by Dr. Denise R. Ames
What is your vision of a perfect hiking trail: a bubbling stream, sheer cliffs climbing to the sky, evergreens adding dimension and texture, a canyon floor ablaze with wildflowers, an open meadow with thickets of willowy grasses, and a clear blue-sky ablaze overhead. Well, you just described the Los Conchas Trail. Nestled in the Santa Fe National Forest just south of the equally mesmerizing Valles Caldera, the trail is easily accessed off of New Mexico Route 4.
Hiking the Los Conchas Trail was high on our list of must do activities that my partner, Jim, and I wanted to do when took a COVID-19 break and ventured into the high country around Los Alamos, New Mexico. The trail is a scenic and windy 20 miles from the security gates of Los Alamos to the trailhead. Although it very popular, the trail never feels crowded. Hikers always have a smile on their faces as we pass each other, with the unspoken but mutual acknowledgement that we are participating in something special, an encounter with the splendor of nature.
At about 8,400 feet elevation, the trail meanders across a flat terrain, making it easily traversed by people of all ages. Children especially love to stir up a frog on the stream’s banks, or pile up a few rocks around the water’s edges to try and corral an elusive fish. Several wooden bridges cross the stream, making sure your feet don’t get soggy and you can get a glimpse into stream life.
Although I have hiked the trail many times, it is always a fresh experience for me. The cliff walls surround the canyon floor, giving me a feeling of being bounded on all sides by nature. I am a mere speck in nature’s multitudes, a rather insignificant guest, much like I think of the annoying ants building their mounds next to my driveway. But oddly this insignificance is comforting to me. I can’t exactly explain why but perhaps my mind should not try to analyze this feeling. My intuition prods me to merely accept it and understand that there are many human feelings best left to mystery.
I am at nature’s mercy as I explore the magical canyon. I imagine it is not such an inviting place during frequent mountain thunderstorms or a blizzard dumping heaps of snow on its guests. But during this visit, nature is kind to me, dashing me with a few sprinkles of rain, but reserving its wrath for a time far past my departure.
As I walk through this canyon of delight, I find that I am filled with gratitude that I am able to connect to nature and revel in her majesty. I, like other humans, am too often separated from nature—or should I say that I think and feel that I am separated from nature. Actually, we are always within nature, how could we not be. But it feels good to me to be outside of human-created nature, and revel in non-human-created nature.
While ambling down Los Conchos Trail nature whispers to me through her rustling pine trees, reminding me that I am part of her and not to forget it as I go about my everyday life. Tell others she says, we are all part of this together, we are not separate, isolated creatures. We are all connected into an intricate web of relationships. Yes, I reply.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus. Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released! $14.95
Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books