Two Hills For Easter | Active Light Photography | Photo Tours to Hidden Destinations, Anasazi Ruins
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Perfect Easter Calorie Burns

Easter isn’t quite the eat-fest of Christmas, but if you’ve overindulged in Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies, these two hikes will deliver great views and a good calorie burn.

Penitente Landmark

One hill is well known. Tomé Hill has seen soldiers, settlers, and priests along El Camino Real, and native Puebloans before them. Around 1800 petroglyphs dating from 3000 BCE to pre-contact Pueblo IV dot the rocks. It was considered a southern boundary marker of Isleta Pueblo, and hosted Pueblo ceremonies until the early 20th century.

Tomé Hill crosses

Tomé Dominguez de Mendoza built his home near Tomé Hill, part of a land grant he received in 1659. He fled to El Paso in the 1680 Pueblo revolt, and never returned. His name remained on the village that grew there.

Catholic Penitentes established a Good Friday tradition of summiting Tomé Hill for the reenactment of Christ’s passion, and erecting a cross at the top. A 1950s revival saw the placement of the permanent crosses at the summit. Hikers and pilgrims still visit the top today.

Enjoying the view, Tomé Hill

Unknown Trail To A Hidden Spring

Carlito Springs seeps from Sandia Mountain rock, and fills stone-terraced ponds. The water attracts bears and other wild residents, and creates a huge explosion of unexpected growing green. I felt like I was hiking in California’s lush Santa Cruz Mountains instead of a mountain island in the Southwestern desert.

Pond sunstars at Carlito Springs

Originally built to attract 19th century visitors arriving by horse-drawn carriage, the cabins and other buildings on the property have been a camp/resort, school, and tuberculosis sanitorium, among other things. Bernalillo County completed a multi-year assessment and trail system in 2014. Carlito Spring opened for visitors in August 2015, so it’s still an undiscovered gem a few miles east of Albuquerque.

The trail is a loop – you get at least 465 feet of elevation gain in a mile and a half. I missed friends who’d gone on ahead while I photographed, so I took the left-hand fork at the trailhead and hiked the switchbacks as an out-and-back. I saw maybe five other hikers on a March Saturday morning. This beautiful trail truly is a hidden secret.

Both hikes feature excellent views and prime slices of local history.


I traveled light with four small manual-focus lenses and a mirrorless camera at Carlito Springs. Forest canopy, skyless shot design and relatively low-angle sun minimized contrast. I could have left three of those lenses at home, since I used a Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Biogon T* for everything at Carlito.

The sunstars in the pond came from stopping the 25mm down to f/16 aperture. After seeing them heavily overused in movies like The Revenant, I put them in pictures only when they add major interest.

The only thing I missed at Carlito Springs was a wider lens – something in the full-frame 24mm range. But the 37.5mm full-frame view from the Biogon T* forced me to work with smaller subject ‘pieces’ for a more intimate view.

I shot most of Tomé Hill with Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on an EOS 5D mk II camera, mostly at 70mm. A 135mm f/4 Elmar on the Fuji X-E2 camera provided full-frame 202.5mm telephoto views, isolating a wren and parts of crosses even more.