I was feeling restless last week and needed to get in a hike, but didn’t want to drive out to the east side of the Sandias.
Luckily for me, Albuquerque is blessed with stunning natural beauty everywhere. I looked up Rio Grande Valley State Park — specifically the Pueblo Montaño picnic area and trailhead.
With the outdoors probably being the safest source of recreation right now, I am still amazed at how many options are available to me right out my front door. It took me fifteen minutes or so to drive to the trailhead parking lot.
The park is popular and the small lot was almost full. After I got a space to park, I was greeted by trails leading off into the Bosque of Rio Grande Valley State Park. There is a bathroom on site and the trails are used by people running, biking, or walking, as well as people on horseback. There were no horses the day I was there, but horseshoe tracks were everywhere.
Walking over to the park welcome signs, someone has installed a little free library, and this is the third one I’ve encountered in Albuquerque. (The first was put up by Yvie of 812 Retro)
For those who haven’t seen them, little free libraries operate on the “take what you need, give what you can,” philosophy, and I smile every time I see one. I thought it especially smart to put one at a park, where families and children are sure to see it.
Before the trails officially start, there is a plaza with picnic tables and wood sculptures made by artist and retired Albuquerque firefighter Mark Chavez. He uses a chainsaw to make sculptures honoring the men and women who protect the Bosque, especially the ones working back in 2003, when 250 acres of the Bosque were burned by a human-caused fire.
Getting onto the trail, at first I wasn’t sure I made a good choice. I like to get away from city noise while I’m hiking and I could plainly hear the street traffic up above. After a short walk, I reached the canal parallel to the Rio Grande, and walking a bit further, I met up with the river.
The Rio Grande fascinates me and living right next to it is, for me anyway, pretty neat. I’ve done some reading since moving here, and learning about the river’s history and how it provides life in the desert is nothing short of miraculous.
I stood for a while, watching a duck meander through the shallows as several larger birds glided low over the water, undoubtedly looking for dinner. It was beautiful, and I was next to a bridge with traffic humming over it. I was impressed, and needed to go further in.
Turning right at the Rio Grande, the trails went deeper into the Bosque. The further from the trailhead I got, the fewer people I passed. About another mile or so in, I passed a woman reading a book in a large green hammock she had strung up between two large trees. She looked up, we gave each other a brief smile in recognition, and she went back to her book as I walked deeper into the golden air around me.
The leaves had turned, and it was later in the afternoon. The trees were towering above and it felt like walking through Mother Nature’s own cathedral of trees. I stopped, listened, and watched.
The sunlight hitting the trees really was a soft gold and everything was glowing. I took note that I didn’t hear traffic anymore, and heard a splash followed by laughter. I walked back to the bank of the Rio Grande, and a hundred yards or so downstream on the other side of the river, a father was fishing with his kids.
I am not sure how far down the Rio Grande the trails go, but I plan to come back and find out.