Filed under: Family Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking
One Crazy Weekend…Part 2: A Race Against the Clock
In my last post, I detailed the beginning of a hike we undertook Labor Day Weekend, to repeat an adventure we had had with our children back in 2005: summiting Wheeler Peak via the long trail, 16 miles round trip. We pick up where we left off–in mid hike.
After about an hour of steady hiking, you come to a trail junction which is located at approximately 10,880 feet. At this point, you have already gained 1,480 feet in elevation and you will have noticed. Over the course of this hike, you will gain a total of 4,560 feet, so you’re already one third of the way there! The left fork here ascends to Bull-of-the-Woods Pasture; the right fork is Forest Trail 90 (aka the Wheeler Peak Trail). We head off to our right and pass by the spot where we rested and had a quick snack with the kids seven years back. There is a nice spot to sit and rest with a small pond and intermittent stream, making a delightful escape, if you can forget about the work to come.
We do not stop today, but continue on towards Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain, and at 11,400 feet, continue heading straight as the trail up to that peak heads left. We hike on, passing to the west of the mountain. We bear right as the trail enters a clearing with a broken down log fence in the distance. We recall that in 2005, the fence was intact. We talk for a bit about how our lives have changed in the succeeding years. At this point, you still have 4 miles to go to reach the summit. If the weather looks at all questionable, this is a good point to turn back. Our skies have cleared a bit and there are no sprinkles to be found. We continue on…
As you come out of the trees, we have great views of the ski runs at Taos Ski Valley on our right and of Mount Walter, which we must summit on our way to Wheeler, on our left. It is a great time to get a peak at what you’re in for. We hike on, passing along the crest of Frazer Mountain at 12,163 feet, where the trail then dropped down into a drainage, so we lost 350 feet that we had already climbed. While it felt good to descend for a bit, we knew we would have to re-climb every one of those 350 and more so my attitude was less than sparkling at that point.
The trail took us through a drainage, then across the two streams that fed it, then switch backed up into a forested area on the way to the Mount Walter Summit at 13,133 feet. Our guide-book stated that from the Walter summit, the Wheeler Peak summit was less than 20 minutes away. As I had set my goal at making this ascent in less than four hours, and as we were climbing Mount Walter, I heard my watch signal that it was noon, I knew that even before we were close to summiting Walter, we had only 30 minutes before our four hours was up. At that point, I resigned myself to the fact that we would not achieve my goal and moved on to my second goal of finishing in under eight hours. At that very moment, Terry said behind me, “It’s gonna be close.”
I had decided not to look at my watch for the rest of our climb so as to not pressure or frustrate myself with the inability to make it in four hours. Terry’s comment, however, served to motivate me and give me hope that it was still possible. I picked up my pace a bit, made easier by the fact that the terrain had leveled out a bit. As we passed the Mount Walter summit, I told Terry I wanted to take a picture, but wanted to wait until we were on our way back down. He sounded relieved. I think he was pushing as hard as I was to meet our goal. Coming Next: Part 3–A Labor of Love!
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