Adventure: End of Summer, Baldy Summit

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I’ve posted about this hike many times before. For me, this hike is the enchilada plate of Santa Fe. It might not be the best meal ever but it’s damn good and it’s always on the menu. My next goal with this hike is to visit this trail in late fall, perhaps after the first snow but before the main flakes fall.

Why do I hike Santa Fe Baldy over and over again? Easy. Because it’s so different every single time. Today I went up with Lawrence Fodor, someone I had never really hiked with before. Camped? Yes. Hiked? No. I’ve also posted about Larry many times before as he is the human embodiment of creativity and knowledge combined in a multi-tooled vessel that is happy to share said knowledge. (Translation: He’s really fun to hang out with.)

I would classify this hike as easy with two amendments to this constitution. First, the last mile is straight up and starts at about 11,500 feet. So, if you aren’t used to the altitude this can seriously slow things down. Second, the distance. Fourteen miles isn’t THAT far but far enough to learn every weakness if your lower extremities.

This trail is beautiful. Stream crossings, alpine meadows, incredible 360-view, and a saddle about a thousand feet below the top that is so gorgeous it makes you question whether you should leave for the summit. We left slightly later than normal and midweek to avoid the crowds. And avoid we did. We encountered perhaps fifteen people the entire time. Most were small groups out on multi-day trips via Pecos Wilderness and Lake Katherine. (named by Oppenheimer for you history buffs.) The best part was the old-timer with a Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup bottle as his water bottle.

My all-time favorite hiker.

The weather was stellar. Fast-moving clouds, light wind and our constant companion, high-intensity sun. Near the top we encountered two massive mountain rams, animals I had never seen on this hike. They were content to let us exercise our portrait skills, chewing their cud and looking bored by the stick-like creatures hovering around them.

Yes, there is pain involved, at least at our ages. Knees, feet, back, take your pick, but like barn sour horses once the parking lot comes into view all is again right with the world. Ibuprofen, Scotch or tranquilizer darts help to ease the suffering.

What if you can’t make the summit? Who cares? The key to hiking, any hike, is to commit to going. That’s it. Regardless of the summit, regardless of distance, regardless of time really. Just go. Heck, just go and sit and appreciate what a wilderness area actually means and how important they are to national consciousness. Dirt isn’t something to be feared or brushed off. Dirt is something to cherish and something to allow to seep into your pores or grind between your teeth after a gust of wind. Dirt was here long before us and will be here long after we are gone. So go get some on you.

The author starting up the last mile. Photo: Fodor

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