(Ken) May 10, 2013. Oddly enough, as afraid of heights as she is; it was Jodi’s idea to ride the longest mountain tram in the world to the top of Sandia Mountain! While not the highest peak in the Sandia Mountains, it still managed to take us up over the 10,000 foot mark!
A short drive from Kirtland Air Force Base to the northeast side of the city, tucked away within housing developments, you will find the base of the Sandia Mountain Tram. Purchasing tickets at Kirtland’s ticket office we were ready for the adventure.
Starting out at about 5,000 feet above sea level we prepared ourselves for the climb that would take us another 5,000 feet or so and travel nearly two miles up and away via cable! To say the least, you probably do not want to do this on a windy day!
We watched the weather reports and determined today was the fairest day all week to make the trip. We had watched storms run head on into the peaks most of the week while we sat in the basin in sunshine and 70 degree weather. Today was suppose to be clear and warm.
When we arrived at the base and entered the tram station, the LED weather board said the temperature at the peak was 32 degrees with calm winds! Good thing we brought our sweatshirts and coats. We definitely needed them when we reached the top.
The tram doesn’t take you to the crest of the mountain, you have to complete that task when you exit the tram. The hiking trails are well marked, but you still have another two miles to goon the trails to get there.
After about a mile and a quarter hiking through the snow and a snow squall, the trail split to the crest and to the Kiwanis Cabin. Not to be conquered by the mountain we decided to go to the crest first. You always hear about thin air and how it affects you, but there is no way to prepare for the exhaustion and shortness of breathe when hits you. Simply rest often.
It took us nearly an hour to hike the final 3/4 of a mile on the trail to the crest. Looking out over the valleys from the top was literally breath taking! The air was that thin up over 10,000 feet. But, the beauty of it all was fantastic. On a clear day, they say you can see over 9,000 miles from the crest.
We shot a thousand photos and headed back to the fork in the trail and climbed over to the Kiwanis Cabin. Originally built of wood by the club in the early 1900’s for a shelter for hunters it was destroyed by fire shortly thereafter. When the Civilian Conservation Corp was working on the mountain in the 1930’s they rebuilt the cabin with stone on the sight for their own shelter.
As the afternoon drew to a close we headed back down to the tram station. Thought it to be smart to get there before it got dark! Plus, we could see a front moving in and it was getting cold.
The trip down the mountain was spectacular. When you are going up, you find yourself looking up the mountain and into the 900 foot drops below the tram; on the way down however, you are looking out across the valley to the west. And, with the sun setting, well what else can I say. If you are ever in this region, I suggest taking tram to the top, it is something you will never forget.
Until next time…………………..Cheers.