New Mexico Walk: Columbine – Hondo Wilderness

As I’ve mentioned before, seeking out new places to backpack is difficult when a person has lived in one place for close to twenty years. And if a person is traffic and crowd adverse. 🙂

But there are always different places to see.

All it takes is looking over some maps, a little Googling, looking over more maps in greater detail and then plotting out a route.

And an example of such a place is the Columbine – Hondo Wilderness of New Mexico.

A wilderness study area until fairly recently, the Columbine – Hondo Wilderness looked intriguing on the map.

About 4.5 hrs of driving from door to trailhead.  About the most I want to drive for a weekend.

I left Friday after work, did a truck bivy and was on the trail reasonably early on a Saturday.

A quick climb was made out of the canyon from where I started.

In the distance was the ridge I’d be hiking along later that day.

In this area, there were remnants from the mining days of long ago.  Old cabins would be spotted, some olds paths and stone work too.  And perhaps more subtle reminders as well from long ago.

An ornate aspen carving from 1928 according to the inscription.
An ornate aspen carving from 1928 according to the inscription.

The trees were soon left behind.

In the near distance the Latir Peaks Wilderness was spotted just to the north.

And further in the distance, the 14ers of Colorado could be spotted with a dusting of fresh snow.

The summit of Gold Hill was soon reached.

Over 4000′ from where I had started in the morning, the panorama was worth the climb.

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s high point, was immediately in view.  The Pecos Wilderness was also spotted a bit further away.

The summit was left behind.

Time to walk the rest of the ridge.

The hiking along the ridge was pleasant after the consistent climb out of the canyon and to the summit of Gold Hill.

The canyon down below.
The canyon down below.

There were still a few bumps on the ridge

Another wonderful view was had shortly after the second to last summit of the day.

The protected lands of the Taos Pueblo were seen. Access to anything south of the Vallecito summit is closed to all but the Taos Pueblo members.

I would just have to admire the peaks from a distance.

The last summit was reached. It was getting later in the day.  But it was so nice to be on this summit.  Arguably the scenic highlight of this wilderness.

I did not want to leave. But it was time to head down.

An off-trail route would bring me to an outlet flowing back into the canyon.

I’d be in the trees and on flat ground.

Perfect for a cool night with fall on its way.

The following morning was spent making my way down the drainage and back to the trail.

By noon I was back at the car.

A cold drink, a cotton t-shirt and sandals were waiting for me.

By 1PM I was drinking a beer in Taos.

And by 7PM I was at home.

A full and satisfying weekend.

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