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  [Hiking along the Wheeler Peak ridge trail]

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico
Labor Day Weekend, 1997


Many thanks go out to David Grote for setting this trip up and leading it! It was a great trip!

I was particularly impressed and pleased with the bus operation (Big Star) that took us to NM.

[On the way to Horseshoe Lake]

It was a hard hike from the Gauging Station to Horseshoe Lake, a lake at or above tree line. This was about a 6 mile total hike with 1500-2000 feet elevation gain. Eldon, via GPS spot checks, determined that the topo maps to this area were very inaccurate. The altitude really played havoc with us as we climbed leaving even our most athletic hikers short of breath. I did a lot of nodding but not much talking as we made it up to our first campsite.

[Marmot near Wheeler Peak Summit]

At Horseshoe Lake, a herd of either elk or mule deer watched us as we setup camp. At night, 3 men and 1 women played hearts in my 3 MAN tent. It rained heavily throughout the night (i.e. Caney Creek Act II) with a low temperature of 36 degs F and winds gusting badly. At one point, my tent poles were knocking me silly. Come on, I already have an altitude-related headache!

[Group photo on the summit of Wheeler Peak]

We woke up the second day to rain. Most of group trying to find reading materials inside their tents; I had one book of the New Testament and "my tent care instructions". When the weather broke and despite the threat of more thunderstorms, the group, excluding Eldon, dayhiked from Horseshoe Lake to Wheeler Peak (elev. 13,161 ft) and Mnt. Walters. This was about a 3 mile total hike with about 1500 feet elevation gain/loss. On the way to the top, we almost had to kick the daylights out of a marmot who was closing in on Courtney's boot/leg in search of a meal. We summitted Wheeler Peak and registered our names in the log at the top.

[At the top of Wheeler Peak]

Group, excluding Paula and Craig, descended back down to the lake SANELY. The thunderstorms were getting uncomfortably close again as we hiked; we talked about lightning safety along the way. Now back to Paula. You know that she is in love with, among other things, 70 degree slopes. She and Craig decided to trailblaze down what looked like to me an advanced ski slope (i.e. an extreme double black slope). :O

[Horseshoe Lake from Wheeler Peak]

At camp, we watched the snowball fight she and Craig had on their way down. At Horseshoe Lake, group decided to break camp and hike to a campsite 2 hours closer on the East Fork trail. On the way, rain and pea size hail pelted us. We saw a spectacular rainbow as the weather slacked up, an excellent photo opportunity. At night, 3 men and 1 woman played hearts in Jay's 2 MAN tent.

[Rainbow sighted on the East Fork trail]

On the third day, our group returned to Gauging Station via East fork trail. I took the liberty to separate from the group, hike some side trails, and find some solitude before we met the bus at 1:00 PM. This was a very pretty place with evergreen and aspen trees and a lot of plant-life/wildflowers that I have never seen before.

[Part of our group]

My impression of the weather, most excellent: first hail encountered on the trail. The close encounter with the "tame" marmot was also a trip highlight. Group returned to a small NM town where we ate normal food and had a nice cold to lukewarm shower.

 
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