Camping in New Mexico’s Mountains

JE_vista“Do you want to go hiking?” I asked my cattle-dog mix, Sadie. She was only 8 months old, but had already learned the “h-word,” and when I pulled out her blue doggy pack, her enthusiasm intensified as she eagerly glanced toward the door.

It was Friday and it was summer, which meant my mind was far from work and already in the mountains.

Away from screens and roads and drivers not using turn signals, camping is a chance to temporarily tune-in and drop out. Similar refrains have become clichés, but that doesn’t make them any less true, and in northern New Mexico, the urge to take refuge in the mountains, away from the summer heat of the desert, is a practical exercise driven by natural impulse. And few people outside northern New Mexico even know such opportunities exist.

So with the long summer days working in our favor, the plan was to leave immediately after work, follow the Winsor Trail to Puerto Nambe, set-up camp to lighten my load for the final summit push and return in time to enjoy sunset from a private meadow view. Continue reading

June 2017 Fishing Report – Eagle Nest Lake

With runoff still affecting our free running streams, it’s time to head lakeside. Conveniently, still water generally fishes best in spring and early summer anyway. The high alpine lakes will be accessible until July but Eagle Nest Lake can be driven right up to. It is nestled at 9000’ in the Moreno Valley—a half hour east of Taos. It’s a great place to view wildlife––eagles, white pelicans, thousands of ducks and geese––and early in the morning elk can be seen on the Eastern shores.

This is a much larger lake then it seems—perhaps because its dwarfed under the state’s highest mountains. Historically, it’s a productive trout lake but fishing has taken a downturn in recent years. We could blame global warming in general for the lake’s decline. The water turns green later in midsummer from algae and aquatic insect activity has lessened. And there are other factors too, the addition of yellow perch and then pike a few years ago have not helped the trout fishery. (The perch were mistakenly added twenty-five years ago, but it’s not known how the pike got in there.) Perhaps of greater importance is the burgeoning population of carp that has developed in the last decade. This once great fishery needs to be treated with a pesticide and have a total make-over. This is unlikely however, as the state of New Mexico Game and Fish lacks the money and motivation to do this. (Such massive projects are done in Colorado and Montana.) Continue reading

On the Pecos

pecosfishThe Pecos River flows south out of the great basin of the Pecos Wilderness. As is the case with nearly all of the Sangre de Cristo range to the north, the Pecos country has not suffered the ravages of fire, drought and blanket tree-kills that other Rocky Mountain ranges have. The wilderness is about 45 miles from Santa Fe, and trout are plentiful, and fly fishing is consistently good up there. Although one could walk in a few miles from the boundary for the day, getting intimate with the vast Wilderness requires backpack or horseback travel––and tent camping.

The Pecos is a place of grand adventure, and I once made an extended backpacking trip up the Santa Barbara, over the divide and then into the Pecos drainage. My turnaround point was Beatty’s Cabin. The fishing was epic, and using just one fly, I caught so many browns that the fly became more of a bare hook than a fly. The return leg was back over the divide and down the east fork of the Santa Barbara. It’s a high-meadow stream far from civilization. It has some decent-size browns and a few Rio Grande Cuts. That was a weeklong voyage into the outback I’ll never forget––the sound of elk bugling in the meadows and dining on a grouse that I killed with a rock. Continue reading

Bike and Brew

Outside Santa Fe's Beer and Bike 2015

Outside Santa Fe’s Beer and Bike 2015

I’ve been asked what makes mountain biking in New Mexico special to me. For a brief question, I have a long and winding answer. My “love affair” (yes, my wife knows) with cycling began when I was given a sparkling blue Schwinn Stingray that I thought was the greatest gift of my young life. After a few weeks of toodling around with training wheels, I gradually became more confident. Then one day, with a patient father in an empty parking lot, I learned to pedal, steer and brake on two wheels. That blue bike radically expanded my childhood universe. I wasn’t limited by ploddingly slow foot travel or the whims of a parent with a car. I had my first taste of speed and freedom, so I explored.

I never lost my taste for the freedom a bicycle brings. I can’t deny that I’ve fallen prey to the temptations of the automobile. I’ve had many dalliances with the quiet speed of road cycling, and my town bike sees quite a few miles every year. But, oh the places you’ll go on a mountain bike! Not limited by pavement, a mountain bike can turn a thin dashed line on a map into a daylong or longer adventure. Continue reading

Bad Ass Babes

Liv Launch in Sedona, Arizona, November 2016

Liv Launch in Sedona, Arizona, November 2016

“Do it,” I sputter. “Come on.” My eyes sting of sweat, my heart pounds in my ears and my lungs scream at me. I want to give up. I want to stop pedaling, stop climbing this steep rocky trail. I want to throw my bike aside and walk up, or better yet, forget this whole endeavor and go home. “Just 10 more seconds,” I think, bargaining with myself. The crest of the hill is in sight. I’m nearly there. Through gasps and gulps, I grit my teeth and practically growl, “DO it.”

Just when I think I can take no more, I reach the top. I’m doing it. I’ve done it. At last, sweet relief: I’m over the hill. I can let gravity do the work from here. Now, I just have to keep my balance and savor the adrenaline rush as the wind cools my face and the landscape rushes past me.

Like many women, I delight in challenging myself physically and mentally with mountain biking. It’s a thrilling way to explore nature, build confidence and be more active. But undertaking it can be intimidating at first, especially since it’s still a fairly male-dominated sport. It’s intimidating, but not impossible. Luckily, there are multitudes of women who want to help. Continue reading

The Climb

Hiking in New Mexico - Santa Fe Baldy

Hiking in New Mexico – Santa Fe Baldy

One does not simply walk up Mount Baldy.

Especially when one can’t quite remember the last time she hiked. Sure, we’ve got the gear, and we do go on the occasional hiking kicks, but we hadn’t recently. Nor had that well-intentioned winter workout regimen ever really gelled this year. Hiking Santa Fe Baldy is an all-day, 14-ish mile excursion. While the elevation gain is actually somewhat modest by mountaineering standards––around 2,000 feet––the approach there and back is no minor undertaking. This is a hike you prepare for. Continue reading