Happy Birthday Hike: Tetilla Peak!

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me!

Every year for the past seven years, I have climbed a mountain on my birthday. This year I made it up Tetilla Peak, just south of Santa Fe, not once but twice!

Four dog hike, Tetilla on the left

Four dog hike, Tetilla on the horizon to the left

I’ve been looking at Tetilla for years; it spikes above the long line of the La Bajada Mesa, northwest of where I winter in Cerrillos. I’ve always meant to climb it, but somehow it got left for last among the high points on my horizons (after Grand Central, Placer Peak, SandiaCabezon & Santa Fe Baldy).

No trails climb Tetilla, but a rutted former section of Route 66 will get you most of the way there. I turn off too soon and put the Rover to work down a pointy rocky excuse of a side road,  hoping I’m not asking for a flat on my birthday, and park at the abrupt end of the track. I’m still in love with my ’96 Disco; I’ve always wanted a vehicle that will take me all the way to the End of the Road!

The Rover on Old 66

The Rover on Old 66

The rocky, cactussy, junipery terrain rises, falls and rises again on its way to the summit and I eyeball the trek at about six miles, round trip. No sweat. Not my most challenging birthday trek, but this day isn’t about numerical superlatives. It’s about spending the day doing what I love: traveling on my own two feet to some place rare and beautiful.

To the top of Tetilla!

To the top of Tetilla!

I find my own path across the desert, weaving through the trees, over a barbed five-wire fence and another dirt road, this one fairer than the one I traveled. Underfoot: soft brown desert dirt, dotted with dark, pitted volcanic rocks and shards of softer sandstone. I don’t like leaving footprints on trail-free ground so I hop from rock to rock as much as possible, delighting in the slap of my soles against basalt, ever vigilant for early season rattlesnakes. The dogs – Dio and Bruce, conspiring together against the rabbits – mind their feet for cactus, but don’t think twice about their paw prints (or the specter of sunning snakes).

Desert Dogs

Desert Dogs  Dio and Bruce

In no time, it seems, I’m on top! The summit is clustered with massive, slowly yielding, lichen-licked boulders, garnished with a few gnarled scrubs and marked by a USGS marker and a summit register ammo can.

USGS Summit Marker, set in 1951

USGS Summit Marker, set in 1951

Bruce's Victory Nap, looking south towards Sandia

Bruce’s Victory Nap, view south towards Sandia

Under the can, weighted by rocks, I find a kite! A kite! A kite! The Universe has gifted me a kite! I unfurl the cheap dollar-store thing, and throw it aloft where it whips into the wind, too fragile for the swirling mountaintop currents.

Let's Go Fly A Kite!

Let’s Go Fly A Kite!

Frantic, luffing, it screams and threatens its thin thread until it crashes sharply into the summit rocks. I try again and it crashes again. Once more, I toss it aloft and this time it soars and I play out line, letting it pull me right back to childhood. Then the string snaps and the thing goes winging away, over the edge. I gallop after it, my gait childish, but my feet sure, bounding down the uneven slope of loose rock spiked with patches of cactus, and catch the kite far below, where it has crashed into a juniper. Then I turn around, set my sights on the summit once more and carry it back up to the top, where I fix the thread and roll it back up under the ammo can for another summiteer on another windy day.

Summit Self Portrait, looking north towards Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristos

Summit Self Portrait at 7,203 feet, looking north towards Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristos

Here’s to 32! I think I’ll go buy myself a real kite!

Revisit some of my past birthday hikes: The Pedernal, the inverted mountain of the Grand Canyon, Shenandoah’s Old Rag. Stay tuned for a post on the La Bajada Mesa, a stunningly beautiful historic place threatened by a proposed strip mine.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Happy Birthday Hike: Tetilla Peak!

  1. bohoclub says:

    Happy birthday!!!!

  2. Pigeon Heart says:

    Happy birthday! You inspire me.

  3. ~Felicia~ says:

    Awesome!!! Happy Birthday!!! Those photos are beautiful. I love our state!! I live on the East Frontage Road near the National Guard!!!

  4. shazzarob says:

    Happy Birthday to you. 🙂

  5. Happy birthday, welcome back.

  6. pirateofgold says:

    Happy Birthday to you!! That was better than cake! Thanks for sharing the party!!

  7. ritaroberts says:

    Thank you for sharing your birthday with us Mary. Stunning photo’s

  8. writeejit says:

    Great way to spend a birthday! Congrats.

  9. Mattole, Donovan says:

    Love following your journey!

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donovan Mattole P&O Director, Mars Retail Group

  10. Su Harrigan says:

    Here’s to rocking 32!! May your bday bring a stellar year Mary 🙂

  11. Cnawan Fahey says:

    Happy Birthday! I enjoy your blog. Hey, since you’re a science writer I’d love to get your feedback on the piece I posted earlier this week, “The Thermodynamics of Love”. The metaphors may need a bit more refining. Best wishes.

  12. Shelby Young says:

    Happy Birthday! You are such an inspiration. I can’t wait until I am off for the summer, and am able to pack up my teardrop and my dog (Murray) and trek my way west for a two-week exploration. Thanks for sharing your wonderfully creative adventures.

  13. furrygnome says:

    Love those purple shoes! Happy Birthday!

  14. Debra says:

    Awe…..32! So many more adventures await you and your pups. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Joy says:

    I just have to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, you rock! I love this bday picture – hope your birthday was the best!!

  16. Dennis says:

    Happy Birthday Mary. May you have many more! Love your lifestyle.

  17. Happy Birthday!!!! Sounds like you had a great one.

  18. Jordan says:

    Happy Birthday Mary! I can’t think of a more amazing birthday gift than to not only find a kite left just for you to find on top of a mountain but to get to fly a kite from a mountain top. Another awesome memory for you to add to your collection. Here’s to another year of great adventures & memories!

  19. Happy Birthday Mary! I hope you and the teardrop are having a nice winter. I’m looking for a new tow vehicle as well that has a bit more gumption than our small truck and the subaru. Wishes for a great year! Stephanie, with teardrop #3

  20. Happy Birthday Mary! What an amazing find on top of the mountain! What adventures are you planning next? I have been planning my solo trip back across country from Arkansas to Arizona. I can’t wait to get my teardrop out of “winter quarters”! May make a quick trip to see Egon for a small modification in the kitchen. See you on down the road!

  21. Linda P. says:

    Happy 32nd birthday! I recently celebrated my 64th birthday, and I can honestly say that I’ve loved living the half of my life since 32. Here’s to years full of joy and grief, love and loss, turmoil and the achievements that come after turmoil, and all the messy ups and downs that life has to offer, teaching us what we are willing to be taught.

  22. Tina says:

    Happy Birthday Mary!!! What a great hike and so cool you found a kit. Enjoy the rest of your time in NM.


  23. That’s an incredible way to celebrate a birthday 🙂

    Belated birthday wishes Mary 🙂

  24. beachman says:

    great read today! loved the part about the kite (crashing..) and the sleeping dog, so peaceful and satisfied… HAAPY B DAY GIRL..

  25. Fossillady says:

    Beautiful writing, beautiful words, you had me all the way! Happy Belated Birthday p.s. I don’t know how you got the shot with your hand and the kite . . . hee!

  26. Beautifully captured…..love the photography….very impressive

  27. Mr.Brown says:

    Great way to celebrate a birthday. Best day of the year for one to do some self reflection, and what better place to do so than on top of a mountain…

  28. Magnificent! You and your pictures and your approach to life! Thank you!

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