DESTINATIONS

Denver Landscape Impacts Tulsa Student
by AaRron “MoMo” Mosley

This past spring break I went with a good friend of mine to Denver, Colo., and it was an experience that will stay with me for a long time. Although the time spent there was meant for my friend to see his family, I just went along for the ride. The bulk of the four days there we spent driving around downtown and the surrounding areas. Being able to drive and see the city was why this trip had such a lasting effect on me.

Being from Tulsa, Okla., I realized city life is a lot different in Denver, because there actually is a city life. In Tulsa, the working downtown area is only about 27 blocks. So to see a city with such downtown development was an experience in itself. Downtown Denver is huge compared to Tulsa. The complex design and placement of each building is what interested me. It was as if the buildings were set up like an artist would set up a collage, it is like each one of them was placed there to complete an art piece. During the drive downtown I saw the Pepsi Center and the Qwest Tower located near the heart of downtown. We also drove around the 16th Street Mall and saw people shopping and hanging out in eateries.

The other thing that got to me about being in Denver were the large numbers of people who were always around day or night eating, walking, shopping, working and living. In Tulsa, everything outside of certain night clubs closes down at 9 p.m. So to go to a place where people not only hang out downtown, but also live there is something that I never thought that I would see as it’s not very common at all where I am from. Denver opened my eyes to what city life can be.

 

Looking west at Sandia Pueblo (on the left) and Albuquerque (on the right) from a perch high atop the Sandia Mountains.
Photo credit: Andrea Hanks/Dawn of Nations Today

 

Sandia Mountains A New Mexico Treasure
by Spenser M. Phillips

The soft, quiet breeze wafts the smell of tall dark pine trees all around you. The sound of birds chirping, leaves rustling and little critters running around the underbrush and up and down the trees. Sounds like a forest getaway that is miles and miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. But this quiet solitude and freedom from the hardships of daily life can be attained, which is only a stone’s throw away from Albuquerque. The Sandia Mountains are the perfect get away from the busy city life and they are conveniently only ten to twenty minutes away from anywhere in Albuquerque.

The majestic Sandia Mountains were formed 10 million years ago by an uplifting of the Earth’s crust during the formation of the Rio Grande Rift. The mountains themselves  primarily consist of the igneous rock, granite. These rocks give the Sandias their amazing pinkish/red hue at sunset, and their name.Sandia is the Spanish word for “watermelon.” The Sandia Mountains can offer endless fun activities for anybody, and everybody, of all ages.

There are 25 hiking trails rated from easy to difficult; skiing in the winter; mountain biking in the summer; and all types of activities in between. The mountains themselves are two-sided with the western side more of a desert and rocky-type landscape which reflects the famous colors we see every day. The eastern side is similar to the Rocky Mountains type landscape full of tall pine trees, creeks, and wildlife. If you don’t like to hike very far there are a number of public benches right at the base of the mountains, most notably, the Elena Gallegos open space which offers amazing views of the city and are just far enough away to obtain that “in-the-mountains” feeling. Sandia Peak Tramway, once the world’s largest, starts at the bottom of the mountains and goes all the way to the top. At the top of the tram you can have a nice quiet romantic dinner at the crest, or ride your mountain bike down the ski trails (when there isn’t snow of course.)

The most famous trail in the Sandias is the La Luz, which offers a challenging four-hour hike from the bottom all the way to the top. The hike is a bit difficult but does not require any rock climbing gear. Another interesting fact about the Sandias is the TWA plane crash that is near the crest. The plane crash happened in the 1950’s and most of the wreckage is still up there for all to visit, and to pay their respects. The trail to the plane crash takes about two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours.

The mountain, however, is not only for recreational purposes, but is a source of spirituality for the Sandia Pueblo people. According to the tribe’s website the reservation spans 22,000 acres along the Rio Grande Valley to the east. The mountain is a spiritual sanctuary for the tribe and its plants, animals and other resources aided in their existence.

A little known jewel on the mountains’ east side is Tinkertown, which is a folk art museum created by Ross Ward. It is a huge collection of dolls, figurines, models, and a whole wall made from beer bottles, as well as plenty of other odd collectables, including the shoes and pants that belonged to world’s tallest man.

So aside from all these fun and entertaining activities you can do, there are amazing sites to see. The Sandias are a perfect place to just go off the trail and find a nice rock or log to sit on and reflect upon yourself and just totally let go of your troubles and worries that come along with living in the city.

 

White River Rafting Stole My Heart
by Amber Price, Dawn of Nations Today

As I rafted down the Rio Grande River the diamond ripples blind me and the rush of the rapids fill my ear.

The freezing water sends a chill down my back, but my adrenaline keeps me warm. I don’t know what it is about white-water rafting that keeps me coming back for more.

For years I lived in Texas, but moved back home to Santa Fe in 2008. When I moved back a friend of mine invited me to take a crack at white river rafting. Naturally I was excited and agreed to go. I was hooked.

Being an outdoor type of person I wasn’t too surprised by how much I enjoyed rafting.
But I was surprised at how quickly I latched onto it. One minute I was trying it and the next I enrolled myself in a guide school to become a rafting guide.

In guide school there are no textbooks. All the skills are learned by experience and simply rafting over and over again. One of the first skills I picked up was being able to tolerate10-degree mountain water. I’ve been thrown into it, and I felt like I became a human popsicle.

Guide school can be vigorous. In the seven days that I spent training to be a guide I was pushed to and beyond my known limit. Guide school makes you realize that you are out of shape, getting old and maybe even kind of wimpy.

I realized how intense guide school could be when we ran on the Rio Grande Racecourse four times a day for five days. The course is a five-mile stretch of white water where I learned how to check the daily water level of a river before you run it.

I learned that rafters don’t like low water because when the water is low and rocks are exposed they can be harmful to rafters. A low water level can also bring paddling difficulties. Usually less water makes for a boring trip and leaves rafters to have to paddle monotonously.

Rafting is all about the rush and sometimes a lot of rafters live off of the adrenaline. So, when there are tame waters and low water levels it makes it less fun.

While a lot of technicality is involved in guide school, there are just as many fun aspects of it.

During one of our trips we were out on the runner until dark and our guide instructor decided that our class would camp in what rafters call “River Mansions.” The mansions are nothing more than tents set up along the river.

Being dumped in the freezing mountain water and being pushed to my limit came with a couple of good laughs. I ended up rafting the entire season and that summer was the most memorable of my life so far. I got to see some glistening water diamonds, and to get paid for it.

Dawn of Nations Today Volumn 6; Issue 1; May 2011, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dawn of Nations Today is a special edition published by the Native American Studies Department, University College, University of New Mexico
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