisted adding it to my “trails hiked” list. If it’s something that everybody does I’m just ornery enough to want to do the total opposite. There are plenty of trails that ascend the Sandia’s. I couldn’t understand why this one should be so special. Well, I got that question answered today when Lee finally persuaded me that I needed to let him show me the thrills he had experienced several weeks ago when he’d hiked up the La Luz Trail with a couple of friends.

We even did one better today than what Lee had done. When there is a little over a mile of hiking left to reach the Tramway, a spur trail heads up to the Sandia Crest House Gift Shop and Restaurant. It’s an extra half-mile of hiking up and then back down and I would have been happy to bypass it. But Lee wanted to do it, so I agreed. I was happy that we did, not only for the beautiful views from up there, but that we were able to buy ourselves an ice cream treat at the gift shop.

La Luz Trail photos on Flickr

La Luz Trail GPS track on Every Trail

An extra treat for me today was to think that just yesterday I had enjoyed another glorious Sandia Mountain hike, this one on the back side of the Crest looking south and east from where we were standing at the top today. The Crest House and Tramway Terminal are heavily populated with sightseers, since this part of the mountain is accessible by road and/or tramway. I was glad to see the groups of people enjoying the views from the top today, but I thought how the vast majority miss out on so much when they don’t get the thrill of climbing up one of the many wonderful Sandia Mountain trails.

GPS track of yesterday’s hike in the Sandia Mountains

Yesterday's view from Sandia Crest, looking northeast.
Yesterday’s view from Sandia Crest, looking northeast.
Along Crest Trail yesterday, hiking south.
Along Crest Trail yesterday, hiking south.