Filed under: Family Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking
One Crazy Weekend…Part 3: A Labor of Love
The last two posts I have been discussing our Labor Day adventure, summiting Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point, via the long trail; 16 miles round trip. We were near the summit as I left off in the last post, but racing against the clock as we (I) wanted to do so in less than four hours.
As we continued, the trail from Walter to Wheeler became a bit more treacherous, causing us to slow down a bit more than we cared to at that point. Terry commented at that point, “We can still make it,” not realizing how his comments were motivating me or that I had stopped looking at my watch. Reaching the saddle between Walter and Wheeler, I began to run a bit when I could, clambering up the side of Wheeler and preparing myself for the false summit I knew from Saturday’s hike was soon to come. I did not let it slow me down, continuing to run up the final ascent to Wheeler. Just before we reached the last ledge before the summit, Terry said, “One minute.” We all but jumped up to the top and reached the summit. I finally looked at my watch and the time read “3:58:50.” We had done it!
But we were beat. Terry leaned against a rock, just catching his breath and I sat down on another. We signed the register for the second time in two days and munched on a Clif Bar that was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. We spend 14 minutes relaxing at the top before heading back down. Now we stopped to take the Mount Walter and wildflower pictures we did not allow ourselves on the ascent. However, we still had our second goal to achieve: completing the entire trip in under eight hours. Given that we completed the ascent in less than four, however, that should be a piece of cake!
We took it easier on the way down, but still moved more quickly than for most of our ascent. It was simply easier. We photographed a marmot posing on a rock and some of the most fabulous scenery you can imagine. However, our motors kicked in again when we reached Bull-of-the-Woods Trail again. I was looking at my watch and, at this point, had revised my goal to finishing in less than 7 hours 30 minutes. As we rounded the curve of our last mile, I again picked up speed. Again, we felt a few sprinkles, but they did not phase us at this point.
Practically running down that last steep mile, I was very thankful for the hiking poles we had remembered to bring as they allowed me to leap over rocks and stabilize my landings. I told Terry that we had covered the first mile of the ascent in 26 minutes and we would need to descend it in 22 minutes or less to meet the new goal. He was not optimistic, but this time I was sure. We hiked/ran on. We reached the trailhead at 7 hours 25 minutes and 33 seconds, the last mile having taken us only 17 minutes! And, if you take off the 14 minutes we spent at the top, our total hiking time was 7 hours and 11 minutes. Not bad at all! A Labor of Love! And one of the most enjoyable Labor Day Holidays I have spent in a very long time!
Read more about New Mexico campgrounds and things to do in New Mexico.