Can you picture yourself running in a 5K race on a crisp winter morning at the top of a 10,678-foot, snow-covered peak in snowshoes? That’s what approximately 150 adventurous people did when they competed in the 11th annual Sandia Snowshoe Race on Jan. 19, 2013.
The race is sponsored by the Friends of the Sandia Mountains, with proceeds supporting the preservation and maintenance of the trails and picnic areas on the Cibola National Forest and Grasslands‘ Sandia Ranger District in Tijeras, N.M.
The Sandia is a compact district of around 100,000 acres that includes the 37,200-acre Sandia Mountain Wilderness just east of Albuquerque. Because of its proximity to a metropolitan area, more than 1 million people visit the district each year. Visitors come for a variety of recreational activities – hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, rock climbing and horseback riding. In the winter, weather permitting, there’s cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The district also offers some pretty spectacular scenery – especially when traveling on the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway. Along the route are hiking trails that range from easy to difficult, peaceful picnic areas tucked in wooded areas, and some great opportunities to view wildlife. At the Sandia Crest House, visitors can access a number of trails while the patio offers a panoramic view of the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, the city of Albuquerque and points west.
The Sandia Ranger District has some exceptional cultural, historic and archeological treasures. For example:
- The Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site– a 200-room structure that was inhabited between1300 -1425 A.D.. The pueblo is located next to the ranger station and has a self-guided interpretive trail through the site and displays of artifacts.
- The Sandia Man Cave– found high on a cliff in Las Huertas Canyon. Scientists and students found the skeletal remains of Ice Age animals in the cave as well as stone arrows, lance points, basket scraps and bits of woven yucca moccasins.
- Direct ties to Spanish land grant communities established by the King of Spain in the 1700s and Mexican land grants from the 1820s. Some Spanish land grants adjoining the Sandias are still active.
The district also has a wide variety of wildlife – bear, cougars, snakes, bobcats, fox, mule deer, Rosy-Finches, hawks, golden eagles and more. The district works closely with partners such as the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Hawkwatch International, Central New Mexico Audubon Society, Sandia Mountain Bearwatch, and the New Mexico Habitat Stamp program to help monitor and protect wildlife.