Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

NATURAL PLAYGROUND.(Final)

Byline: Jane Mahoney For the Journal

Despite bosque's closure, Albuquerque's open spaces offer plenty of hiking, biking, birding and learning

Even tired legs and a sunburn couldn't detract from the sweeping view westward as I stood on the edge of the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area and gazed at volcanoes that looked little larger than anthills 25 miles across the Rio Grande Valley.

The immensity of it all. That's the sensation that filled my head. Gone were the statistics I had heard that day concerning Open Space acquisitions, the descriptions of fauna and flora, and the arguments pro and con for extending Paseo del Norte through the petroglyphs. I saw only huge, uncluttered landscapes, some appearing desolate to my untrained eye, others beautiful.

Sure, I've looked down at Albuquerque from the volcanoes, ridden my bike along trails winding through the bosque, and had picnics and short hikes in the foothills. But rarely -- OK, never -- had I contemplated the abundance and diversity of open spaces surrounding the Duke City.

So, when the National Park Service, the city's Open Space Division, the U.S. Forest Service, and State Park personnel combined recently for a daylong "Public Lands, Public Landscapes" outing, I was quick to sign up for the ride.

"We hope this is the first of a regular program," said Cheryl Ford, a park ranger assigned to Petroglyph National Monument. "We wanted to go from the top of the volcanoes to the top of the Crest, but we would run out of time. We settled for the edge of the Sandia Wilderness instead."

There were five stops on our agenda, geographically aligned from Albuquerque's westerly edge to the easternmost limits imposed by the mountains. We would be visiting the volcanoes, Boca Negra Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument, La Orilla and the Rio Grande Nature Center on opposite sides of the river, and finally Elena Gallegos open space in the foothills. …

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