Monday, October 5, 2009

New Mexico Trip Report

Kathy and I just returned from a nice and relaxing five day trip down in New Mexico, NOT! We were mostly non-stop hiking and peak bagging. We drove to Flagstaff passing Hoover Dam on the way. Kathy took a good photo of the new bridge being built. Once in Flagstaff we hiked a Lava Cave, which was very different and very dark. Stretching a mile in length, it felt like walking in a sewer without the smell.

The next day we got up early and hiked Mt. Humphreys (12,633 feet), the highest peak in AZ. This was Kathy's first state high point. I had done the hike several years ago. We got lucky and had decent weather, though it was pretty cold. This peak is known for being extremely windy and having violent thunderstorms during the Monsoon season.

We were back to the car by 1pm and took off for Santa Fe, NM. It was a longer drive than I thought. People know how much I like to sit in a car and do nothing for hours. We arrived there after dark and quickly went to sleep. Wheeler Peak was waiting for us the next day.

Wheeler Peak, (13,161 feet) is the highest peak in New Mexico. It's located near Taos, NM, which is less than 60 miles from Colorado. The drive to the trailhead is long no matter where you are coming from. It took us over two hours from Santa Fe. The trailhead is located at Taos Ski Village, which sits over 9,000 feet above sea level.

It was very cold as we started the hike. As we walked past a stream we saw icicles! Now that's cold! The hike initially follows a road and then a ski run. After three miles we followed a single track trail through the woods and into a meadow. From there the route ascends a ridge to the summit. It was extremely windy along the ridge. Luckily I had my technical jacket on and stayed warm. The descent was non-eventful and we got down to the car by 4 pm. (We did not get started until 9 am!)

The following day we went to the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque. It was interesting, though I am not going to stop hiking and start ballooning anytime soon! We left Albuquerque around 10 am and headed back to Flagstaff. On our way we stopped at Bandera's Volcano and Ice Cave. The ice cave was very interesting. The temperature was around 65 degrees as we walked to the cave. We only descended 75 feet and the temperature dropped to below freezing! It's always below 32 degrees at the ice cave!

We also stopped at El Morro National Monument and did a quick two mile hike. This was a nice way to break up the drive to Flagstaff.

Notes: The sign-in book at Humphreys Peak in AZ needs replacing. The hike description to Wheeler Peak is already in the Members Only section. I will also add the Ice Cave and the two mile hike in El Morro later in the week.