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2018 Races…TBD!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No Reservations: New Mexicoing

So, where was I?  Oh yes, the Wheeler Peak ascent...

We first stopped by Williams Lake to check out the coolness of an alpine lake at 11,040 feet.  Then we proceeded to head up the trail, nearly summiting before realizing there was suddenly no trail before us.  Something was amiss.  This mountain was too low.  If there were bushes we would have been whacking them on our way back down whatever mountain we were on.  We ran into a couple of folks who seemed to know what they were talking about and informed us that Wheeler was in fact on the other side of Williams Lake.

Oh.  Oops.

So we finished bouldering our way back down to the lake where we found the Wheeler trailhead and finally began our ascent.  It was slow going for a short bit but we found our groove and pushed on.  Breaking through tree line was breathtaking, both in the view and for the fact that it was intensely windy up there!  A gentleman asked if we had jackets because it was pretty cold and even more windy up top.  We did.  Before long, I pulled mine out and was quite happy to have the wind protection.  Over 12,000 feet I found that I felt really good.  We were slowed to a fast hike by now.  

We were greeted by throngs of marmots and very few wildflowers (I was hoping to see more flowers). Mostly it was just super rocky with sweeping views of the mountains to our right.  It was gorgeous.  I never really knew how one could find a trail through a pool of boulders, but it's actually pretty easy to do.  Just look for the flatter rocks... :)  The trail became nothing but boulders before long and was a narrow trail notched out of the side of the mountain.  As long as I didn't look to the one side I was fine. It was a looooong way down if one were to slip.  There were a couple of small pockets of snow on the way up, so I made sure to step in them just so that I could say I stood in snow in June :)

It was gorgeous way up high and as we made our way along the saddle ridge and upupup to the official peak it was amazing to look to either side and see mountain peaks spread as far as I could see.  You can apparently see Colorado from the top of Wheeler, but I hadn't a clue which direction it was, but I surely saw it :)

On top of Wheeler...mmm mmm good

Geof signing the peak register, letting folks know the GnP were there

The way down was awesome, running the whole way.  It's easier coming down, but it's still a little bit of a lung workout.  I loved it.  I didn't want it to end.  We made our way back to the truck after about an hour long descent and rustled up some grub: tortillas with spinach, turkey, havarti and salsa.  Diet Pepsi never tasted so good.

At 13,161 feet, the highest point in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak was ours.  And with around 3,400 feet of ascent in 4.5 miles I was quite pleased with the day.

Now we were sweaty and tired, and generally in need of showering.  Or at least a good hand washing.  We made our way back to Taos and the Youth and Family Center where we heard that we could pay $2.00 for a hot shower.  It was our lucky day.  We arrived two minutes after closing time, but they ushered us in anyway and let us shower for free.  Boom.  

Now we were just plain hungry.  And we were hoping to squeeze in a visit with fellow ultra runners Steve and Deb Pero before heading out of New Mexico.  Hoping it wasn't too late, I gave them a call and they were more than happy to have us over for a visit, yay!  

I forgot about this part, but on our way to Wheeler Peak we drove on the giant bridge over the Rio Grande.  I haven't seen the Grand Canyon yet, so this was pretty big to me :)   

The Rio Grande is waaaaay down there...

We also swung by the Earthship Biotecture community to check out some coolness.  The visitor center was closed when we got there, so we just walked around for a bit.  It was seriously cool.  There were a few piles of "junk" in front of some new constructions...that "junk" is what they were building the homes with.  So cool!

This was the "gate" outside the visitor center.  Those are beer and wine bottles stuck in the adobe wall.

Okay, so after our delicious free shower in Taos, we got on the road and headed for Jemez Springs and the Peros!  We stopped in Los Alamos to grab some dinner and then began the beautiful drive through the mountains to get to their house.  Around ever corner it was new scenery.  Sharp turns on steep and winding roads, soaring cobbled walls, smooth adobe walls carved by time.  Trim and naked pine trees reaching for the skies, scoured by fire in recent years.  Pine needle padded forest floor with evidence of new growth just beginning to reach up from below.  The Valles Caldera appeared seemingly out of nowhere.  That was incredible.  A flat, green, enormous expanse of land.  The trees grow up to a point and then suddenly there's nothing.  It's a volcano!  There were cows out grazing on its lush green floor and the sun was setting off in the distance.  It was picture perfect.

The Peros were amazing hosts and we enjoyed some of Steve's delicious home brews and Deb's homemade pico de gallo as we sat around the living room chatting and catching up.  It was awesome to meet Deb finally and to get to know the Peros some more.  Kevin Z. was a new face and we enjoyed getting to know him as well.  We'll soon be neighbors as he's just relocated to Salt Lake as well!  Yay for new ultra running friends!  While we had intended to just camp somewhere in the area (there were a number of awesome campsites along the way) the Peros invited us to crash at their place for the night.  It was great to sleep in a comfy bed!  Deb even made us breakfast burritos in the morning and Kevin whipped up some lattes for us.  Sheesh, we were so spoiled!  We are super grateful for the hospitality and had such a ridiculously good time with them.  Thank you Peros!!

Steve had to work early, but we wrangled Deb for a photo before we left :)

After leaving the Peros, we began to make our way to Albuquerque, with another trail in mind.  But first we stopped in downtown Jemez Springs to get another cup of coffee at Highway 4 Coffee and to stop in and see some of Deb's work at the gallery.  

Per Rob Corson's and the Peros' suggestion, we were making our way to the La Luz Trail, on Sandia Peak.  We'd heard a fair bit about it and knew it was supposed to be pretty difficult.  We were pumped.

We arrived at the base of the mountain, at the lower tram, around 12:30.  It was HOT with full sun.  After being warned by more than a few people ("You want to run UP and then tram down?" "Yes."  Most people do it the other way around...you're gonna need A LOT of water.") we filled up our hydration packs, grabbed some food and began the climb.  Of course, we didn't realize we had to take a 2.3 mile approach trail just to get to the actual La Luz trail.  This section was completely exposed and rolling/climbing a fair bit.  Holy crap it was hot.  We were both a little crestfallen by the time we made it to the trailhead, but we pushed on nonetheless.  There was no way I was going back through that garbage in that heat :)  I'd rather climb.

What a treat the trail was!  It goes through four different "zones" so you get a variety of terrain and trail flavors.  The Canadian zone was my favorite: steep, rocky, aspeny, piney, and a much cooler temp. 

A trail with a view:

The Sandia Mountains are known for these spindly things...very cool looking in person

That's Albuquerque down below

I felt a little rough from the previous day's climb up Wheeler, and my breathing was a little off, but eventually I found a groove, somewhere near the top :)  It was really amazing how much the trail changed from bottom to top.  Nature is freaking cool.  We reached about 10,200, where you can either continue to the crest of the mountain, or head to the tramway, about a mile or so away along the ridge.  Geof was out of water and I was completely trashed by now so we opted to head for the tramway instead of bagging the peak.  We topped out at 10,378 feet and 9 miles (3,775 of ascent) and as we made our way down the side of the mountain on the tram my legs began to stiffen and revolt.  Whew, I was wiped!!  I'm glad we opted not to run down.  I would have had to have my legs surgically removed.

After La Luz, we stopped at Trader Joe's (the biggest TJs I have EVER seen!!) for salad fixins and ice then headed to the other side of the Sandia range to a little campground, Turquoise Trail Campground.  Luckily they had plenty of space and we cozied up to a lovely little spot nestled in the trees.  It was clean, quiet, a touch rustic, and had great bathrooms!  I love classy restrooms :)

The next day we decided to get fancy and hung out at Napoli Coffee in Albuquerque to catch up on all things e-mail and Facebook :)  The coffee was SO GOOD and the proprietors were fantastic peeps.  Two thumbs up Napoli.

Before heading out of town, we stopped in Old Town Albuquerque to be touristy and grab some lunch.  

Next up: beautiful Flagstaff, AZ :)

Paige, out.


Alene Gone Bad said...

Don't miss some green chile while you're there! Fun to read about your adventures! Don't forget to stop by Meteor Crater and run the Meteor 5000 on your way into Flagstaff!

David Ray said...

Fun, fun. It's great to enjoy y'all's trip from here. Beautiful pics!

Stacy said...

Those are a couple of serious ups, well done! You guys will have to come do some time in the Pine Valleys, they are lousy with granite spires similar to the Sandias.

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