We’re still picking sand and dust out of our eyelashes and teeth many hours later. Despite our trek being barely more than half-mile in length roundtrip, Friday’s mini-hike was one of the most enthralling adventures the two of us have ever been on.
It was supposed be a quick and easy trip up Loma Colorado de Abajo, a 5,581 foot peak in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The day had been mostly sunny and surprisingly warm (52°) despite the forecast of winter storm crossing the northwestern half of New Mexico. From what we could tell, the Albuquerque area seemed to have been spared the worst of the weather, as only places above 9,000 feet in the abutting Sandia Mountains were feeling its brunt.
We arrived at Rio Rancho’s Loma Colorado Library located at the base of the hill and got out of the car to prepare for our late afternoon mini-hike to the summit. Upon doing so we were instantly greeted by much cooler temps and gusty winds. By the time we were making our way up the steep and sandy slopes, we were wrapped up like nomadic bedouins amid a full-fledged dust storm. At this point, winds were gusting nearly 50 mph and visibility was decreasing.
Thankfully, we had dressed for cooler temperatures, but not these ferocious winds nor the near-constant blasting of fine sand, dust, and grit. We debated returning to the car, but the desire to summit this mount (+141 feet in elevation above the parking lot and +581 feet above Albuquerque itself) and to see what a dust storm actually felt and looked like from the top pushed us forward against the tempest.
Throughout the hike our faces were turned downwind and covered as much as could be to still see where we were going and to avoid the onslaught of tiny particles furiously pummeling us. Facemasks used earlier in the day to help guard us against Covid were now being employed as protective face gear.
Upon reaching the summit we were greeted with even stronger winds buffeting us, which made it hard to stay upright. We also were greeted by the impressive sight of a double- decker storm cloud capping Sandia Crest some 20 miles to the east and a brownish haze of the dust blowing across the city. It was quite a sight for a pair of comparative high desert newbies from the forever green hued lands of Michigan.
After a few quick photos and a short video of what we were witnessing, we ventured down the sandy hillside (that felt like a sand dune) as the winds whipped and shoved us along all the way back.
Was is dumb to hike/climb 0.6 miles up and back a fiercely windswept rise during the height of a dust storm? Maybe…but given the relatively short roundtrip distance, proximity to the library, and what we flatland Midwesterners got a chance to experience, I’d do it all over again in an instant!
p.s. We’ll likely be picking sand and dust out of our nooks and crannies for weeks.