Watermelon Mountains

Sandias at Sunset
Sandias at Sunset

I am sitting in a kitchen on the edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico, looking out the window at the Sandia Mountains.

It is silent here. The only noise I’ve heard from outside in the past week is the sound of thunder, and of rain on the skylight. I think this is what I will miss the most when we return to LA.

In LA there is always an onslaught of sound. I can hear the metro trains a few blocks away, helicopter flying overhead most nights, people speeding down the street, angry folks yelling at each other from the apartments across the street, television, music, car horns, leaf blowers… I wake up every morning around 5:30 am not from the light but from the sounds. I feel like I am constantly under seige.

This is made worse by having Aspergers; my heightened noise sensitivity makes that urban onslaught unbearable at times. Still, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone not really appreciating quiet.

Oso Ridge Trail
Oso Ridge Trail

People seem compelled to make their presence known. In big cities like Los Angeles, the fastest growing urban area in America, you’re in competition with over 13 million other people, an unreasonable number of them actors and musicians whose livelihoods depend upon being seen and heard. Los Angeles is not a place that encourages quiet, and as the noise level increases, people need to be even louder to be heard above it all. Everything seems in a state of perpetual crescendo.

We hadn’t planned on being here for two weeks. The clutch gave out in Grants, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque. We were there for the Mt. Taylor 50K, a beautiful, low-key race put on by old friends of Andrea’s; it’s their house we are staying at now.

Autumn Leaves on the Embudito Trail
Autumn Leaves on the Embudito Trail

The Sandia Mountains behind us are glowing pink right now, another beautiful New Mexico sunset. Sandia means watermelon in Spanish; the mountains are named because of this pink sunset glow.

The air here is clean, the clouds spectacular. The air in LA is visible. You are not actually supposed to be able see air, or smell it, or taste it, but in LA you can. When I first moved to LA, in 1986, the smog made me claustrophobic. The sky was not endless but a low ceiling. There is not that problem here.

Pino Trail
Pino Trail

There are a number of trails up to the crest of the Sandias. Most are pretty scrappy – decomposed granite, cactus, exposed and rocky on the bottom, thick with trees in the middle, and steep at the top. My fear of heights stopped me short of the Crest on both the Embudito and the Oso Ridge Trails, the trailheads of which are both about half-a-mile south of the back door. I tried each twice, once both on the same day. I finally made it to the Crest on the Pino Trail, topping out at about 9500 feet.

The joy of those climbs, even the failed attempts that left me frightened on the top and frustrated on the way down, has been a good antidote to the stress of work. I’m not particularly looking forward to heading back into the maw of LA.

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