High Points on My Horizons: Hermit Peak

In Granite, I Trust

In Granite, I Trust

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.

Moonrise over my trciked out Teardrop.

Moonrise over my tricked out Teardrop.

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.

Crossing into the Pecos Wilderness

Crossing into the Pecos Wilderness

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.

The rocky, rooty trail up Hermit Peak

The rocky, rooty trail up Hermit Peak

Hermit Peak D.O.G.

Hermit Peak D.O.G.

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.

Cross on Hermit Peak

Cross on Hermit Peak



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”.

Hermit Spring

Hermit Spring

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.

The trail climbs up through this impressive drainage cleaving the mountain.

The trail climbs up through this impressive drainage.

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.

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, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to High Points on My Horizons: Hermit Peak

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    If you make it up to this part of Oregon, stop in for dinner!

  2. Pingback: Repost: Memorial Day Weekend on the Loneliest Road In America | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  3. pmdello says:

    You have so much fun! That photo of the “tricked out” teardrop shows what a cool rig it is.

  4. Dennis says:

    May I suggest the “Wave” on the Utah-Arizona border as a possible stop on your way to Oregon. You’ve probably heard of it. There is a lottery for permits but they say solo hikers stand a good chance of obtaining one. Haven’t been there yet myself but it’s on my “list”. Love the pics of Hermit Peak

  5. bubbasuess says:

    Man, I love Hermit Peak. That was always one of the first trails I hit if my annual trips from gradschool in Texas back home to Northern California. I am sure you don’t need a ton of advice on things to do in the Pecos but if you want to hit some fantastic alpine country that almost no one (and it always baffled me why it was so forsaken) goes to, check out the east side of the wilderness, especially Horseshoe Lake, Santiago Lake and Gascon Point.

    If your travels to the west coast take you through Mount Shasta, my wife and I have a guest house that we like to make available to travelers. We love being hospitable and sharing the mountain with people! If you want a place to crash and use as a basecamp for exploring this area, feel free to use it!

  6. bohoclub says:

    Reblogged this on White Lies and commented:

  7. Hey, did you add an awesome photo cling to the back of your teardrop? It looks awesome!

  8. We’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the Pecos Wilderness, but never made it to Hermit’s Peak. Would like to when we get back down there. Happy journeys to you, Carol

  9. If you are wandering as far as Oregon then you might consider going just a bit further and looking into the Washington Cascades. The Washington Trails Association (www.wta.org) is a good tool for monitoring hiking conditions like snow levels in the high country. The website http://www.HikingWithMyBrother.com has a huge array of hiking suggestions. It is hard to pick out particular hikes since so many are so mind blowing, but for the sake of conversation let’s mention a day hike into the Enchantments (near Leavenworth, overnight permits have already been given out), Tuck and Robin Lakes (near Cle Elum), The Bathtub Lakes (on Mt Pilchuck), the Wonderland Trail (about 90 miles of circumnavigating Mount Rainier), the non-technical ascent up the south approach on Mt Adams (bring your ice axe, however), Deep Lake and Cathedral Rock (on Mount Daniel) and anywhere in the North Cascades National Park (the *parking lot* for the Cascades Pass trailhead is a spectacular place), Gothic Basin and/or Mt Pugh and/or Vesper Peak (all off of the Mountain Loop Highway), and Trapper Peak on the North Cascades Highway.

    Washington State has a much larger population of hikers than New Mexico. It is rare to have a trail to yourself all day long. Nice folks – many trained by the Seattle Mountaineers and good to have around if a teardrop goes berserk on you. Wonderland is often crowded, most of North Cascades Park is completely deserted (not even an entry fee), and all of it is beautiful.

    Happy Trails,

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