by Dr. Denise R. Ames
I am lucky! Different people have different ways in which they feel lucky. I am lucky in many ways, my beautiful grandchildren come immediately to mind, but today I feel lucky in a different way. There are miles and miles of nature trails within a short drive of my house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That is lucky.
Luring me from my comfortable hikes along the bosque (forest) paths along the Rio Grande in the middle of Albuquerque, is the Tunnel Canyon Trail. Located in the Cibola National Forest east of the Sandia Mountains that form the eastern border of my city, the trail is rated as moderate with some elevation gain. My old knees don’t like a lot of up and down hiking, so I try to avoid it if possible.
The Cibola (pronounced SEE-bo-lah) National Forest is a 1,633,783 acre United States National Forest that lies mostly in New Mexico. The name Cibola is thought to be the original Zuni Indian name for their pueblos or tribal lands. The name was later interpreted by the Spanish to mean “buffalo.” The forest is disjointed with lands spread across central and northern New Mexico, west Texas and even into Oklahoma.
My partner, Jim, and I arrived mid-morning and easily found a parking spot. Just emerging from the trailhead was a bedraggled-looking young man who was just finishing a 700-mile hike from Arizona to New Mexico. His final leg was a hike up to Sandia Peak, about another ascent of 20 miles. The crest of the Sandia Mountains stands at 10,679′, so he had a way to go. I admired his stamina and determination; Jim and I were thinking a 4-mile round trip would be just enough.
The Tunnel Canyon Trail makes up only a slice of the enormous Cibola National Forest, but it represents nature’s beauty at its best—New Mexico style. We immediately loved the trail. The elevation gains were noticeable, but certainly within our ability level. We laugh when a trail description says it is for beginners, we classify ourselves as enders not beginners. We have reached our peak of strength and athletic abilities, now we are on a downhill trend. We work hard to stem the steep decline, but it is inevitable, the decline does come.
But today we are not worried about the decline of our physical abilities, the air is clear and fresh and the sun casts its warming rays our way. A slight breeze rustles through the pines telling us they enjoy our trek through their forest. They also tell us that physical decline is part of nature, it happens. They point to their old trees that are beginning to bend from the wind or crack from the constant shifting of the sandy soil. No need to fret and worry, change is part of nature and we, too, are part of nature.
We indeed feel part of nature as we make our way to a spectacular overlook of the forest valley below. Reaching in every direction the forest looks endless. We decide that this is a good place to turn back and enjoy the same trail again, but from a different angle.
We safely arrive back at our car and drive the short distance back to Albuquerque. Feeling lucky all over again that we had another wonderful few hours beholding nature’s beauty.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.
Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books