Yellow Brick Road

If you could read my hiking and camping journals from years ago (and not so many distant years), the story would read differently.  I would carry a heavy pack for miles to get away from the maddening crowd.  Setting up a tent near the car didn’t really qualify as camping.  Freeze-dried meals cooked on tiny backpacker stoves were next to gourmet.

Times have changed.  No… I have changed.

It’s been a really big deal to me – turning 50 this year.  And it’s not just some mental barrier.  There are these knee and back and hip issues.  The feet just hurt after hours on rocky trails.  Sleeping on a tiny foam mattress isn’t all that comfy any more.

We’ve always loved taking our “Fall Away Tour”, and truly getting away into the wilderness for some autumn hiking and camping.  But we’re growing more comfortable with the idea of camping by the car, and not carrying such heavy packs… and being able to drive into the nearest town for a hot supper before bedtime.  We’re admitting that we’re middle-aged.

But not so fast!  It’s because of all this we seem equally determined to have one last autumn fling.  Climb to some peaks that may soon be out of our grasp.  Traverse some long trails that we’ve always wanted to hike.  It just seems like a “now or never” endeavor.

So… this weekend we finally hiked to Wheeler Peak.  I’d love to share the trail with you.

It began on a very cold morning.  It was steep. With freezing, hurting hands I told myself I was going on a yellow brick road paved with beautiful aspen leaves.

I was huffing and puffing so bad, trying to get my wind, I convinced myself it would be worth it to take off the gloves and get a photo of these icicles in the river.  The photo is absolutely no good, but because it was such a big deal to take it, I’m including it!

There were beautiful views on this trail, lots of sunshine, changing leaves.  This was our first little patch of snow as we climbed higher and higher.  I would have taken pictures of the huge patches of snow later on… but by then I was just using every ounce of energy to get to the top and couldn’t be bothered with the camera.

Check out this little frozen stream!

I had false hope that this might be Wheeler Peak.  I snapped G’s photo.  When Wheeler truly was in the distance… again… no energy to pull the little phone camera out of my pocket… just one foot in front of the other… slowly.

Poor Gary always has to wait up for me, but eventually we got there.

And we couldn’t stay long at the top.  It was 8 miles and 4000 feet up, and we knew those 8 miles were still in our future.  So we headed back down enjoying the journey.  Grand views.  I’m sorry I didn’t get photos of the big horn sheep or the marmots.  I just wasn’t quick enough.  These New Mexico mountains are just gorgeous, and this is looking to the Taos Ski Valley where we had camped.

We were getting off the mountain as the sun was coming through these golden aspens.  I was so ready to get my boots off, but I had to stop and take this photo.  My Gary is at the end of the trail, almost back to our tent.  You can spot him if you look closely.

Now, here’s the deal about being 50.  We didn’t stay in the tent. We tore it down, drove into town, found a place with a hot shower, and a comfy bed with lots of pillows.  (Because, it turns out, I had left our pillows at home on the fireplace hearth, and we had really missed them the night before in the tent.)

And another deal about being 50… I didn’t miss the morning camp breakfast of pecans and dried fruit and hot chocolate.   I was quite delighted with the pork chop breakfast in Santa Fe.


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