Back in college, I got into the habit of taking a long walk everyday and nearly ten years later, I’ve covered a lot of ground on my own two feet. When people hear I’ve been hiking in all 50 states, they often ask: what’s the best trail you’ve ever hiked? Impossible to say. Every place is beautiful and fascinating in its own way and trying to compare the Maine coast to the Canadian Rockies to the desert southwest is like comparing apples to oranges to prickly pear.
This week I hiked a trail that might be a contender for my top ten hikes of all time: the Dragon’s Back in the Ojito Wilderness. The Ojito Wilderness in western New Mexico, near San Ysidro, is a wonderfully weird place, home to some of the most uniquely jumbled geology I’ve ever seen: sculpted ice cream cones, sensational prows of tilted sandstone, stark white wombs, brightly stained badlands, all mashed up against the side of a tremendous textbook anticline:
On my first visit to Ojito, I stayed away from the marked paths and explored the off trail areas east of White Mesa. To read about off trail navigation in the desert, check out my previous post Into the Ojito Wilderness. The place was so incredible that I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite near constant machine gun fire across the road. The Wild West lives in the Ojito Wilderness, it seems.
This time, I parked the Teardrop in the parking lot for the White Mesa trail system, where I was reasonably sure I wouldn’t be camping in the line of fire and set out to hike the Dragon’s Back. This stark-white trail is carved across the narrow top of a long, narrow gypsum-topped mesa. The Dragon has a head and a tail and a five-mile long undulating back that crosses stunning wide-open country between highway 550 and Cabezon Peak.
Ok, so I do have an answer for the best place I’ve ever hiked: the Grand Canyon! Last year I spent my 30th birthday hiking a 5-day loop from Hermit’s Rest to Bright Angel. On the way out, climbing out of the canyon in a snowstorm, I swore I’d be back. Soon I will be! Stay tuned next week for a Grand Canyon retrospective, followed by brand new posts on my upcoming trek to Havasu! 🙂