Manzano mountain air

Keep at a tangent.
When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim
Out on your own and fill the element
with signatures on your own frequency.

Seamus Heaney, Station Island

Mai’s Fall break and the recent cold spell made for perfect timing to walk in the Manzano Mountains, sampling the turning colors.  Prime color season draws decent sized crowds to these remote mountains, but part of the joy was seeing other people excited by the experience of walking out in the wild, eyes wide open.  Being in the presence of splendid nature on such intimate terms imbued everyone with good manners.  The forest was a picture of health.

During our walk we encountered three different groups on horses.  I was delighted to see such beautiful animals on the trail, especially since this is probably the busiest time of year and horses are shy.  But the horses were happy too.  We saw one party being trailered up for the ride home.  The woman walked into the trailer and gently called who wants to come.  The horses with their shining brown hair followed her like dogs, heads bobbing.  Our favorite group included a donkey, who seemed to be smiling, content from the open air walk with his herd.

We packed our lunch and mid-hike we stopped on a hillside angled Southeast and sat on rocks facing the sun.  We could see the veins of color shooting up 4th of July Canyon, which we had just walked through, and we admired the speckles of color further up on the high ridges of the mountainside.  The habitat changed as we emerged from the canyon, which was filled with tall trees with long roots twisting down, tapping the ground water.  The sun exposed hillsides were dominated by alligator junipers, piñon pine, yucca and had more open vistas.  The fragrance of sun, rock, soil and forest detritus was absolutely sublime.  Lunch never tasted so good.

By the time we finished later in the afternoon we were hungry again and our legs were tired.  We went to the Manzano Mountain Retreat down the road and stocked up on fresh apples.  The Spanish settlers brought apple seeds with them centuries ago.  This luscious fruit that originated in the Caucus Mountains of Central Asia still grows well here and takes on the unique character of these mountains.  They also sell Apple Cider and we got that too.  We are still eating these delicious apples and baking pies to fuel our next walk into the glorious wild.

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