I felt like I was on top of the world, looking down on everything and everyone so far below. It was like I was trapped in a brilliant painting hanging in a museum – the painting everyone wishes they could be in because it’s just that beautiful. I was up in the clouds, and I didn’t want to come down.
Several summers ago, my family stopped by Albuquerque, New Mexico, on our way to Colorado. We took the opportunity to go on an adventure to Sandia Mountain, which is known for spectacular sunsets and breathtaking views. Midafternoon we took the tram up to the top and found a trail to hike.
The air was hot and dry but thin, since we were so high up. The gravel crunched under my feet as I trudged up the hill that felt as steep as a street in San Francisco. My breaths were shallow as I tried to adjust to the elevation, and my throat begged for water. Pine trees and shrubs shrouded the path in shade, but the afternoon heat hung in the air. The grass was a vibrant green dotted with wildflowers. As I walked, I tried to pick out the many colors. There were buttery yellows, periwinkle blues, jellyfish pinks, and plum purples. All around, I could see pops of color peeking out among the greenery.
Chipmunks darted across the path, dodging feet and stones. Birds soared from one branch to the next, resting only long enough to sing a note and then gliding down to the valley or circling back up to the clouds.
Finally, we reached the summit lookout. A stone building perched on the corner overlooking two cliff sides. There was a religious service going on, and others were taking pictures and looking out at the great expanse over the valleys. In the hazy distance, I could make out part of the city. We rested on large rocks and filled our stomachs with sandwiches and ice water before heading to the main lookout.
The return walk was easier since it was downhill. The air was beginning to cool, and the sun was below the tree line. A slight breeze brought goosebumps to my arms and legs. I pulled on my sweater as we quickened our pace.
There was a large crowd at the main lookout when we arrived. Everyone was getting ready for the sunset. We walked along the boardwalk to find a place to sit. Voices filled the cooling air, and the sound of shoes echoed on the boardwalk. My body was tired after the long day, and basking in the warmth of the sun, I leaned against one of the fence posts. Had the sun not been so blinding, I could have easily fallen asleep.
Then the sky lit up like a firework had exploded, bursting with fiery hues. It came alive with uncontained energy. The yellow glowed like a field of sunflowers; the orange screamed like a flame; the red blazed like lava. As the burning ball of light sunk below the horizon, long shadows were cast on the ground. The mountain behind us was tinted pink, making it look like a watermelon.
The lingering rays of light warmed my skin as the ground beneath me cooled. Behind me, the bright blue sky was fading softly into nighttime navy, and the moon waited patiently for its turn to rise. As the sun finally dipped below the horizon, the sounds around me seemed to hush. As the last light disappeared, the night woke up. Stars shone brightly against the darkening canvas. Down below, the city lights glowed like faraway stars.
With the sun gone, so was the heat. The elevation gave a chill to the air, and there was a dewy smell in the grass. As we walked to the tram station to go back down the mountain, I could hear the night critters chattering all around. On the tram, I watched the passing cliff sides drift by as the city below grew larger.
When we reached the station, I turned to look back at the enormous mountains. The watermelon pink was gone; now they resembled black towers against the night sky. The day had been a fun adventure. Watching that sunset, I felt like I had stepped into one of Monet’s oil paintings. I would love to live that beautiful moment over again, but if I did, I don’t know if I’d ever want to leave.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.