Foothills nature walk allows locals to explore, learn about ABQ’s open space - Albuquerque Journal

Foothills nature walk allows locals to explore, learn about ABQ’s open space

Hikers walk the trails of Elena Gallegos Open Space during a Foothills Wild: Guided Nature Walk. (Courtesy of Colleen Shackley)

Albuquerque is rich in natural beauty and geological history.

The Foothills Wild: Guided Nature Walk aims to allow locals to revisit, or even discover for the first time, the wonders that are present within the city.

Richard Shackley, along with his wife, Colleen, have been guiding Albuquerque hikers since 2017. He said it’s important for the general public to come out and explore and appreciate nature.

He said about the hike, “We want people to be involved to know what’s out there in their backyard.”

The next walk, sanctioned and supported by the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation’s Open Space Division and the Open Space Alliance, will take place on Sunday, Aug. 21. Participants will meet at Elena Gallegos Open Space, which is nestled up against the base of the Sandia Mountains.

The park is 640 acres and reaches an elevation of about 6,500 feet, but the tour will only utilize a fraction of the area. There is still a plethora of life and history to experience, however.

Despite a tumultuous year to New Mexico’s landscape due to historic wildfires, city officials were able to keep some of the Foothills open all season — with restrictions in place — including Elena Gallegos. With hundreds of thousands burned acres being a fresh concern, there is heightened sensitivity in interested explorers.

Shackley explained there are firewatch patrol volunteers who train through Albuquerque Fire Rescue. He said the general public has “a lot of questions about how to protect and what to report.”

The tour of the Foothills will be conducted by expert guides and volunteer stewards. The Shackleys serve as a co-guides with four other volunteers: Brian Anderson, Paul Ordogne, Sarah Wallace and Verma Villegas.

“We take visitors on an adventure into the Foothills,” Shackley said. “We discuss the history and prehistory of the Elena Gallegos area … and its evolution through the years. … The area is such a gem.”

In addition, Shackley said the volunteers also talk about the geology and archaeology of the area, as well as the plants and animals that call the Foothills their sanctuary.

While on the 1.26-mile hike, participants will be privy to native flora and fauna found in the Foothills, as well as the possibility of encountering wildlife. Hikers will learn about the area from the knowledge of expert volunteers and can take notes on everything they see.

“We love nature and we see the need to protect it,” Shackley said of the volunteers, adding they’re “the eyes and ears” of the city-owned open space.

“The main functions of the trail watch volunteers are to observe and report, educate and inform, and, of course, have fun.”

The terrain and distance can be somewhat strenuous. Officials recommended to bring plenty of water, wear comfortable closed-toe shoes and to be prepared for shifts in weather.

Richard Shackley speaks to hikers during a Foothills Wild: Guided Nature Walk.

Due to the educational intention of the tour, it is also asked that participants keep their pets at home so they don’t disturb the wildlife.

It’s kind of a fluid thing,” Shackley said of the experience. “You never know what you’re going to see.”

The Foothills Wild: Guided Nature Walk begins at 8 a.m. and goes to 11 a.m. on the third Sunday of every month from March through October.

There is no price to partake in the tour, but there is a $2 park entrance fee unless you have an annual pass. Participants will meet in the Cottonwood Springs parking lot at Elena Gallegos Open Space, located at 7100 Tramway Blvd. NE.

In addition, a year-round guided walk of the bosque takes place the first Sunday of every month.

There are plenty of opportunities to embrace nature and the majestic life nestled in Albuquerque’s backyard.

FOOTHILLS WILD: GUIDED NATURE WALK
WHEN: 8-11 a.m the third Sunday of every month through October.
WHERE: Elena Gallegos Open Space, 7100 Tramway Boulevard NE
HOW MUCH: $2 for open space entry
REGISTRATION: Space is limited, contact Dionne Epps, depps@cabq.gov, 505-768-4951, to register
MORE INFO: cabq.gov and search “foothills wild guided nature walk”

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