Otero Canyon Trail: A Trail of Softness in the Cibola National Forest

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Otero Trail, Cibola National Forest, NM, photo Denise Ames

Another scenic trail in the labyrinth of Cibola National Forest trails is the Otero Canyon Trail. Traveling a few short miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico on Interstate I-40, swinging around the Sandia Mountain, I exit at the village of Tijeras. Taking the well-paved highway 337 south, it is just a few miles to the trailhead. The total trip from my front door to the trailhead is 17.2 miles, about 20 minutes. What could be easier. It takes that amount of time to get to the west side of Albuquerque.

The road weaves through creosote and pinyon stunted forests as it descends southward, eventually reaching the barren, scrub brush landscape of the high desert plateau. But before the stark environ, the landscape is an enchanting one. The Otero Canyon Trail is one of the very popular trails offering its hikers a spectacular array of sights and sounds.

The well-marked trailhead is easy to find, located right off the main highway 337. It is a 4.2 mile out and back trail, and rated as moderate, just my speed.

Otero Trail, photo Denise Ames

Some hikers don’t like out and back trails because they think they are just seeing the same sights over again. However, I like out and back trails since each direction offers different views of the same landscape, and surprisingly different perspectives on the same sights. I think this offers a valuable lesson for us. It is a reminder that different facts, events, and people can be seen from multiple angles and perspectives. Each perspective offers a surprisingly different view.

The ascent from the trailhead was gradual but it was still obvious that we were gaining elevation. The scrubby, dry brush gradually gave way to fresh-looking ponderosa pine and green underbrush. A dry creek bed followed us along the trail, its boulder-strewn washes reminded us that in a downpour the raging water could be deadly. Luckily, the sky was that clear, piercing blue that makes me love looking skyward in New Mexico.  

It was a Saturday, and mountain bikers were out in full force. I could see why they would love this winding and rocky trail, just enough to challenge them. However, as a hiker, it can be annoying at times to have to constantly step aside for the more powerful metal contraptions colonizing the trail. I always think that their flamboyant and slick garb and expensive and garish paraphernalia seem out of place in nature. But most bikers are exceeding polite and appreciative of hikers’ accommodation to their claim of king of the trails. So, I try to reserve my judgment and smile when they pass and wish them a good ride.

Otero Trail, Ponderosa Pine forest, photo Denise Ames

Towards the end of the trail, the pine forests dominated and their lush needles cushioned the forest floor. It felt like I was gliding along the trail instead of hiking. I loved the feeling of softness that the pine forest emitted. The needles seemed to be telling me that I should not get to bogged down in the harshness of life, there is always softness. The softness of a lover’s touch, the hug of a friend, the shout of joy coming from a child eager to see you. All are soft and we need more softness in our lives, there is too much harshness. 

Otero Trail, photo Denise Ames

I was reluctant to leave the softness of the forest, but the end of the trail was clearly marked. We turned to retrace our steps and enjoy the trail from a different angle. On the way down the trail, I tried to keep my softness feeling as I encountered a mountain biker trio. My soft feeling must have flowed to them as well, they dismounted their bikes and let us pass with a smile and sincere greeting.

Wow! Perhaps this softness could be transmitted. The only hard part was keeping it myself. At least I could try.

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 

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