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My son and his family wouldn’t be coming to visit until the 29th of December, so Christmas morning found me alone. Bummer, right?  Wrong! It turned out to be one of the most memorable Christmases ever. A Meetup hike had been scheduled for 9 a.m. but the starting point was a half hour from my home and outdoors the dense fog seemed like a warning to start early. Thick fog made visibility nearly impossible. I could barely discern a center stripe on the road I arrived a little before 9 at Fina Cafe on the Las Vegas Highway, a backroad heading north out of Santa Fe. Nobody else in the parking lot. After waiting five minutes, I called the hike leader to make sure I had the right meeting spot. “Oh,” she said. “It would have been muddy, so I cancelled in an email. In my concern about driving conditions, I had not checked email before leaving.

This neighborhood trail, nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, has become one of my favorite go-to destinations.

Instead of going home, I drove to the nearby Dorothy Stewart trailhead and did a solo hike. For the first time in my many years of walking that three-mile loop, I’d never been the only person in the parking lot. On the trail itself,I had the terrain to myself. Deciding to do a mental self-talk on gratitude, I began the undulating path at a brisk pace. Because Dorothy Stewart had come to Santa Fe in the 1920s, fallen in love with the city, especially outdoors, she’d donated land for public use. As I walked, I silently thanked her. Due to her generosity and foresight, a precious place had been saved from developers. Sweeping vistas all along the way, first of the Sandia Mountains, then the Jemez Mountains,and finally of Picacho Peak, Atalaya, and Sun and Moon Mountains. In my half-century of living here, I’d hiked them all and memories of those times came flooding back.

The day after Christmas, I walked the neighborhood through fresh-fallen snow, and on New Year’s Day, strolled the sandy arroyo. A special guest appearance in the back yard made history. Jake (pretty sure it’s the same fellow who’s been coming to my property for years) came in the morning and stayed till night. I’ve been taking a hint from my equine friend and when not out hiking have been relaxing with some wonderful books: The Magic Library and How to Stop Time by Matt Haig; This Tender Land by William Kent Kruger and The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer. In the year ahead, I’ll remember the Quiet Time of this Christmas.