The quaintest of mountain towns, populated mostly by a retirement community. But not the uptight, slow-moving kind. Everyone is fit and thriving in the big outdoor landscape surrounding the adobe community. A town mostly known for its celebration of southwest art, but certainly not the reason we came to visit. While most visitors perused the galleries and fine dining, Justin and I set out to explore the trail systems in every direction of the town. The best part about our itinerary was that it fell during the work week, so we saw an average of two people on the trails each day. Lucky for us, we have a family member who invested in Santa Fe, so with a free place to stay we flocked to the high country during my week off between clinicals.
The main system, and most well-known trail, is on the Santa Fe Ski mountain. The Winsor trail is a technically advanced single-track running point-to-point from the resort to town. Our first morning we drove 15 minutes from town to trailhead. I always rely on the TrailForks App to navigate new areas, which is well mapped around Santa Fe. We started our route at the Chamisa trailhead, which climbs 2 miles uphill to intersect with the Winsor trail. My throat was burning from huffing so hard uphill, but luckily the next few miles were downhill. Justin and I parted ways and I made a big loop with a turnaround at the Tesuque junction. If you are looking for a purely downhill ride and want to avoid the uphill, most riders shuttle their cars and leave one at the ski resort, ending at Tesuque. Downhill on a technical trail is never terribly hard, but coming back up was a gut punch. If all you are worried about is being outside on an epic trail, then I highly recommend just going for it. Or you can choose from the myriad of other options on the mountain.
The La Tierra Trail system is less than ten minutes from town and is a nice break from riding black lines all day. We came here a couple times, and I was surprised by the emptiness. I soaked up the solitude each time and enjoyed the expansive view of the pine stands and rolling hills beyond town, framed by a big blue sky.
By mid-week, trail stoke had almost exceeded trekking capacity, and rejuvenation was necessary. We made the splurge on an evening spa at Ten Thousand Waves. This resort-spa feels like a small boutique village, with a deep sense of Zen in the middle of nature. I imagine coming here in the winter after skiing makes for a seriously serene evening.
Another way to recharge: Going to the evening farmer's market in downtown Santa Fe for dinner fixings.
Since we had a longer than usual vacation, we ventured outside of Santa Fe late in the week to Los Alamos. The town isn’t much of anything, but there were more trails to be explored, and a collection of hot springs. Another option close by is Taos, one of my favorite areas of New Mexico. If Justin and I hadn’t already explored this area and wanted to see new territory, we definitely would have returned. The Los Alamos trails were lush with grassy valleys, tall pines, steep canyons, and blooming wildflowers. The season hadn’t quite changed to fall and the snakes were out and about, including a large gopher snake (non-venomous) across the trail that I nearly biked over.
Just west of Los Alamos is Bandelier National Monument. This area is a stunner with flowing rivers and dramatic rocks stands. There are three hot springs in the area, which I imagine have high traffic on the weekends. We made the short trek to Spence Hot Springs, because I had heard this one had the least amount of traffic. We took a short dip in the springs, but I’m weary to even call them springs, given the water felt like a lukewarm standing bath of bacteria. We ended up spending more time below at the San Antonio creek to clean off and sun bathe on the rocks.
Santa Fe was good to us. If it was a few hours closer you would find us there more often.
Before you flip through the photos and judge me for not actually being at a yoga conference, let me explain to you that we made a stopover in one of Southern California’s most beautiful areas along the way. I never knew much about Mt San Jacinto State Park until I heard stories from fellow biologists who had through-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, describing the iconic passage as an alpine oasis. From Palm Springs, Mt San Jacinto rises to 11,000 ft, which can be reached by foot on America’s steepest day-hike route, aptly named the ‘cactus to clouds’ trail. It was a fantasy of mine to graze the meadows above in reprieve from the unforgiving desert floor below. Six weeks post knee surgery and en route to my first yoga conference, fantasy became reality.
When you show up to a massive mountain with disability status, it’s nice to know there is an ADA-compliant mechanism for getting to the top. If you suffer from acrophobia, then I suppose the tram isn’t ADA-compliant, but it’s hard to accommodate everyone. See picture below for the glass paneled tram that climbs roughly 8,000 ft in 8 minutes against a sheer mountain face. What terrifying joy.
From the top, we grabbed camping permits from the Forest Service Station and hiked to Round Valley. I completely trashed my knee on this hike, but good thing I have photos that remind me of dense green meadows and frolicking deer, rather than unrelenting pain that lasted days. Cue stream of peaceful photos and transition to writing about four-day weekend at healing yoga conference.
The Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (aka ‘SYTAR’) is an annual conference for yoga therapists, yoga enthusiasts, health practitioners, and anyone in the therapy and/or rehab field eager to spread the use of yoga and the evidence behind it for practice. After solidifying my decision to incorporate yoga into my capstone project for my doctorate, I knew I could not miss the opportunity to attend this conference.
Part of why it took me so long to write about SYTAR was because I was trying to process and organize all the information I took in. It was less than a year ago when I dove beyond the surface of yoga and what the integration of such a practice meant for rehabilitation and our healthcare system. It has become more than a morning stretching routine for me, and I have finally felt confident enough to speak toward the history and literature.
The workshops were incredibly diverse at SYTAR. I wanted to pick topics most relevant to my studies in occupational therapy, but I also wanted to learn how others were using the practice in unique ways. I attended workshops on yoga for trauma, yoga for racial wounding, yoga as a community practice for cancer patients, yoga for autism and special needs, and chair yoga for adaptive/disabled fitness. There were so many more I wish I could have attended, but there simply wasn’t time. The plenary speakers should also be noted, because they spoke toward the imperative and relevant topic of integrating yoga into the medical model. The first, Sat Bir Khalsa has a powerful presence when he speaks. Dr Khalsa is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and is the director of research for the Kundalini Research Institute and Kripalu Center for Yoga. If you haven’t heard of those entities you can do a quick google search to see that he is a leading force in mind body medicine. His talk had a strong underlying tone of motivation to all of his listeners to be involved in research, because without empirical evidence it will be hard to wholly integrate yoga into the medical model. Those who regularly practice yoga know its value, but insurance companies don’t and neither do unexposed health professionals. It is up to us to build an unwavering foundation. Luckily, research journals have significantly increased yoga-related publications in the past five years, and the fire keeps on burning. Other plenary speakers were equally inspiring. Jenn Turner spoke about trauma-informed yoga and the pharmacological effects of yoga in the cancer community, while Amy Wheeler spoke in depth about integrating yoga into the medical model and how applications of yoga can help patients with recovery and pain management.
It was all such a thrill, and ended too soon. I was especially fortunate to connect with other occupational therapists and hear about how they are integrating yoga into OT. I left feeling hope for the future of our health care, which is a hard thing to spark in the current era. The learning process is a lifetime venture, and my weekend at SYTAR sealed my commitment to keep moving forward and contribute to building a better future in the world of health and wellness.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.