Friday, July 15, 2011

Tramway Flight

The Tramway
Albuquerque is home to the worlds longest tramway. It is over two and a half miles long, and has one section that is over one and a quarter miles long between support towers. It climbs to the 10,378 foot Sandia Peak, where you can see over 11,000 square miles. We were in Albuquerque overnight, and had time to take in one attraction, so this sounded like a good choice.

We arrived at about 6:00, so I was a bit worried about the impending darkness spoiling our view, but this was not a problem. In fact, the sun was just setting as we came back down, and provided a spectacular sunset background to the decent.

For the "uninitiated", a tramway is a rectangular box with windows, holding about 30 people attached to a steal cable that is pulled up and down that cable by large steel wheels. The cable is supported by tall towers up the mountain. Because this tramway has to cross a large canyon, it has one extremely long unsupported cable run and this is why they call the tramway ride a "flight".

Beautiful Views from the Top
Our "pilot" for the flight was a very pleasant fellow, who also emptied the garbage cans (he also said he cleaned the washrooms when I commented on his varied jobs). As we ascended the mountain, he told us all about the  Various geological features of the mountain as well as the engineering feats necessary to build the tramway. It took over 3000 helicopter flights to build one of the towers that support the tramway.

Unfortunately, due to extreme fire hazard, the mountain was completely closed, and we were warned to stay on the observation decks. The National Forest has many hiking trails that would have made for interesting adventures. One trail about two miles in length, would have taken us to a hiker's shelter with beautiful 360 degree views of the area. There was a restaurant at the top, where we could have eaten, but we just enjoyed the nice cool mountain temperatures for a while and then went back down.
Tourists at the Top. 

We were told about about black bears, mountain goats, falcons, and even cougars, but even with everyone searching the rocks and trees passing below us, we saw nothing except a couple of scraggly squirrels stealing scraps from the garbage. I think this is just a corporate strategy to keep people occupied on the flight so they don't worry about the 1000 foot drop, and the tramway built in 1965.

Sunset on Sandia Peak
The flight back down the mountain, was against a beautiful setting sun, and proved even more entertaining than the ascent. One passenger started asking very detailed questions, and the pilot was completely up to the task, rattling off information about not only the Sandia Peak, but everything we could see. There were three extinct volcanoes, and we learned how the mountains formed, and how the valley below was silted in when the area was an inland sea. The sea still exists in the form of a huge underground aquifer that supplies the water necessary to support a city the size of Albuquerque.

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