Monty and Niko and I spent every morning over the last two weeks hiking. There are five less-than-4-mile trails at Ojo, and we hiked every single one. Each has it’s own different geography: one along the river, one down an arroyo, one to an old mica mine, one to an overlook, and one to the ruins of an old indian pueblo.

At almost 6,000 feet above sea level, hiking in northern New Mexico is a little more strenuous than at home. There’s a bit less oxygen for the ol’ lungs. It is dry, even in winter, and we had to drink lots of water. But after a few days, it got easier, and felt great. The smell is amazing when the breeze carries it just right. Everything smells like piñon (a shrubby pine), sage and dirt. I know, I know, but the dirt here smells awesome. It is red and soft and clay-like, not at all like our midwest tree-rot smell.

The river runs right along the camp ground, and I listened to it bubbling at all hours of the day. It runs clear, fast and cold. At night, coyotes can be heard traipsing up and down the ditch, calling to one another. The dogs and I did this trail many times, as it was easy and flat.

The arroyo trail is a little hard to find, but even in the snow we managed. Many hikers had come before us and left us little rock cairns to guide our way. You can see three sets of mountains from this trail: the ones near Santa Fe and Taos and the Jemez range. I loved looking for various animal tracks in the snow. From what I could tell, I found rabbit, coyote, deer and maybe elk.

The pueblo ruins are from the Posi tribe, and there are many MANY shards of interesting pottery here and there. I couldn’t help thinking about what made them choose this spot: overlooking the river and the mountains, with two small, rocky hills to guard it. It’s a nice spot. It feels safe.

The Mica mine was not was I expected. I’m not sure I even knew what raw mica looked like. It sparkles, and it has a very flakey, almost plastic feel. The mud is literally glittering with mica, and the mine itself is very old, just a gulley with a few holes carved in it. Among the mica flakes were hunks of quartz or maybe agate. I had trouble choosing one or two mementos to carry back with me.

And the overlook trail. I did this trail on Thanksgiving. You can see all the mountain ranges from a great distance and the sky stretches on forever in all directions. You’re very close to the clouds here. I felt like I could almost reach up and touch them.

In the evening all the reds and oranges and greens of the desert turn a deep slate blue with bands of purple. I’ve never thought as the desert as “blue” before, and its not like the blue of the ocean. Blue all the same, though, and beautiful. Other than the breeze and the occasional bird, it’s also perfectly silent. It’s the kind of silence that sinks in, making your shoulders fall a bit and your eyes close.

After a while I didn’t even notice being tired or thirsty. I just watched the colors and the shadows and was content.