Some people come to Albuquerque for the views, others come for the camping and still others come for school. Scott Smith came for all three. Coming from Philadelphia, he first visited the city in 2002 while scouting out schools for Chinese medicine and knew the instant his plane touched land that Albuquerque was a place he wanted to be.
“Albuquerque is completely different from where I'm from; it's sunny all the time, has great weather and lots of space; there's more elbowroom. Here, I've seen the most beautiful sunsets, lightning storms and rainbows than anywhere else I've been.”
Now a student at the Southwest Acupuncture College, Smith spends much of his spare time trekking outdoors, communing with New Mexico's copious amounts of sunshine.
After narrowly escaping so many sunburns, he's come up with some good recommendations for newcomers who want to venture into our still mostly wild state.
“Villanueva State Park is a great place to go. It's convenient, small and clean, and you can get right in the river. And it's only an hour and a half away. The Magdalena Mountains are also full of good hiking areas that take you from desert to aspens in no time.
“One of my favorite places is the East Fork Trail in the Jemez Mountains. It's just a few miles long, but it hugs a stream the whole way, [and is complemented by] makeshift bridges from fallen trees.
“If you're looking for something more challenging, go about 141 miles south of Albuquerque to the Apache Kid Wilderness; especially the San Mateo Peak at the Springtime Campground. It's steep, really hot and covered in loose rocks, but it's also some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen.”
For those who are really interested in exploring the state, Smith says to get your hands on New Mexico's Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide by Bob Julyan and Tom Till.
“This state is so unique, and has so many small towns. You're bound to find something; you just get in your car and go.”