Walk in beauty

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - INSIDE - Story by Daniel Gibson Pho­tos by Kitty Leaken

Be­ing sur­rounded by beauty, par­tic­u­larly the at­trac­tions of the nat­u­ral world — flow­er­ing plants, a lovely tree in fall color, a sparkling stream or a deep blue sky dot­ted with puffy clouds — can help lift de­pres­sion, van­quish stress and oth­er­wise con­trib­ute to health and well­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton’s Green Cities: Good Health project, “Trees, parks, gar­dens and nat­u­ral ar­eas en­hance qual­ity of life in cities and towns. Nearly 40 years of re­search shows that the ex­pe­ri­ence of na­ture is pro­foundly im­por­tant to hu­man func­tion­ing, health and well be­ing.”

Santa Fe is par­tic­u­larly rich in nat­u­ral beauty, places to en­joy a leisurely stroll, stretch one’s legs, breathe deeply and soak up the good feel­ings.

Santa Fe River Park

This 10-mile-long lin­ear park runs par­al­lel to the Santa Fe River. In re­cent years, more em­pha­sis has been ded­i­cated to ac­tu­ally putting wa­ter in this once-ro­bust small river, which is dammed above the city.

In spring and early sum­mer it of­ten now has a mod­est flow, which con­trib­utes greatly to its aes­thetic (and eco­log­i­cal) value as it pours over small drops, me­an­ders among wil­low and cot­ton­wood trees, and turns its sandy bot­tom into a kalei­do­scope of golden color.

Even when the river is dry, the me­an­der­ing paved foot­path along its bank pro­vides walk­ers with a sub­lime dis­con­nect from the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment and a vis­ual treat. Pic­nic ta­bles also in­vite folks to en­joy a light meal un­der its shady trees.

A good start­ing point is along Alameda Street in the heart of down­town Santa Fe.

Cross of the Mar­tyrs

The path climbs sev­eral hun­dred feet in el­e­va­tion and de­liv­ers a good mix of ex­er­cise and won­der­ful views. It is es­sen­tially a long set of linked stairs and wind­ing paved foot­ways that as­cends from the north por­tion of Paseo de Per­alta to a hill­top over­look­ing down­town.

This is the site of a for­mer mil­i­tary fort erected by the U.S. af­ter its oc­cu­pa­tion of Santa Fe in 1846. The old adobe fort is gone to­day but his­toric plac­ards pro­vide some in­ter­est­ing images and in­for­ma­tion. At the end of the trail is a large metal cross is ded­i­cated to the many Fran­cis­can fri­ars who were killed in the Pue­blo Re­volt of 1680. Signs ex­plain this dark chap­ter in New Mex­ico’s his­tory.

This short climb of­fers walk­ers won­der­ful views over the down­town core and west­ward to­ward the dis­tant Je­mez

Moun­tains, and is a prime van­tage point to take in a sun­set. The grass-cov­ered hills and nar­row ar­royos of­ten shel­ter large flocks of birds and other wildlife, best spot­ted in the early morn­ing or evening twi­light hours.

Start the walk from Paseo de Per­alta, just north of Tommy Ma­caione Park (for­merly Hill­side Park).

Santa Fe Canyon Pre­serve

Few sights are more in­vig­o­rat­ing and re­fresh­ing than wa­ter in the desert, and this des­ti­na­tion of­fers wa­ter in abun­dance — both mov­ing and still.

The 520-acre pre­serve is man­aged by The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy and in­cludes a thriv­ing cot­ton­wood bosque ( for­est), a beaver pond and pools, a sec­tion of run­ning wa­ter in the orig­i­nal Santa Fe River stream bed and flank­ing lands cov­ered in chamisa, four-winged salt­bush, piñon and ju­niper. Th­ese di­verse habi­tats are home to 140 species of birds and other wildlife, in­clud­ing the rare leop­ard frog.

An ex­cel­lent trail sys­tem winds through the pre­serve, ex­tend­ing as far as the Audubon Cen­ter’s head­quar­ters at the end of Up­per Canyon Road, which has its own trail sys­tem. This is an ideal spot to wan­der for a brief es­cape or an hours-long adventure.

Ac­cess to the pre­serve is free. Park­ing is avail­able at the end of Cerro Gordo Road near its in­ter­sec­tion with Up­per Canyon Road. It is open dawn to dusk.

Dale Ball Trails

This 22-mile trail sys­tem on the north­east­ern edge of Santa Fe in the San­gre de Cristo foothills of­fers ex­cur­sions rang­ing from easy 15-minute loops to stren­u­ous hikes up Ata­laya and Pi­ca­cho Peaks. Each one in­cludes some mag­nif­i­cent views of the lands ly­ing to the south and west of Santa Fe, plus im­mer­sion in thick piñon and ju­niper forests. Small creeks run in spring af­ter a good win­ter.

www.sfct.org/dale-ball-trails Maps and more in­for­ma­tion on lo­cal trails and walks www.santafenm.gov/trails

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