On Sunday I rode my bicycle up to the top of the Sandia Crest and met my wife there for a hike along the Crest trail. Albuquerque is a mile high in elevation above sea level. The Sandia Crest is two miles high. While hiking we saw a young girl peering over the mountain’s edge at the city below. She said the cars look like ants down there. Indeed your whole perspective changes on top of the Crest. Ranges of mountains span across a huge 360 degree horizon. Clouds hang and dance along the Sandia’s edges and swell up high in the early afternoon sky.
We have lived here since October and this is our first time walking the Crest Trail. There are so many magnificent things to do that make Albuquerque exceptional, from the Petroglyph National Monument on the West Mesa to the Foothills in the east, to the central bosque green belt and Rio Grande flowing through town. Certainly the Crest has to be the crown jewel.
One of the things that came up at the city planning focus groups last Friday was elevating Albuquerque’s image. It was quite apropos from what I’ve noticed since moving here. Those in the know understand that what makes Albuquerque unique is a certain richness–in landscape, people, languages, cultures, food–in a searing Southwest combination that is completely unparalleled. But helping people share in that celebration, and making it a coherent vision to put forward is a challenge, and great opportunity for us to advance all the city is. I heard another insight at the meeting that startled me. A planner suggested Austin was a sister city. That is a much better comparison than to Phoenix, Las Vegas Nevada, or another city in Texas. We are smaller and funkier. One thing I notice is we have more mountains than Austin.
The top of the Crest is a great place to ponder the city from. The city seems something we’ve created that is an extension of the form of the Crest. Linking the two is a wonderfully scenic road that fits in so perfectly to these tilted mountains. It runs up the thickly forested back side. And there’s also an aerial tramway that you can take from the city. It gives people mobility choices and keeps traffic down on the road to make it a quieter, cleaner and safer ride. The ski lifts (pictured above) were taking hikers and mountain bikers up and down too. Much of the initial infrastructure was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s when our country mobilized the workforce to address pressing needs and get people training their skills everyday.
The extensive trail system gets people walking. Doing ignites experiential learning. We had a funny realization while walking. It was our anniversary the previous day! What saved me was that Mai forgot too. Being up on the Crest together was a great way to start celebrating. We reflected on how Albuquerque is a wonderful city, and how by living here we find opportunities to learn more about the big picture of the world around us. Crest and city, each a form of each. Crest and the city, a wonderful pair!
Resources and ways to get involved and further analyze:
The Santa Fe Institute uses Complexity Science to study economic growth, social networks, transportation, and all the activities that fuse together in cities.
There are upcoming city planning meetings for citizens to express their voice and help with envisioning. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan is being updated along with the zoning ordinance, and in the process the planning agencies are conducting focus groups to instigate dialogue that will help set the tone for the planning framework.
Here’s my bike ride up the Crest from Strava: