Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sierra Blancas

On Thursday afternoon, we arrived at the Rio Bonito trailhead in the Sierra Blancas, near Ruidoso, NM. This is a little piece of the state where Texans outnumber New Mexicans 20 to 1. And horses are in equal numbers to people. Seriously, there were pairs of hunters with three or four horses. Apparently, that's what it takes to pack out a whole elk without ATVs.

Our goal was to do some backpacking, but there seemed to be numerous short loop hikes. So, we opted for a 13-mile or so loop that brought us back to our vehicle the next day. Then on Saturday, we headed out for another loop which brought us back on Sunday.

Fall is in full swing. We missed the aspen, but the oaks are still changing. On Thursday and Friday the elk were bugling non-stop. On Saturday morning, that stopped suddenly as people with rifles and camouflage arrived.
I found some enticing rock cliffs, but I couldn't find a way to the base (without ropes). In the distance, we were overlooking the Valley of Fires to the west. We could also see as far as White Sands and the Organ mountains. The views from this little mountain are spectacular since they are grassy rather than forested along the ridges.

My hiking partners enjoying the sunset at our first campsite.
On Day 2, our goal was that pointy peak, called Nogal Peak. We couldn't find a way up it through the scrub oak, but had fun trying. The other side of the peak may be more promising. Vixen is watching a bear in the distance, our second bear of the day.Speaking of wildlife, let me give you the list of what we saw in those four days in a small mountain range:
  • Countless elk
  • 2 bears
  • Several flocks of turkeys
  • Countless osprey
  • 1 golden eagle
  • A few deer
Below, Vixen and I are enjoying the view from Elk Point on Saturday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This morning

Hubbers opening up his birthday gift from his parents this morning:
Looking inside, it's just what he wanted... a balloon full of hot air. Actually, at this point, it's just air blown from two huge fans (not hot) and the crew is running around inside making sure it inflates properly.
Now it's starting to get hot enough in there to lift the basket.To begin our flight, we flew low over the bosque and Rio Grande where the cottonwoods were busy putting on their fall display.Views of the Sandias. We could also see as far as the Jemez mountains and Mt Taylor. Despite the clouds, it was a calm morning.
Bonus points to anybody who can name this intersection:
Deflating after a gentle landing:
In all my years of living in Albuquerque and seeing hundreds of balloons overhead, this is my first time in one. Definitely a worthwhile experience. It would also be fun to take a balloon ride while visiting another place to see the scenery. It felt like a different experience for us as locals than it did for the "tourists" in our basket.

You can see more photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/doyen/

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wheeler Peak

Wheeler Peak may not be the fairest of them all, but Wheeler is the tallest of all New Mexico peaks at 13,161ft above sea-level. And hence, we walked up it last weekend. It was a gorgeously sunny day but a rather chilly night. We decided to take the longer trail starting from Taos Ski Valley and hiking via Bull of the Woods meadow because it was described as having a very scenic ridge walk. It's also a bit long for Vixen's short legs, so we hiked in 5 miles on Saturday and set up camp at the Middle Fork of the Red River, then continued the last 2 miles or so to the summit on Sunday before hiking out. Backpacking also gave us a chance to camp in a beautiful place, rather than camping at the trailhead in the ski area parking lot.

To orient you... Troy is standing on Frazer Mountain on the way up on Saturday. Our campsite will be in those trees toward the bottom left of the photo. Behind Troy, the tallest-looking peak is Walter. Wheeler is further back and looks shorter.

Our campsite next to the Middle Fork of the Red River. There seemed to be a shorter trail up from Red River here.

A whole herd of big-horn sheep whose horns were not as big as I thought they should be.

That peak behind him is not Wheeler, but Walter.

On the summit.