As we continue to thread our way through the spread of Covid-19 across the world, our country and our state, we are blessed in New Mexico to have stunning natural beauty and outdoor space all around us.
After feeling stir crazy staying at home, I needed to get out- I knew I needed to avoid crowds, and stay away from places where touching hard surfaces might leave me open to infection.
It didn’t take me long to decide- I haven’t been able to take my eyes off the Sandias since I arrived in town a few weeks ago. I knew I’d need to be careful, and wondered if anyone else was feeling the same.
Turns out, they were!
I got out of my Jeep and surveyed the scene. In the distance, I saw people hiking and noticed right away- everyone was spaced pretty far apart. I heard a report from a friend in Colorado that people had been rude out on the trails and weren’t being cautious, so this made me pretty happy to see.
Staying a good ten feet away, I chatted with two women wearing face masks near a pickup truck. “Did you hear,” one of the women said, “the Governor is going to make an announcement this afternoon we all need to stay home!”
I thanked them, took a look at the trail, and picked one that looked like it had good elevation. I really enjoy a vertical climb on mountain trails, and it was a perfect day to get a workout in. I started heading up the trail, and the closest people ahead of me were easily a ¼ mile ahead, and when I looked back, a couple and their dogs had given me a big head start before they got onto the trail. I waved, they waved back. I am convinced Burqueños are some of the most considerate people anywhere.
As I started climbing in elevation, I also started sucking wind north of 9,000 feet. I’ve been indoors awhile, and I felt it. I made a mental reminder to make sure I stopped neglecting exercise in our new reality.
I kept climbing, and realized I was hiking a dual purpose trail; I hopped over what were clearly jumps for Mountain Bikers, and a few bikers passed me. They all slowed down before they reached me, and I heard them coming so I had time to get out of the way and stay safe.
As I came over a rise and started to descend, a man was walking his bike up the hill- we both paused, said hello, and froze for a few seconds. There was maybe ten feet between us, and we both realized we were waiting for the other to move first and started laughing. I threw up my hands in mock exasperation and said, “Hey, at this point, being outside is the only safe thing we can do!” and we both laughed again.
We introduced ourselves, agan maintaining a distance, and Zack started sharing. “I just moved here two weeks ago- what a crazy time”
I laughed again and said, “I moved here three weeks ago! I know Mattoon, not too far from Effingham, right? I went to college at Illinois State University and had friends from that area!” and we laughed some more at two guys from the Midwest meeting in the Sandias while a virus swept the globe.
I moved off the trail so Zack could get by, we did an air fist bump, figured we’d run into each other again and get some New Mexican microbrews once the world got back to normal.
As I continued on my hike, I met three more women at different points on the trail and struck up conversations with each. It generally went like this:
I’d see them or they would see me, stop and one of us would call out, “Hi there,” followed by laughter- and then we’d chat- at a safe distance. One woman moved here from San Diego, one from Washington D.C., and one from Boston and, surprisingly, all of them had moved here in the last two months.
We shared how lucky we feel to live somewhere so friendly and beautiful, and talked about the situations in each of their cities.
Later that day, Governor Lujan-Grisham held a press conference, ordering us all to stay in our home. I’m hopeful that with enough precautions hiking will still be possible, but I‘m also being cautious in my enthusiasm and waiting to see what the next week brings.
We’re all being told to stay home, New Mexico, and we all need to do our part. I’m excited to explore my new home, and everyone I meet is friendly. We will get through this, and we’re going to do it together.
Stay strong, stay safe New Mexico. We’re in this together.
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