How happy I was just to stop climbing, just to be here, to breathe without that gulp for the next breath. It was only after a few minutes of this realization that I was able to look at where I was – to notice the deep, deep blue of the sky, feel the gentle caress of a cool breeze on my face, and take in the panoramic view across this extraordinarily beautiful valley. We are on top, the summit of Wheeler Peak, looking down at the Taos valley.
The southern Rockies are glorious, and I’m happy to be here. And now I’m noticing a quizzical look on my boyfriend’s face, a fumbling, unusually so, in his movements. My niece Jessica is here too, and she’s got a secret little smile on her pretty face. But, to really explain what we’re doing up here and why I’ll need to go back a bit.
Darrel, my husband, and I had separately relocated from Virginia to New Mexico a few years before and were captivated by the canyons, mountains, and desert landscapes “out here” – “out west.” Bedazzled “flatlanders” from the east, we met on the trail and became fast friends, both ready and willing students of the American West. We had also come to the same conclusion. The best way to experience the amazing geological features, diverse landscapes, wildlife, and rugged beauty of our new world was to hike, climb, travel, and camp.
Our hiking adventures started close to home in southern New Mexico near the Sacramento Mountains.
But, before long, we became traveling partners, detouring down obscure back roads, exploring ancient dwelling sites, remote canyons, and otherworldly geological features of the west. We hiked and snowshoed around hoodoos, across mesas, along the clifftop benches around volcanoes, and then soaked in natural hot springs whenever possible.
Here are a few of our favorites.
Set against the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County, New Mexico, this out-and-back 5.5-mile trail traverses up from the desert through the Lincoln National Forest. It reaches elevations in excess of 2,000 feet above its starting …….