Moving: Albuquerque, NM versus Olympia, WA

10:06 a.m. on February 20, 2005 (EST)
(Guest)

Hey all,

I have the choice between two job opportunities in either ABQ or Olympia. I need help gathering more info regarding these two places. Please help me learn about some pro's and con's of each.

Specifically, my family enjoys hiking, backpacking, fishing, and skiing. Which would allow for easier access? I know the climates are different. Please describe these differences as pro or con. Are there things I should know about each place before considering them.

Thanks in advance,

Wonderer

5:16 p.m. on February 20, 2005 (EST)
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What a choice! Both among my favorite places. Both offer a plethora of opportunities for hiking, backpacking, fishing, and skiing. On the skiing, for NM, looming above Albuquerque is Sandia peak, with a tram running from a base not far from the center of town to the top of the peak with fine powder starting most years in Dec, extending into April. Sante Fe is not too far north, again with fine skiing, and Taos and Angel Fire a couple hours farther having legendary skiing (much of Taos is expert runs, light fluffy pow). Great backcountry skiing in the Sandias, Sangres, Pajaros. And not that far to southern Colorado with fantastic skiing (both resort and backcountry).

For Olympia, usually the Cascades have great snow within a short drive (this year is an extreme exception). Baker, Snoqualmie, Hood not far to the south, a dozen others, with the fantastic BC resorts not far to the north (Whistler/Blackcomb plus a bunch of lesser-known one). Usually the backcountry skiing is great as well. Several friends in the Seattle area are reporting that there is some good backcountry skiing even in this snow-drought year.

Hiking and backpacking - both areas have fantastic hiking and backpacking, almost right our the back door (certainly within a couple hours drive), plus are close to great areas close enough for weekend treks. Both areas are famed for their fishing as well.

The climates are what might be the big decider for you. Olympia is typical PNW - lots of grey days, lots of rain. When you go hiking/backpacking/skiing there, count on having good raingear. Olympic Peninsula (Olympic NP) is gorgeous, but it is a rain forest. Much of the west side of the Cascades is the same. You can go across the main spine of the Cascades and get into drier country, but it is a longer drive.

NM is high desert - dry, clear (fantastically gorgeous night skies the vast majority of nights of the year). New Mexico is called "The Land of Enchantment" for good reason. Where the forests of Washington are pretty thick, the forests of NM are pretty open, and you do have to go to higher altitude to get into the forest areas. The desert regions are also gorgeous (I grew up in the Sonora Desert, and love deserts, but some people think of deserts as "desolate"). Dealing with deserts has its special problems and special charms. You either have to pack your water or know how to find it if you go on a long backpack (actually easy to do, but some people find it a challenge), where in the PNW rain forests, all you need to do is carry your water filter and pump from a stream any time you get thirsty (seems like you are never more than 10 minutes from a stream). But NM has lots of hot springs you can backpack to, which makes for a nice soak after a day of hiking.

You don't mention climbing, but both places have lots of fantastic rock climbing nearby. If you are into alpine climbing, then NM is pretty much out except in winter (although Colorado alpine climbs are within a few hours drive). Washington has some of the most glaciated peaks in the world, so lots of alpine and ice climbing.

One other difference that might make a big difference to you is that the ethnic mix of the two places is very different. Olympia is pretty "standard American melting pot". New Mexico is (to oversimplify) 3 cultures - Native American, Hispanic (that means Spanish descent, not Mexican), and Anglo (Anglo includes anyone from anywhere else - european, Asian, African). While I won't explain the detailed implications of this, I will only note that this cultural distinction does affect where and when you can go hiking, backpacking, fishing, or other backcountry activities.

7:38 p.m. on February 20, 2005 (EST)
(Guest)

Bill S,

Thank you for such a comprehensive evaluation of the two.

As you stated, it appears that weather may play a role in the choice. From what I hear, Olympia does rain a lot but many days are just cloudy with more threats of rain. Do most continue on with what they do or do they hole up like a New England winter. The coast adds a feature of intrigue as well.

Albuquerque is known for being a somewhat rough and violent place. I don't have much safety information regarding Olympia, but I've seen Pierce County (Tacoma) on COPS plenty of times. ABQ is featured often as well. Tough to decide. Time will tell.

Wonderer

12:08 p.m. on February 21, 2005 (EST)
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I don't think Albuquerque or Olympia are particularly any different in terms of crime than any other large city in the US. A bit of advice - stop watching TV crime shows. In fact, stop watching TV and just get out into the hills and woods. TV shows and the media in general give an extremely distorted and sensationalist view of the world. You can't believe 90 percent of what is in the media, including the so-called "news" programs (Dan Rather's episode was more the norm than the exception). A few years back, in my occupation of the time, I was often called on by the local media to comment on various happenings. There was not one single story in 10 years of this that got everything right, and sometimes the blunders were astounding. Even to the point of taking sound and visual bites and scrambling the order so they came out saying something different than what was intended

12:05 p.m. on February 22, 2005 (EST)
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Life Goes On

Wonderer, I live on one of the islands in the Puget Sound and moved up from the SF Bay area about four years ago. I had the same question about everyone's daily lives. In answer to the question, PNW's go on with their lives and generally ignore but plan for the rain. The soccor moms are still out, the kids are still out, everyone is still out. See, it rained MUCH harder when I live in the Bay Area than I have ever seen it rain here. I now get the same amount of rain fall here (rain shadow of the Olympics) that I got in the Napa Valley. The difference was that we got all the rain in only 10 storms in Napa and here its spread out over many more months. Lightweight rain coats and baseball caps are typical when it's raining. Funny, you see few umbrellas. Hope this helps. I love it here. I can do all of the outdoor stuff without the HEAT HEAT HEAT (with all respect to the desert lovers among us.)

10:27 a.m. on April 11, 2005 (EDT)
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I lived in Albuquerque from '93-00, it is a great place for outdoor types. The city has a good bike trail system for commuters, and there are great trails for riding/hiking within 10 minutes of the city in the Sandias and Tijeras. The Pecos Wildersess is one of my favorite backpacking areas, it's 1.5 hours north by Santa Fe. It has some incredible above treeline routes, and the 2nd highest peak in NM, South Truchas @ ~13,400. One ski area not mentioned previously is Pajarito, in Los Alamos- in a good snow year it is a great place for bumps and no lift lines. The weather is great all year- doesn't get to hot in the summer B/C of a monsoon season that picks up in late July, and the winter has some cold days, but the sun keeps it warm enough-Albuquereque averages 350 days of sun, so even on rainy days, it is never overcast all day.
The city is a rather violent place to live, much more so than it's ~300,000 population would suggest. In '93 it's violence index was up there with big cities like LA and Chicago. One of the main reasons we moved out was 3 people were killed on our block in 6 months. The schools are also not that good. Our son was at the top of his class in the top elementary shcool in Albuquerque, but was put into remedial reading and math in his new school in Utah. Teacher's certificates from NM are not accepted in most other states (my sis-inlaw is a teacher). Outlying towns and suburbs such as Taylor ranch, Coralles, Bernalillo and Tijeras are much safer places to live, though I don't know about the schools.

December 22, 2014
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