Monte Sol

Santa Fe is a place of magic, a location where one is enveloped by a unique amalgam of spirit and matter, oozing with the energy of the Divine. My wife Sheridan and I have made it a habit to visit there yearly to see Amma, also known as the “Hugging Saint,” to receive darshan – a blessing – through her holy embrace.

Besides this sacred event, Santa Fe also has an incredible array of restaurants, art and trekking. Many a time we have hiked nearby trails, including Bandelier and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This year, though, we wanted to explore somewhere different, and with the help of our friend Judge, one of the proprietors of Ravens Ridge Bed and Breakfast, we selected the Monte Sol Trail, also called the Sun Mountain Trail. Located only about five minutes away from our lodgings directly off the Old Santa Fe Trail Highway, on the surface the hike didn’t appear to be too challenging. Judge estimated that this two-mile trek would take a total of two hours up and down, and the elevation change was only eight hundred sixty feet. So, ready to taste the wilderness, we drove to the trail head and set off to experience the mystery of nature.

Quickly we realized that this hike was not for the weak of heart. After about a hundred yards of a gradual incline, we hit a series of switchbacks that went on a steep slope seemingly straight up the mountain. Every step had to be measured carefully, as the scree made each precarious. We had to pause more often than I care to confess to give our heart rates a chance to fall below one hundred and sixty. Shortly, my clothes were soaked with sweat, and the intense New Mexico sun relentlessly beat down on us.

But yet, even in the midst of the intense physical challenge, I noticed various multicolored desert flowers – yellows, whites, reds and purples – arising out of rocky surfaces, as if to tell me that in spite of the challenges of life, beauty can spring forth from desolation. Butterflies flitted around us, mostly variations of blacks and whites, demonstrating the importance of finding joy in every moment. Ravens circled overhead, silently observing the landscape, looking for food such as carrion, rodents and bird eggs. Small brown lizards darted across our path, disappearing as quickly as they arrived, their coloring camouflaging them from our eyes. Many small grouping of holes in the earth were the burrows of cicadas, a harbinger of things to come.

After a little over an hour, Sheridan and I breathlessly arrived at the summit of Monte Sol, seeing the beautiful city of Santa Fe spread out below us. We felt not only the continued intensity of the sun, but also forceful gusts of wind that threatened to blow us off our feet. Seeking shelter from the elements, Sheridan discovered a gnarled, low hanging tree that stood over some large rocks suitable for sitting. Bending over to enter the small, cocoon-like space, we sat down, feeling branches nudging up against us. After a snack of tasty milk chocolate combined with hazelnuts, we both lay down on a soft bed of pine needles, watching the sun peek through the tree limbs. As I closed my eyes, I could hear the comforting sounds of cicadas, along with the occasional buzz of flies.

As I rested, I realized that the cicadas were Mother Nature’s symphony, with the flies sounding much like off-key violins. The blustery wind was the cooling breath of God, and the sun Her guiding light, while the enveloping tree was as a Divine womb. I felt safe, nurtured and peaceful. Other hikers wandered into the area, and I paid no attention to their idle banter. Nothing could penetrate the sacred space I had entered.

Some time later, Sheridan and I emerged from our sanctuary, refreshed and relaxed. After a few moments at the summit, we patiently hiked back down the mountain, mindfully placing each step. In the afternoon light, we noticed a number of shining pieces of mica on and alongside the trail. I felt as if I were dancing among the stars of a faraway galaxy, and who knows, maybe I was.

Arriving back at the trail head, we removed our backpacks and drove away, knowing that in the hours to come, we would enter Amma’s presence, guaranteed to be a profound spiritual experience.

Two blessed happenings in one day?

My cup overflowed with joy and gratitude.

2 comments to Monte Sol

  • Sue Tarr

    Big smile as I read this and felt like I was there with you. Yes, New Mexico, especially the Santa Fe and Taos area have a spirit that I resonate with. The Sangre de Christo Mountains hold so much beauty and we have seen so many double rainbows there. New Mexico was one of the first places Amma visited in 1987, and when she arrives it usually signals the end of drought. So many stories! Look forward to hearing about your Amma visit. We just got back from being with Amma in Dallas and go to Chicago to be with her in mid July. Amma’s Center in New Mexico must be very close to where you stayed. Love Bandelier but am not familiar with the trail you mentioned. Want to hear more! The altitude definitely makes a difference hiking.
    We will call you when we get back from Amma Chicago.
    Sue and Tom

    • Hi Sue,
      Yes, no doubt New Mexico is an awesome place to visit. We look forward to our annual adventures there so much. We missed seeing you and Tom, and when you return, we’d love to hear about your travels. Love, Gary

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