For this, my third summer on the road with the Teardrop, I really have no plan. I think I’ll head in the general direction of Oregon – through Utah and Nevada and then circle back through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – but I have no idea if I’ll make it that far. I may get sidetracked or spun around or stranded somewhere between here and there. I figure I’ll wake up every morning and look at my map and decide where to go that day. I expect, a lot of days, I won’t go anywhere.
After a few days camped near Santa Fe, on the edge of the La Bajada Mesa, I set sail, south and east, to Galisteo and Lamy and then west and north to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Less than 100 miles on my new tires later, I ended up at the base of Hermit Peak.
This past December, from a distance, I marveled at Hermit’s sheer 2,000 foot granite walls, then in January, I spent a day exploring the base of those cliffs on an off-trail walkabout. Now on my first day on the road, Hermit called me to come climb it. So I did: me and Dio, 8.5 miles round trip, up to 10,212 feet, late afternoon to late evening. We had the place to ourselves, with one serendipitous exception.
Hermit isn’t an easy hike: the relentlessly switchbacking trail gains nearly 3,000 feet of elevation in 4 miles. The path is ancient, well-trodden, paved with fist-sized rocks. Ankle rollers, everywhere. But I cruised right on up. I have this theory that hiking uphill isn’t really any more tiring than hiking on flat ground. Uphill takes a different set of muscles, but once your “ups” are in shape, you should be able to climb as readily as strolling. I’ve been trying to convince myself of this idea for years. After a decade of daily hikes, I’m beginning to believe it.
On the flat, grassy summit, with dark falling fast, I couldn’t find the Hermit’s cave, where legend has it a reclusive Italian missionary lived for a few years in the mid 1800’s. People still pilgrimage here; the summit is marked by a number of makeshift crosses and I hear the cave is full of offerings. I assumed the cave was in the cliffs, but later I read it’s hand-dug in dirt, tucked back from the edge. Ah well, a reason to revisit, maybe for a starry night and sunrise from the east-facing cliffs.
On the way down, in the almost dark, Dio and I met another blonde woman, with another black dog, on their way up the mountain. She had an overnight pack and was clearly going to beat me to my future starry/ sunrise scheme on Hermit. Something about her was familiar and when she called her dog “Sammy” it clicked: I had crossed paths with this pair a few weeks ago, on Easter weekend, on Sandia Mountain, 100 miles to the south. On an eight mile out-and-back that day on the “10K” trail, she had been the only person I met on the mountain. When I asked her then where she was heading she had replied, “Up and over”.
I reminded her of our last meeting and she said, “Oh right, you’re the other New Mexican mountain woman.” I handed over one of my cards and wished her and Sammie a fantastic night; maybe one of these days we’ll share an epic. Paths that cross will cross again.
Enough Granite, time for Basalt! On to the Rio Grande Gorge! You can check out my previous “High Points on My Horizons” posts here: Camel Hump, Santa Fe Baldy, Tetilla Peak, Wheeler Peak and King Arthur’s Seat.